Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creative Master Ron Cobb

Did you know the story at the basis of what later became E.T. started with a pitch to Spielberg at a Paris hotel? On Friday I was sitting opposite the very man who pitched to Spielberg back in the late seventies. I listened to that same pitch. One of those moments you don't lightly forget...

The man sitting opposite me (and Spielberg) was Ron Cobb, who worked in a completely different capacity on other movies such as Alien, Back to the Future, The Abyss and Southland Tales (the last movie by Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly). Next week, Ron will be at the AFTRS Sydney screening theatre for the first Creative Masters Forum.

Now, why am I telling you all this? (prepare for the shameless plug)

Because I produced a documentary interview with Ron and I'll be hosting two sessions at the Creative Masters Forum, which is all about Ron's life and work. Legendary Australian cinematographer Don McAlpine will also be part of one of the sessions and I'll be talking with Rod March, co-writer and director of my latest 3D animation TIN CAN HEART. This film will have its world premiere on the launch night of the conference.

If you like the sound of all this, but your focus is more on writing and less on the design side of movies, here is an offer you cannot refuse:

Book the four Story Dept. Spring Seminars at full price now, and attend the Creative Masters Forum with Ron Cobb at no additional cost. This is a bonus valued at $990.

Details are below.

If it's not for you, please pass it on to your scifi geek friend.



Join us for the first Creative Masters Forum (www.creativemastersforum.com), on Tuesday 21 October at the new AFTRS Sydney screening theatre in the Entertainment Quarter.

The day focuses on the legendary writer, designer, concept artist Ron Cobb and among the forum participants are other Australian masters such as cinematographer Don McAlpine.

Ron will be talking about his life and career and answering questions during two public sessions, hosted by myself (Karel Segers). I also produced a feature interview documentary on Ron of which all delegates will receive a copy.

This week only, The Creative Masters Forum and The Story Dept. are offering an exclusive double ticket. For $660 you will be able to attend the full day conference plus the four Story Department Spring seminars. This package is valued at $1,550 if booked individually.

As a writer, Ron wrote an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and he sold an idea to Steven Spielberg that later became E.T.. He directed the 1992 feature film GARBO.

But Ron is best known for his art, which has had a profound influence on modern popular culture through his work with the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott & Jim Cameron. His artistic talents have been commissioned by these iconic directors to assist them developing their vision from concept to creation, and ultimately to the big screen.

Ron Cobb's screen credits include ALIEN, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, RAIDERS OF THE LAST ARK, BACK TO THE FUTURE, ALIENS, THE ABYSS and many other classic science fiction movies.

Details of the conference are here: http://www.creativemastersforum.com.
Details of the screenwriting seminars are here: http://storydr.com/story-sydney
Book the seminars before Sunday 19/10 and get the double package (value £$1,550) for only $660.

Phone: +61 (0)407 955 555
Email: karel@ozzywood.com
Web: www.storydr.com

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Do You Want?

"No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need."

These lines by the Stones have been quoted to me often enough to make a mention on this blog.

In the context of a character's journey, there often is a clear difference between what the character wants and what it needs.

The 'want' is also referred to as the 'visible goal', or the Outer Journey. It is often lacking in arthouse films or films with a so-called 'passive protagonist'.

The 'need' is the inner counterpart, the Inner Journey. It is about the weakness that needs to be overcome, the subconscious desire for a character quality or a type of behaviour that will make the character stronger, more complete.

In Jaws, the conscious desire of Chief Brody is to protect the people of Amity. His need or subconscious desire is to deal with the cause of a problem rather than its symptoms.

In many great movies, the conscious goal cannot be achieved without first achieving the subconscious goal. In Jaws, Brody cannot adequately protect Amity without killing the shark.

Finally, and additional to the 'want' and the 'need', Chief Brody also has a half-conscious longing: to make a difference.

Martin Brody moved with his family from New York to Amity because in the Big Apple he was a nobody. He wasn't equipped to make a difference because of the magnitude of the issues the police corps was facing. So he moved to a peaceful little island community where unlike in New York "one man can make a difference".

Brody hadn't foreseen the obstacles in his new environment: an idiot mayor, his own fear of water and his reluctance to deal with the heart of the matter.

His failure to deal with the cause of a problem is evidenced at two crucial moments in the story.

In the first scene Brody's son appears in the kitchen with a bleeding hand and he tells him not to play on the swings any more until he has fixed them.

At the mid point of the story, just before he ventures out into the sea, Brody warns his wife not to use the fireplace in the den while he is away.

In both instances, the Chief was aware of the problem. Still he hadn't fixed it.

Rather than protecting his family by dealing with the cause of each problem, he tells them to just avoid the dangers.

In the same way, in the first half of Jaws, Brody tries to close the beach, rather than go out and kill the shark.

Brody's WANT is to protect the people. His NEED is to deal with the cause of the problem. Only then can he make a difference and fulfill his longing.

(Check out this structural overview of Jaws)

Mick Jagger was obviously not thinking about movie characters.

