Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Breakdown - A History of Violence

A History of Violence

1- 5:40 - Introduces the two vicious thugs as they check out of the motel. 05:40

2- 1:15 - Sarah has a nightmare and Tom comes to save the day. Tom tells Sarah, "There's no such thing as monsters." Introduces Tom, Edie, Jack, and Sarah. 06:55

3- 1:00 - Breakfast. Jack asserts his independence. 07:55

4- 0:53 - Edie drops Tom off. Gives the first hint that he's not a local boy. 08:48

5- 1:24 - Mick tells the story about the girl who thought he was a crazed killer. He says, "Nobody's perfect." 10:12

6- 1:25 - Jack catches the ball and makes an enemy in Bobby. 11:37

7- 1:43 - Bobby tries to bully Jack into a fight and Jack fights back with wit. 13:20

8- 0:59 - Edie tells Tom, "We never got to be teenagers together." This is the confirmation that he's not from around there. 14:19

9- 3:27 - Edie dresses as a cheerleader and we get to see the passion in their marriage. This is also a taste of things to come. 17:46

10- 1:12 - As they cuddle afterward, Tom tells Edie he can see in her eyes that she loves him. 18:58

11- 2:21 - Bobby is about to kick Jack's ass when the two vicious thugs cut him off. 21:19

12- 3:14 - The thugs show up at the diner and before he knows it, Tom has cut them down. 24:33

13- 2:49 - Every channel and the local paper proclaim Tom is a hero. He just wants to be left alone. 27:22

14- 1:12 - The black car shows up. 28:34

15- 4:18 - Mr. Fogarty comes to the diner and calls Tom "Joey." Edie calls Sam. 32:52

16- 1:42 - Sam tries to intimidate Mr. Fogarty, who is clearly not impressed. 34:34

17- 3:08 - Sam asks Tom if he is in the witness protection program. 37:46

18- 6:07 - Tom loses him mind and runs home, telling Edie to get the shotgun. Jack wants to know what's going on. 43:53

19- 0:44 - Edie and Sarah arrive at the mall. Fogarty pulls in right behind them. 44:37

20- 2:53 - Shopping for shoes with Mr. Fogarty. He tells Edie that she knows. This is a false victory. It looks like Edie has gotten away from Mr. Fogarty, but what he said has made an impression. 47:30

21- 1:38 - "Are you laughing now?" Jack kicks Bobby's ass and bust's his buddy's balls. 49:08

22- 0:53 - Tom confronts Jack about his fight with Bobby. "In this family we don't solve our problems by hitting people." "No, we shoot them." 50:01

23-1:41 - Edie tells Tom she got a restraining order, but Fogarty got to her. She's starting to get suspicious. 51:42

24-5:42 - Mr. Fogarty tries to strong-arm Tom and gets blown away. Jack learns what it's like to kill somebody. 57:24

25- 3:45 - Edie gets sick at the hospital. Tom says his name was available. Edie says she was available too. 61:09

26- 1:14 - Tom comes home and Jack asks if he'll have him whacked. Family continues to deteriorate. 62:23

27- 4:16 - The truck is coming back to life, but looks like it's still in pretty bad shape. Edie says the truth is that this family has suffered enough. Sam backs down. 66:39

28- 2:44 - Tom and Edie have brutal sex on the stairs. 69:23

29- 0:16 - Tom is depressed and Edie is angry, but she doesn't care if he sees her naked. 69:39

30- 1:49 - Tom gets a phone call from Richie and we find out the truck works just fine. 71:28.

