´╗┐ The Architecture of Hollywood, by Tom Marble – Summer Reading Issue 1997

Chapter 5

Section 501.

This chapter prescribes general design requirements applicable to all architecture regulated by this code.

Section 502.
The following definitions give meaning to certain terms related to this code:

Architecture. Structures relevant to a given population.
Plot. The mechanical arrangement of external events engineered to entertain an audience.
Space. The area of the brain in which dreams and memories are stored.
Story. The dynamic manipulation of internal emotions designed to bring about catharsis.

Section 503
(a) General. All movies and portions thereof shall be designed and constructed to maintain, within the stress limitations specified by the Motion Picture Association of America, the arid interest of a subject audience. Any impact upon such an audience shall be considered wherever impact is perceived to have occurred.

(b) Pre-Design. A writer shall conceive of an idea for a movie and he shall write it down. The writer shall call his agent and his agent shall find a producer to take a meeting over lunch. The writer shall set up as many meetings as possible because the first producer shall pass on his idea. As will the second, the third, and so on. Once the writer has secured his meeting he shall request two weeks to prepare a pitch. He shall get one week and he shall feel grateful.

(c) Schematic Design. The writer shall clear his schedule to prepare his pitch. The total linear force of the story to be pitched shall be based on a prescribed set of emotional dynamics in accordance with well-established principals of plot mechanics. For the Schematic Design phase the writer shall concentrate on the design of the Story.

1. The protagonist shall undergo Catholic Experience. He shall have an internal flaw at the start of the story which shall be pulled into focus by external events. The protagonist shall first react to these external events by attempting to regain control of his life. He shall exhaust option after option until he feels his situation to be utterly hopeless. At this point he shall experience an epiphany. Catharsis shall occur as plot mechanics force the internal flaw of the protagonist to the surface, bringing it to his consciousness, thereby eliminating it. With a renewed sense of purpose, the protagonist shall overcome all obstacles and he shall reach his goal.

EXCEPTION, This, of course, is in marked contrast with what happens in life or in foreign and independent films which deal with characters tragically forced to endure whatever inequity society, their parents, or other villains impose upon them.

2. The story shall emanate from a Theme. If all elements of a motion to picture are to represent a different facet of this theme, the characters shall personify it. The protagonist shall represent one side of said theme, the antagonist shall represent an opposing side. Accordingly the story shall be an ongoing struggle of clashing attitudes revolving around the chosen theme, the story for the motion picture shall be generated organically, out of the deep motivations of the main characters, or at least appear to be so.

3. The Central Question shall encompass the requirements of both emotional dynamics and plot mechanics. The function the story shall be to focus continually the scope of this central question. Each scene shall be like a miniature play, complete with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and shall push the story forward, and shall eliminate one by one the obstacles that prevent the climactic confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist from occurring.

4. The story shall be propelled by Desire because the protagonist shall want something. Obstacles shall be introduced that come between the protagonist and what he desires. Said obstacles shall be designed to illuminate tiny truths about the protagonist that he does not want to face. The desire of the antagonist shall conflict directly with that of the protagonist. However, the motivation of the antagonist shall be very similar to the motivation of the protagonist. The protagonist shall lose his will when he realizes that he is becoming exactly what he fears the most.

5. The protagonist shall try to deny his fear. However this fear shall keep the protagonist from getting what he wants. The antagonist shall know this and will use it to his advantage. When the protagonist realizes that only by facing his biggest fear can he get what he wants, the tables shall turn. The protagonist shall see the light and his priorities shall shift. Having conquered his fear, he shall confront his opponent. The central question shall be answered and the thematic truth of the film will be revealed. And the protagonist shall make his way back to happiness.

6. The pitch that the writer prepares shall incorporate these emotional dynamics and shall be illustrated with four to seven colorful scenes, character vignettes, and whatever props are necessary to convey the writer’s passion for this story.

(d) Design Development. After the writer has pitched this story around town, he shall find a producer that likes what he hears. This producer shall convince the writer that it is worth his while to write the screenplay on speculation. The writer, having no other prospects, shall agree to do so. The writer shall then prepare a treatment based on the pitch. The treatment shall consist of one page describing each of forty-eight scenes in detail, its beginning middle and end, and shall include a biography of each important character. The treatment shall take two weeks to write.

(e) Construction Documents. The writer shall begin writing the Screenplay. He shall use the font Courier and he shall use proper margins. He shall number the pages, but not the scenes, and he shall not give two characters the same names. The writer shall take four weeks to write the screenplay. He shall write thirty pages each week and on the weekends he shall continue to write. The writer shall pay close attention to the plot mechanics outlined herein:

1. On the first page, the tone of the movie shall be set. By page three, the inner life of the protagonist shall be suggested. By page ten, the subject of the motion picture shall be clearly introduced and the ordinary world of the protagonist established. On page fifteen, something shall pose a threat to this ordinary world. By page thirty, the main character shall lose what he values most in that world and shall enter a strange and unknown place with no way to return home.

2. The protagonist shall attempt to recapture his ordinary world. To do this he shall first learn the logic of the new world and take steps based on that logic to reach his goal. On page forty-five, the protagonist shall be hopeful as plans to recapture his lost world seem to be working.

3. However, on page sixty, a new element shall be introduced that shall raise the stakes for the protagonist and make his goal seem more distant. From this point forward, obstacles shall illuminate the fears of the protagonist in a the following manner: beginning with the most general and abstract anxieties of the protagonist, the obstacles shall unearth progressively deeper fears. Facing a ceaseless onslaught of these obstacles, the protagonist shall elimate option after option, each one more desperate than the last. The protagonist shall watch helplessly as his goal slips away from him. On page seventy-five, the protagonist shall confront the antagonist. The protagonist shall be defeated and he shall be depressed.

4. On page ninety, the protagonist shall have an epiphany. He shall realize that he has faced his deepest fear. He shall see his flaw. His old goal shall fade and a new one shall appear in its place. The protagonist shall have before him a clear path to his new goal. On page one hundred and five, the protagonist shall face his antagonist with renewed purpose. For ten pages the protagonist shall fight until he has beaten the antagonist. And there shall be catharsis. And the resolution shall take two pages and the screenplay shall be completed.

(F) Bid Negotiations. The producer shall read the script and he shall hate it. He shall give the writer his notes and the writer shall hate them and he shall threaten to walk. The producer shall call the agent of the writer who shall, in turn, call the writer and they shall talk. The agent shall remind the writer that, while the producer may indeed have a  mountain of gypsum between his ears, the writer still owes him two rewrites and a polish. And the writer shall be depressed. And the cycle shall repeat two and one half times. And then the producer shall approve the script. And if the producer has a deal with a studio and if he has a cast and a crew and if he hits huge sums of money or has access thereto, the movie shall begin filming.

(g) Construction Administration. Filming shall take twelve weeks. The director shall invite the writer on location to observe filming. On the first day of filming the writer shall be thrilled to be there and he shall ignore the changes the director has made to the screenplay.

On the second day the thrill shall be gone and the writer shall sulk. He shall drink bad coffee and he shall have gas. On the third day of filming, the writer shall open his mouth and he shall annoy the director and the writer shall be banished from the set for the duration of filming.

(h) Closeout. When the movie is completed, the writer shall be invited to the premiere. He shall see his movie for the first time and he shall hate it. He shall be depressed and he shall vow to never design another movie again in his life. But in the morning his agent shall call him with a new writing gig. And for this the writer shall be grateful.

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