We all have 'wants' and 'needs' and interestingly we usually attribute a higher value to the visible goals than to what we really need. Because we don't always realise what it is we need.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we really want something, although we may not need it at all.

The first thing many screenwriters want is not a great story. It is not even a great script. What they want is Final Draft, the screenwriting software. Because that will make them a screenwriter.

Recently I decided last minute not to deliver a workshop in the way I had planned because it was not enough of what they needed.

It was an honest choice because I genuinely want my students to succeed. But from their feedback I learned that teaching also has a commercial reality and if you don't give students what they want to only give them what they need, you go out of business.

The revised workshop was 200% more constructive, practical, relevant to the job and providing a better skills set. Yet one screenwriter was profoundly unhappy, even without knowing the new course content, simply because she was not getting what she wanted.

The others were initially reluctant to the course's new direction also. Afterwards all but one agreed what they had received was of greater value than what had been promised.

"If you try sometime you find
You get what you need."

This Sunday 31 August I'm teaching exactly what you both want AND need: The Hero's Journey.

On Saturday 13 September writers have the opportunity to stay in Sydney and pitch to Hollywood.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Funny Games Over

In a really eerie twist of fate, four days after my article on Funny Games, co-producer Tartan Films has closed shop. If you didn't believe me when I wrote that arthouse is dead, the staggering facts are now staring you in the face. Not that I am wallowing in this news; I have greatly admired the vision and business of Hamish McAlpine, ever since I met with him in the late nineties.

Apparently the losses on Funny Games were the final straw, suffocating Tartan to the point first the US branch closed, then the company went into administration.

It is sad that a company that had been fighting, at times very successfully, to bring groundbreaking cinema to its specialist audience, is now punished for just doing that.

In the worst case scenario, this could be really bad news for film lovers in the UK and the US. It often happens in situations of bankruptcy that film rights end up in a no-mans-land.

I am not an expert but I understand that creditors sometimes exercise power over what happens to the assets of the company in trouble. Here, the assets are movie rights and if a dispute arises between creditors, rights can be broken up, requiring the approval of several parties before they can be exploited.

In the worst case, a situation arises in which it just becomes too complex - and too expensive - to allow the film in the market again, sometimes for a long, long time. And fans may have to wait for years before their favourite title is available again in cinemas, on disk, on TV.

Even in those cases where the rights simply revert back to the original rights holders, it is not always in the interest of the film(s). Often those rights holders just don't have the passion of someone like Hamish McAlpine who would move heaven and earth to get a movie out to the audience.

As we have seen happening this time again, investing in getting these films 1) made and 2) released can be an expensive exercise.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Artful Preacher

On the fabulous www.horrorphile.net you can read a review of Michael Haneke's 2007 remake of his FUNNY GAMES. Very much like reviewer Bryn, I realised I had changed since I saw the original 1997 version at the Ghent International Film Festival premiere screening (For that occasion I interviewed actress Susanne Lothar afterwards in front of the bewildered festival audience.)

I was mesmerised by the 1997 original and thought it was one of the most intelligent and though-provoking movies I'd ever seen.

Today - without having seen the remake - my thinking about movies is very different.

I'm entering dangerous territory here as Michael Haneke has a solid reputation as an intellectual and an artist.

If FUNNY GAMES is to be seen as a statement against a certain type of violence in movies, I assume Haneke would prefer to see the world without it. As an artist and intellectual, did he search for a way to do something about it? I guess the answer is that artists shouldn't provide solutions. They just flag the problem.

However, just because he is using the medium that has caused the problem in the first place, there is an opportunity to address the very target group involved in creating and perpetuating the problem. The first step could be to create awareness of the issue with an audience that can make a difference.

But the audience of Haneke's type of cinema is not that. They're already converted.

When you want to make a critical or philosophical statement, it works better to respect the rules and principles of the format you do this in. In a way THE SIMPSONS has always done this perfectly. To a degree Michael Moore understands this, too. George Carlin did.

In any case it goes against reason to make a statement about society in a specific format - here: cinema - and then break the rules of that format. Essentially this is what the story of FUNNY GAMES does: it directs itself to a cinema audience, then tells them they're idiots for wanting the resolution they expect. Not a good way to get a point across.

Possibly even more so if that audience is American.

Recently I have been referring to the movie PRINCESS as an example of a sharp cinematic statement about a dark aspect of our society. The movie does this using the conventions of cinema narrative and it succeeds in a frightening way. It doesn't shock by leaving us confused, but by addressing the issue head-on using a story structure we are all familiar with. The filmmaker has used all his intellectual and artistic powers to create an incisive document that makes a point without frustrating the audience that is willing to listen.

When you make a movie, you enter in some sort of agreement with your prospect audience, promising them you are going to tell them a story. That could be any sort of story with any sort of characters about any sort of subject. What it can NOT offer is just any sort of narrative structure.

You may argue that Haneke didn't just use 'any sort of structure' but one that was deliberately designed to make a point about genre cliches.