31- 1:40 - Tom drives to Philly. 73:08

32- 1:37 - Tom admits he's Joey. "Yeah, I'm Joey." 74:45

33- 1:36 - Ruben takes Joey to see Richie. Richie is an upscale kind of guy. 76:21

34- 2:07 - Ruben frisks Joey. Richie and Joey do their little head thing, which shows they go back a loooooong way. 78:28

35- 6:22 - Ruben makes a long speech about how he tried to strangle Joey in his crib. As he concludes his speech, Ruben tries to garrot Joey, but Joey fights back and kills three mobsters. Richie wants to know, "How do you fuck that up?" 84:50

36- 2:00 - Joey gets the drop on the last of the hitmen and takes out Richie. 86:50

37- 1:04 - Tom washes Joey off of himself. 87:54

38- 3:18 - Tom comes home. One by one, from Sarah to Jack to Edie, the family welcomes him home. 91:12

There are 38 major scenes that average 2 minutes and 23 seconds in length. Six of them are over 4 minutes long and five of them are less than a minute long. The remaining 28 are between 1 minute long and 3 minutes and 45 seconds long. Blake Snyder, Michael Hauge, and David Trottier all recommend keeping the length of your scenes to about three minutes. It's okay to have a few long ones, but make sure to vary the length and keep most of them to less than three minutes. 27 of the scenes in AHoV are less than 3 minutes long. This keeps the pace of your story zipping along.

Snyder recommends using 10 scenes for each section: 10 for the first act, 10 for each half of the second act, and 10 for the third act. AHoV has 12 scenes in the first act, 8 to the midpoint, 10 in the second half of the second act, and 8 in the third act.

This is how the beat sheet breaks down:

1- Opening Image (1): Whatever you choose for your opening image, you should show its opposite in the final image. In AHoV, the opening image is of the bare bricks and empty chairs of a run-down motel.

2- Theme Stated (page 4 for a 90 page script): The theme for AHoV is stated on page 6: Tom tells Sarah, "There's no such thing as monsters, but he and his family find out that there are such things a monsters, especially human ones.

3- Set-up (by page 8 of a 90 page script): By page 8 in AHoV we have met everybody in the family and learned a little bit about them. As we turn onto page 9, we also have the first hint that Tom is not a local boy. Edie tells him there hasn't been a drive-in there since the seventies.

4- Catalyst (page 10 of a 90 page script): This is the main character's first opportunity. In AHoV it's when Mick tells the story of the girl who thought he was a crazed killer, but he married her anyway. Tom thinks he already has the perfect marriage, but by the end of the story his own wife has accused him of being a crazed killer.

5- Debate (from page 10 to page 20 of a 90 page script): AHoV doesn't have a debate section. It uses the second half of the first act to set up minor characters and their stories.

6- Break Into Two (page 20 of a 90 page script): Happens late in AHoV. It's when the thugs come into the diner and Tom kills them. This beat MUST turn on the actions and decision of the main character. Nothing else propels him into the second act but his own action. AHoV certainly steps up to the plate here.

7- B-Story (page 24 of a 90 page script): Happens on page 28 of AHoV. Mr. Fogarty is the B-character. The B-character usually functions as support for the main character. He is a friend. But quite often in a thriller like AHoV the friend can look like an enemy. Despite his seeming enmity, Mr. Fogarty does help Tom. He helps him find Joey again, which makes him whole.

8- Fun and Games (to page 45 of a 90 page script): During this section stories continue to develop, but things don't look too bad yet. In AHoV, Mr. Fogarty comes to the diner and calls Tom Joey, Sam talks to Mr. Fogarty, Tom is afraid that Fogarty is going after his family, and Edie thinks Fogarty is about to kidnap Sarah. But Fogarty doesn't do anything and all alarms turn out to be false.

9- Midpoint (page 45 of a 90 page script): This is when things turn ominous in the story. It is also either a false victory of a false defeat. Between pages 45 and 47 of AHoV, Edie loses Sarah at the mall and talks to Fogarty. It's a false victory because she thinks she has avoided losing her daughter, but in reality Fogarty has planted the seed of doubt in her mind.

10- Bad Guys Close In (goes to page 61 in a 90 page script): From page 47 to page 61 in AHoV, things get really black for the family. Jack beats the shit out of Bobby, Edie expresses doubt about Tom's identity, and Tom seems to be losing Jack's respect. This section culminates when Fogarty shows up and Tom is forced to shoot him. Then things get really bad when Jack shoots Fogarty. This leads to…

11- All Is Lost (page 61 in a 90 page script): There is no going back. Edie gets literally sick at the thought that Tom is a crazed killer and leaves Tom alone in the hospital with both his internal and external pain. This beats with the midpoint. If the midpoint is a false victory, this beat is a false defeat, and vice versa. It must also carry a whiff of death. This scene certainly does all that. It looks as if he has lost Edie, which would be a defeat. It turns out to be false, because she welcomes him back at the end. And the whiff of death is the death of their marriage. Tom has also been wounded and this scene takes place in a hospital, which we all know smells of death.