When you destroy a cliche, you need to offer an alternative. Haneke leaves a void. This void causes the audience to be shocked and confused, wondering about the point of the entire exercise.

When Alfred Hitchcock killed Janet Leigh's character in PSYCHO, he didn't just end the movie there. He took the audience to a new place by bending the rules and creating a story to fill the void left by Leigh and the film became a classic. Not just a cult classic.

All storytelling has its own emotional logic. To deliberately frustrate an audience can be seen as arrogant and perverted, even an abuse of the storyteller's power. How much of a point would I make by interrupting my son's bedtime story just before the happy ending, switching on the bright bedroom lights, and with the radio at high volume?

In all cultures, stories fulfill an emotional and psychological need. Filmmakers who deny an audience this fulfillment by turning what is inherently an emotional format into an intellectual one, may not be working in the most suitable medium. Perhaps, instead, they should write books, give lectures, go into politics.

When ten years ago I watched the original FUNNY GAMES, I didn't realise the film was preaching to the converted because I was a convert myself. I watched it on an intellectual level and enjoyed its brain tease.

But doesn't this preaching to the converted really defeat the purpose?

And forgive my preaching here, but if Haneke is really the artist he is claimed to be, why then would he ten years after FUNNY GAMES make the exact same movie again? Shouldn't he be doing other, newer, bolder things? Shouldn't the artist reflect the changing times?

Surely over the past ten years cinema has changed. Audiences have changed.

I certainly have.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who Are You Gonna Call?

Whether you are a producer, writer or director, sooner or later your project needs the advice of an expert. Movies cost millions. Their development is much like the setup of a million-dollar business. So think of the expert as a business coach. Major decisions will indirectly impact on your business' bottom line. Any advice leading to those decisions will in some way or other contribute to the success or failure of your project, your slate, your career.

It all starts with that first draft.

You give it to a friend, because your friend likes you enough to sacrifice a couple of hours and help your future Hollywood career.

But unless that friend is a pro, how can you expect expert advise? Your friend may have never read a single screenplay, produced or unproduced.

McKee says: don't ask your friends to read your script, but to listen to your story summary, told over a coffee. Ten minutes, no more.

So how is that going to help you?

I'm not sure your friend will distinguish a wonderfully told screen story with engaging characters from something that is wildly imaginitive but plain wrong for the screen.

If your friend doesn't work in a creative position in the industry, will you get reliable career advise? I think not.

Honest advise you may get from a producer or an agent, even an experienced fellow writer. These people's businesses rely on stories that sell. You might ask a director or actor for their opinion, but - with all due respect - it will be less reliable.

If no working professional sacrifices their time to further your aspirations, don't despair. There is an army of script editors, screenplay consultants, story analysts etc. out there to help you.

Whether you like it or not, you are going to pay them.


If you are a first-time writer, you will need input on more than one draft and over the course of many months until your script is ready to go into the world and compete with already established writers.

If you are serious about breaking in and earning a buck, think hard about who you are giving your money to. Good advice can be costly.

But cheap advice can be far more costly.

Too many screenwriters make life-changing decisions based on advice given by their friends, peers or so-called experts. Because people are writers themselves or have web sites advertising their services, they are not necessarily qualified to decide over your future.

The type of collaboration you are entering into is so crucially important, you really need to do your research. Here are a number of questions to consider before you make a decision. And when I speak of (script) editor, I mean 'story or script consultant' in the broader sense.

1. What is the editor's vision on screenwriting?

If you believe real characters don't change and your consultant insists that you must have a character transformation, you are effectively on a different wave length. Check out the consultants' web sites. Does it show their vision on story and script development? Or is it full of marketing speak, flowery promises about bringing out your voice, adding to the local culture etc.? Ultimately you want to become a successful writer, earn money and build a career.

2. What is the editor's vision on script development?

Is it a 'snapshot person'? An experienced reader, specialised merely in providing script notes and assessments? Or is the focus on getting your script from its current draft to something that can be marketed or produced? Does the consultant's approach dig to the core of the story or does it only fiddle with format and style on the surface?

3. What is the script editor's taste for movies?

If yours is an edgy sci-fi with elements of raw graphic violence, your money will be wasted on the king of romantic comedy. Can you find a set of favourite movies you both know? Does the consultant have taste that is broad enough for a true professional?

4. Does the editor differentiate between story and script?

Story deals with plot, which is how most audiences will refer to your film. Script deals with the detailed expression of story on the scene level. Writing script notes takes time but is relatively simple (I'll give you a whole list of tips & tricks for free). When you choose your consultant, be aware of these two areas of expertise.

5. Does the script editor speak your language?

If you talk about story like Syd Field, in Plot Point One and Plot Point Two, things may get complicated when your consultant prefers Crossing the First and Second Threshold. Conversely, if your editor doesn't believe in The Hero's Journey, you have a good reason for concern . A good consultant knows most if not all story theories and establish a terminology that fits your taste and beliefs.

6. Has the script editor published anything?

Does the web site give you more than fees and contact details? Is there a blog? Does it express the type of advice you expect? Are the views expressed on the blog or web site original? Can you find an insight you haven't found anywhere else before, which makes total sense? Or does it all read like a collection of cut-and-paste jobs from Robert McKee or - worse - other web sites?

7. Does the script editor share your passion?

If they care about the craft, it will transpire through their writing. If they are passionate, they will want you to succeed. If they love movies, they will know examples from both mainstream and specialty cinema. If they want you to succeed, they will quote from successful movies and reference the principles that made those movies great.

8. Is the script editor predominantly a writer?

Writers may be able to find creative solutions. On the other hand, if you are dealing with a consultant who is primarily an artist, the worldview of that writer may transpire through the advice. Writers by definition try to tell their own story. And some have trouble suppressing the artist inside in order to put the client before the art. Better to work with someone who has a broader understanding of the whole industry.

9. Do credits and testimonials give you confidence?

Do testimonials give evidence of a sharp, constructive and creative insight? Or just a 'nice person'? In fairness, editors can't (always) be blamed for the failure of films. But if you find a list of failed films, the message may not be the right one. If you want to write for the cinema and credits are biased towards television, you may want to look further.

10. Does the editor offer the service you require?

If you are working on an early draft, you need feedback on the story. It would be a waste of your money (and everybody's time) to get detailed script notes on style, formatting, dialogue etc. Different stages call for different types of advice. Does the consultant offer you these options? Or are all options skewed towards 'script notes'?


Recently I have heard three stories first-hand from writers who had been given poor advice by 'senior American development people', 'produced writers', 'published screenwriting teachers' etc.

One writer believed she got the deal of the century when a former studio executive offered a Reader's Report for less than $150. When the report arrived, the excitement faded rapidly: a synopsis, a list of subjective character comments and 'apart from that, the story works fine.'

An other writer paid handsomely for a series of consultations with a respected author of screenwriting books. Although he ended up with a formally impressive draft, the writer soon realised the editor had not addressed an obvious, major structural weakness in the screenplay (as an experienced industry friend later revealed after a free reading of the script).

If someone works from LA, it doesn't mean they will give you better results. An emerging writer paid an established American script consultant top rates for several months. The script didn't even get shortlisted in a program for beginning screenwriters (in which two of the scripts I worked on received a big wad of development cash).


The first three readers brave enough to have (parts of) their synopsis published, I will offer a free Story Diagnosis. If you believe your synopsis is ready-to-go, I'll focus on the document's style and selling power.

Same for your script: send me the first fifteen pages of your screenplay. If you allow me to publish excerpts online, I will give you detailed scene feedback.

Please don't send any documents yet. Just send me an email to express interest and I'll get in touch about the next step.

Now, read the really small print below.


Isn't there a risk of my story being stolen?

Yes, there is.

It happens rarely but you can't eliminate the risk. That is why you need to register your screenplay first. I prefer you send me a synopsis of a draft you have already written and registered. Ideas cannot be protected. Screenplays can.

Alternatively, you can always send me something you had abandoned because it didn't work and you want to know why it didn't. In this case it's more about the learning experience than about getting that specific project up.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Audience Shrinks

CANBERRA 02/06/09 - The Dept. of Health and Ageing has allocated $35m to aspiring writers and Medicare will refund manuscript development costs since a report commissioned by Minister Roxon links creative writing with a balancing of the mind. Commenting on the controversial move, a department spokes person says: "Who cares if it bores audiences? It saves lives."(*)


Did or didn't you consider for a split-second the item might be real? There is some truth in the fact that first-timers often write auto-biographical material. And writing from the pain of your heart does work cathartically to a degree.

As a matter of fact, many successful writers' first screenplays remain the best of their careers, just because they are the most personal, vivid and direct, inspired and moving.

Why then, don't more writers succeed in getting their autobiographical screenplays financed and produced?

Because they care about their own catharsis, not the audience's.

The audience is now taking the place of the shrink. This system kind of sucks, because shrinks usually don't pay but get paid. And rather handsome amounts.

Still, there may be serious currency in self-analysis. All you need to do is tell your story in a language the audience understands.

The Greek tragedies we know were written around a character arc that would lead the audience through a journey towards change.

This journey would show them a mirror image of themselves and help them accept certain painful facts of life - and learn how to deal with them, how to become a better person, a stronger character.

The plays that stood the test of time were written for the audience's entertainment, not in spite of their catharsis but because of it. They were also meticulously structured.

When you want to transform a personal story for a large audience, you must take into account this need for structure and adapt the true facts to a work of dramatic fiction.

Writing a screenplay with autobiographical elements is in many ways just like adapting a biography for the screen.

(*) Yes it is fake and I will apologise if I must. But if you think this is tasteless link bait, my original heading was worse.


Last month quite a few of my workshop students urged me to go see IRON MAN. I do like some mindless entertainment so now and then and I hadn't seen a good popcorn movie in a long time.