12- Dark Night of the Soul (from page 61 to page 70 of a 90 page script): There seems to be no way out. The hero is sunk to the depths of depression. In AHoV, Tom is confronted by Jack and has no answer, and then Sam tries to ask him pointed questions. Edie prevents this, but not because she believes in Tom. Even the sex is bad and scary. They take their anger out on each other on the stairs. This leaves Edie bruised and Tom even more depressed.

13- Break Into Three (page 70 of a 90 page script): Just when things seem bleakest, the hero finds a way out. When Richie calls on page 71, Tom realizes he must take this opportunity to set things right. If he can make peace with his brother, perhaps he can win his family back. This beat also MUST turn on the actions and decisions of the hero. Tom has a choice. He can ignore Richie or go to Philly. He chooses to go to Philly for the showdown.

14- Finale (from page 70 to page 90 of a 90 page script): This is the last leg of the journey. It's the showdown. It's when the hero makes the final effort and wins everything once and for all, even though the cost is a painful lesson. Tom goes to Philly and in the bar makes his stand. "Yeah, I'm Joey," he says finally, and for the first time in this story. Then he gets to face the bad guy, in this case his brother Richie, and triumph over him. But the fight is not easy. He gives up something of himself in the battle.

15- Final Image (last page): The opposite of the opening image. Tom returns to his family and they welcome him home. In contrast with the bare bricks and empty chairs of the opening image, Tom and his family occupy chairs around a table loaded with food.


Anonymous said...

The GREAT Miriam Paschal? I'm so flattered. I'd forgotten that I'd put in all of Blake Snyder's beats.

Mystery Man said...

Oh yeah, definitely great. To me, at least.

Not only that, you really did such a superb job on this breakdown, Miriam. If you don't mind, I'm going to periodically share with the community the other breakdowns, and have a "Miriam's Movie Breakdown" link under the "BEST OF" section on the sidebar. A little promotion never hurt anyone, right?

I've read this breakdown twice. It should really bring home to writers just how quickly you need to move along in your story in terms of scene length, minutes, and page numbers.

I used to do this kind of thing obsessively years ago, not with movies so much, but with plays and TV sitcoms. I wrote two pilots that didn't amount to anything, (although they were brilliant, of course! LOL). Anyway, as I was working on them, I used to count the lines of other sitcom scripts - how many lines in how many scenes before commercial break. Crazy. Half of my books with plays have markings and post-it notes on them from all the line counting I used to do...

For example, you might be interested to know that Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" (one of my all-time favorite plays) has two Acts. In the first Act, there are 4 scenes and the number of lines in each scene breakdown as follows: 207, 320, 96, and 127 bringing a grand total of 744 lines before Intermission. Act 2 gave us 3 scenes: 221, 94, 398, a total of 713 lines. The entire play: 1,457 lines of dialogue.


You see, I once decided to write a play. It was a comedy. I had NO idea what I was doing. It took me three years. And believe me, it was three years of OBSESSIVE labor. When I was finally finished, I shared it with a friend who's worked on Broadway. He refused to read it. He said, "What are you doing? This is, like, the War & Peace of plays!" It had over 3,600 lines of dialoge. Then it occurred to me. Maybe I should start counting lines.


Good job.


crossword said...

I agree. This would make a great book idea.

There are many books but few that do deep analysis of what works (with proof).

Anonymous said...

A book? Hmmmm. That's a thought. At the very least, it will be fun to see you post these breakdowns here on your blog, MM.

It is obsessive, but it's also useful. I find that I'm much harder on scene length on TS scripts now than I used to be because of doing these.

It really drives home the "get in late, get out early rule."