However, I was reluctant because superhero movies hardly ever offer interesting character journeys.

They are mostly just about someone trying to get a job done.

In my view, the superhero type of movies is even dangerous to aspiring filmmakers. Because it shows you don't need to create a great character to draw the masses.

Needless to say the whole argument about established franchises and billion dollar marketing is wasted on these inspired souls.

Saying that I was pleasantly surprised about IRON MAN is an understatement. I had a wonderful time: here was a totally entertaining film with a structure that didn't feel formulaic at all.(**)

With its double transformation, I wouldn't hesitate to call IRON MAN a character-driven screenplay.

Tony Stark first transforms from mindless war monger to mindless peace keeper, then his character grows from an immature, toy-obsessed playboy to an adult with clear focus and moral compass.

In a way it is the Spider-Man mantra revisited: "with great power comes great responsibility."

Too bad "IJ4" blew Tony out of the cinemas. It seems David Koepp could have learned a thing or two from IRON MAN.

(**) Although I suspect it has a clean Eight-Sequence structure. Watch the Premium Ed. for the analysis in the coming days.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Third Digital

My friend Michael Favelle is flying solo for the first time at the Cannes market. It will be a great experience, because he has a great film to sell. The entire line-up of Odin's Eye Ent. is pretty solid but the standout film is clearly BITTER AND TWISTED, for which the Americans fell in a big way earlier this month. It happened at De Niro's Tribeca film festival in New York. And even Michael Moore plays a role in the success story.

Flashback to August 2007.

Michael Favelle shows me BITTER AND TWISTED and I dig it. He knows this doesn't happen too often. The writing is dramatic and fresh, the direction shows a strong hand and the production design is splendid, showing a disciplined economy. The film stands out above anything I have recently seen. Days later I bump into Christopher Weekes, the writer/director/actor and I congratulate him on his amazing achievement.

Flash forward to late 2007.

I am writing a post-production plan for a feature with my fellow producer Brendan Sloane. The film is THE DINNER PARTY, competently written and directed by Scott Murden, an obvious talent from Canberra. Together with the creative team I find a way to improve the strength of the story on the basis of minimal pickups and one new major scene. It is a tremendous pleasure and we are all excited about the prospects.

Soon after, I learn B&T is competing in the same funding strand against THE DINNER PARTY. Bugger. We have a great project with a clear strategy for improvement but B&T is a monumental competitor.

When after weeks of uncertainty I hear we are selected and B&T isn't, I have mixed feelings about it.

Now, what has happened with THE DINNER PARTY since is another story and I won't go detail. What I can tell you, is that its completion is moving towards what is looking like a very happy ending.

I admit, up until this point, my story is pretty lame. Shit happens. Nobody is perfect. Judges make mistakes.

Flashback to September 2007 for the climax and resolution.

I am at the Odin's Eye offices. the atmosphere is gloomy. The funding agency doesn't agree with our excitement over B&W. The film has been rejected. Again. There is no money to complete post-production.

Before I get to the point, let me ask you this: how should a film at fine cut stage be judged? You watch it, right?


Believe it or not, but although the film was offered in a fine cut, the rejection was largely based on a reading of the screenplay.

Sorry, but what am I missing here???

To award that highest culinary distinction of a Michelin star, would the judge study the chef's recipe book?
To check the baby's health, does the doctor go back and screen dad's sperm and mum's egg?
In stead of visiting the Sistine chapel, would you rather stay outside and watch the pics in your Lonely Planet?

I mean, really... What planet do these people live on?

Here's the irony. While you were reading this article, Michael in Cannes has closed another deal and Christopher has been offered another movie to direct.

Let's wake up to the real world and learn to acknowledge and admit when stories are crap. But use reasonable standards and tools to judge films. Perhaps this will help revitalising an industry built upon egos, ignorance and one-hit-wonders.

After having let the above article rest for a while, I feel compelled to set one thing straight: over the past couple of years I have personally had completely positive experiences in dealing with government agencies. As a matter of fact, recent dealings have been wonderful and promising for the future of development. However this does in no way diminish my feelings about the above.


During the interview with Larry Jordan I mentioned one of my firm beliefs with regard to story development as an editor/consultant. What follows may be a tip for writers that are working closely with editors, producers, directors or just teams of co-writers.

Most early draft screenplays have one or more tentpole scenes that sooner or later will have to disappear. To an outsider this may be instantly obvious and it would be tempting to recommend the immediate removal of such scene(s).

This, however, is a perfect way to kill a complete story.

Over the years I have learned to understand that the excitement and inspiration of a writer to work on a story often springs from only a handful of scenes.

Some writers, even experienced filmmakers, are totally protective of those. For good reason.

Others have complete confidence in the advice of the consultant and will dispose of the scene at once. The development will stumble on, for a short or longer while. Ultimately the writer will lose interest in the story. The source of inspiration was plugged.

When this scene is not completely obstructing the flow of a story, I will recommend to 'leave it in for now'. If it is obviously of inferior quality or just plain wrong, I will ask the writer to 'park' it. Never delete, just put it aside "for later". Here is the one feature I really do like about Final Draft: the 'Omit Scene'. It just hides the scene. It really is still there, and you can always make it reappear if you feel so inclined.

Sometimes I refer to the story of Brian De Palma's repeated attempts to reference Eisenstein's Odessa Steps scene from BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN. It took him many years before he found a home for the scene: in THE UNTOUCHABLES.

Think twice before you excise.


The three winners of last months Premium giveaway are:

  • 1. tefferm
  • 2. rshaver
  • 3. rclim24

To protect the winners from internet spam, I have hidden their full email addresses but after receipt of this newsletter they may expect an email with the login and password for the Premium site. This will remain valid for a full year. Congratulations!

I am encouraged to run the same competition again, only this time I am asking a little extra.

For my workshops and Premium Ed. web site, I am looking for case studies, synopses that I can review and possibly improve as an example of a story diagnosis. So, apart from entering your email address at the top left of this page, this time you will need to fulfill one more qualifying task to enter into the competition.

If you have a synopsis of an abandoned story idea, or a project in development that you would like to share publicly, email it to me and I may give it a detailed analysis on the blogsite. Your reward: one year free subscription to the Premium Ed. PLUS an improved draft of your synopsis.

Are you brave?

The three winners will get:
- Premium Articles direct to your email inbox
- The Story Dept. - Basic Edition (this newsletter)
- 15% off Options One and/or Two
- Discounted rates to selected workshops

(* The prize does NOT include the free Story Diagnosis. Or actually ... it might.)

If you are just interested in receiving news from The Story Dept. as and when I write it, have a look at the different subscription options. Most are free, only one is Premium.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yada Yada Yada...

Recently a friend recommended I should teach a course on screen dialogue. I found this surprising as I am not an expert on dialogue. I am not a native English speaker and I most certainly lack a deep knowledge of vocabulary.

My main reason for not jumping into dialogue workshops: I often read great dialogue, but I have never received one spec script where the structure couldn't be improved.

Structure is my shtick.

There is still so much to learn in this area, and you can't find it all in the books. I told my friend I have only scratched the surface and I'll turn my attention to a new area once story and structure have revealed all their secrets.

I mentioned this conversation to one of my most respected clients. He thought his use of dialogue had improved significantly through our development sessions. His script is certainly going the right direction: The coverage from a mini-major was thorough and contained genuine praise. Anyhow, it started me thinking about how I approach dialogue.

Because many writers love dialogue so much, I will stray from my path and share five principles. I am sure there are other, more important rules, but these are the ones that spring to mind. If you go against any of them, you need to have a very good reason.

About dialogue:
1. It should contribute to subtext more than plot.
2. Its semantics should be perfect, not organic or defective.
3. Its grammar SHOULD be organic and defective.
4. Its rhythm should support the scene's rhythm.
5. It can be reflective, not reflexive.

There is one more secret rule I love, which I only give away to my students and clients. It's about that one specific scene where you can - and must - break almost every rules.

Each of these techniques is a challenge in itself and you must develop a process to be aware of it during your own editing. Great dialogue doesn't usually flow naturally from your pen. It is laboured, crafted and endlessly polished.

That is why often at the very end of your development, when you are tantalisingly close to the final draft, you will need to do a thorough 'dialogue pass' and make sure every line and every word hits the mark.

Inexperienced screenwriters have great trouble judging whether their dialogue really works. This is because of their own tastes, education, movie influences etc. Another reason why they will always need a pro to do a final polish of your work before you send it out, even if the story works.

It can be tremendously helpful to workshop your lines with actors before committing to a shooting script. Beware: inexperienced actors will almost always favour dialogue over subtext.

Oh, and I fully agree with Robert McKee that often the line of dialogue the writer is most proud of, should be cut. Because Tarantino and Woody Allen get away with it, doesn't mean you should push your luck.


Right after learning the principles of structure, it will be hard to apply them to your own work immediately.

Better is to consolidate your understanding by applying it to films you know, by watching them and identifying the key turning points.

A breakdown in scenes or plot points is an excellent start. To help you with this, I will regularly publish examples from different genres.

My structural overviews are hardly definitive. They are often different from the views of people I regard very highly. That doesn't make either of them 'wrong'. I don't believe in 'formula' and the main concern is to find a process that helps you creating and critiquing a structure so it has the best chance in the market place.

On the other hand, they can often be improved and I welcome your input.

Now, a lot of work goes into these structure articles and I want to reward my clients and Premium Subscribers, who pay for my time. Therefore, these overviews will only be accessible to non-paying readers for a limited period of time. During this time, you can copy it for your own use, not distribute it in any way or for any purpose without my written consent.

So far I have published five analyses:

Assault on Precinct 13 (Original Version)
Michael Clayton
Ghost World
Terminator 2
The Shawshank Redemption

The first two have gone Premium already, the remaining three will too, at the time of publication of my next post. But more will follow, so keep watching this space.


I filled my shopping trolley with $489 worth of groceries and at checkout I said:
"I want all for free: soon I'll have a big family to feed and you'll make so much money, it is worth getting my business now!"
Guess what: it didn't work.

--- (deeeeeep breath - preparing for loooong whinge) ---

Every f***ing week people email me asking to read their work - FOR FREE. They all believe they have written the latest blockbuster, indie comedy, crime caper, romcom, etc. You name it.

And they all really - really - want me to spend half a day or a day of my precious time reading their shit rather than earning a living or spending time with my three-year old son Baxter.

Guys: this is my job.

Do you ever go into work in the morning and tell your boss:
"Hey listen, today I'm just doing you a favour, don't pay me. I love my job SO much!!"
With the persistence of leeches on steroids these people try to make me believe I am ruining my chances of becoming a billionnaire producer if I don't read their stuff.

Some keep coming back. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

Ever heard of the expression "pushing s*** uphill"?

Mostly I just try to make them see the light and sell my services, because without professional help they don't stand a chance of ever getting read.

But sometimes it just drives me plain mad.

If these writers had done their research on who I am, they would have known my views on screenwriting are pasted all over my three web sites. These sites have decent rankings and show up whenever you google my name.

Interestingly, the pattern is quite common:
1. First they send a sloppy synopsis, which;
2. I reject.
3. Then they tell me the script is better than the synopsis.
4. I kindly explain I don't work like that.
5. They insist I should read the 120p. script.
6. I reiterate what I have explained before, but offer to read on a consultancy basis.
7. They insist by repeating exactly what they have said before, only LOUDER.
8. Etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I give in.

And guess what: in the rare cases I can free up time to read ten pages or so and give them free feedback, people get offended.

Only yesterday I received a highly insulting email in response to what was a polite, professional - free of cost - assessment of (part of) a screenplay. You're not prepared to lose? Well, don't play.

Which brings me to the following, more positive consideration:

I am very proud to say I am one of the very few consultants around the world who is completely transparent about their approach, their knowledge and their fees. You can read two years worth of articles on story and screenwriting in this blog, in which I am 100% open about my views on the craft.

But, you know what? Some of these people are just not interested in screenwriting. They just want some money to get their film made.

Apologies if I start to sound like a cranky old bastard. True, I am one. But I don't want to sound like one.



Currently I am working with six smart, dedicated writers with promising but unfinished stories. They have committed to regular consultancy sessions over a period of four months or longer. Yesterday an existing client signed up for the Intensive Pack.

More than a dozen return clients book regular Step Outline sessions and over the past two years, more than a hundred satisfied clients have paid for one or more services to improve their skills.

The Story Department - Premium Ed. has subscribers from both Australia's East and West Coast and from overseas.

The Story Workshops have been endorsed by Screen Development Australia, The ACT and NSW Writers Centres, The International Film College, and recently also the Australian Writers Guild, with whom I'm working on a workshop in South Australia.

If you have been considering joining a workshop or hiring my services, perhaps now is the time to get your project finally on the rails!

And more good news:


The Story Department is now officially toilet-trained.

I have been crapping on about structure for a full two years now. No fad. Can you believe that even with 24 months, we haven't even made it into the average life span of Technorati's TOP 100 blogs?
Slowly the world is getting to know The Story Department:
- We are listed on Scribomatic (two places up from UNK).
- We are being interviewed by The Digital Production Buzz.
- We'll soon be interviewed on IF Magazine.

Also coinciding with the second birthday, there is a lot of news to be shared about the Premium Ed. too. Here we go:

- Australian readers can now enjoy much faster browsing and download speeds, thanks to the mirror site, hosted in Melbourne.
- Telephone consultations can now be recorded and made available to clients as mp3 downloads. No more frantic note-taking during our creative discussions.
- Top-level clients now receive a personal, password-protected web page with documents related to their projects.


I am giving away a free one-year subscription(*) to the Story Department - Premium Ed. for the first three people who subscribe to this free blog.

Just enter your email address at the top right of this page. You'll receive an email each time a new post is added to this blog, which shouldn't be more often than once every week or two on average.

The three winners will get:
- Premium Articles direct to your email inbox
- The Story Dept. - Basic Edition (this newsletter)
- 15% off Options One and/or Two
- Discounted rates to selected workshops

(* The prize does NOT include the free Story Diagnosis)
Good luck!


Friday, April 25, 2008

It's Academic

"What need is there to think of these events as having three acts? None."
-James Bonnet


Why the 'three-act' structure? Why not the 'three-part' structure? The 'five-act plan' or the 'ten-sequence' tale?

It's purely academic.

First there were stories. People studied them and found similarities in those that worked, elements that seemed to lack in those stories that didn't. To be able to talk about it, they gave those elements names.

It's that simple.

Aristotle talked about 'beginning, middle, end', or rather: beginning, complications and denouement. Theater has continued using this rough three-act structure.

In the late seventies, Syd Field built further on this and he designed 'the paradigm', a 'three-act structure' specific for movies.

Since then, many have studied the structure of films and refined that crude framework into something far more practical and sophisticated. Beyond Aristotle, but firmly grounded in the foundations he built.

The motivation to study the components of story - for me and many others - has always been partially a scientific curiosity into 'how stuff works'. The three-act structure has proven to be a handy tool.

But the other motivation has always been: money. A better understanding of how audience perception works, may result in a more successful approach to screenwriting. Good business for screenwriters and producers.

Plus: with hundreds of thousands of aspiring screenwriters around the world, there is business potential in selling your ideas to this group. Syd Field soon found out after the release of his book SCREENPLAY.

Those that came after him learned that merely re-hashing old models won't work; you will need to come up with an improvement of the existing theories. That's one reason why authors keep putting their own spin on the material.

On the other hand, we have to constantly update our understanding of story structure for the screen as audience expectation changes. Cinema goers and television viewers become more and more demanding.

Still, the whole damn thing is entirely conventional.

The only purpose is for you to find a way to improve your story. And by 'improve', we mean: increase the chances of reaching a wider audience, according to principles that can be learned.

McKee says something like: these principles don't say "You MUST do this." They say "IF you do this, then...". In other words, these principles have been empirically deducted from studying stories that work.

Scientific? Oh yes.

No-one cares whether you have three acts, eight sequences, twelve or one hundred and eighty-eight journey stages, as long as it works.

Why to speak of three acts? Because if you don't, and you still want to talk story, you'll have to come up with an entirely new system. And convince the rest of the world to use it.

If, like James Bonnet, you don't want to use the three-act structure, go for your life. You may well achieve the same - or even better - results. But when it comes to discussing your work with others, you may find yourself in a foreign country. And no-one speaks your language.

You may find it's a pretty lonely world out there.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is Arthouse Dead?

Yes. It is.

Look it up on Wikipedia or
Answers.Com. "Arthouse" isn't even there. You'll find 'art film'. From that page it seems very much this is the type of film nobody wants to make any longer, let alone see.

One of the attributes of the term 'art film' is "noncommercial". Explain to me: if a film costs millions to make, how can you be 'noncommercial' about it?

Does it mean you are intending to make a loss? Or are you trying to only just make your money back? I would like someone to explain to me how you can make a business plan that aims to exactly return the film's cost. This is an illusion.

The term arthouse film dates back from the days when a relatively healthy number of people would flock to a type of movies (or rather: 'films') that would not necessarily be entertaining, but challenging and puzzling. Antonioni, Bunuel, Bresson, Tarkowski, Oshima etc. Every main street had its cinema and every cinema had its dedicated crowd of buffs.


Today, I feel some would-be filmmakers call their projects 'arthouse' if they ignore common-sense principles, they are making anti-cinema, they don't have a strong statement, they fear most people wouldn't want to see them. The term 'arthouse' today screams 'small audience', or worse: 'no audience'.

Arthouse at today's box office means 'foreign language film' or 'quirky subject matter'. Here are a few films I saw in independent theaters over the past year:
- BELLA, a colourful, life-affirming American indie film.
- THE LIVES OF OTHERS, Oscar(R)-winning drama.
- MICHAEL CLAYTON, drama starring George Clooney.
- JUNO, winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
I haven't seen AS IT IS IN HEAVEN yet, but does a movie that grosses $1m (in one theatre only) qualify for arthouse?

What these films have in common, and what arthouse didn't necessarily have twenty, thirty years ago: a traditional three-act story. Despite their independent flavour, they are definitely not arthouse as we used to know it.

The darkest film I have recently seen is PRINCESS, a revenge tale mixing anime and live action. Subject matter: pornography and child abuse. Darker? Anybody?? Still, the film was told in a traditional three act structure.

Even if you believe your film will appeal to intellectuals only, the discerning audience, you will need that conventional story structure. Because today, without it you have no audience.


Is there no more experimenting with form? Yes there is. But people don't want to see it any longer. The audience for experimental, avant-garde or non-narrative cinema has shrunk to such small numbers that if/when these experimental films still accidentally get out into the theaters, those theaters remain empty. Mostly they remain limited to film or art festivals.

If you consider yourself an artist, you should not be a filmmaker, dixit Christine Vachon, one of the most successful producers of independent American cinema. Films that have pushed the boundaries: Kids, Happiness, Boys Don't Cry, I'm Not There. She was recently quoted saying:
"Even a cheap movie costs a couple of milion bucks and if you are spending that just to be an artist, that seems rather indulgent."

When I set out to write this article, I googled the phrase "Is Arthouse Dead" and stumbled upon:
"Art house film distributor Andi Engel, dead"
I wasn't aware Andi had passed away. I had met him in London on a few occasions, less than ten years ago. His company Artificial Eye was the icon of British arthouse film distribution. Even then, the company was having a hard time. Despite the fact that they had the rights to virtually every classic arthouse film, for the entire UK, it was a struggle.

Andi died on Boxing Day last year and I believe true arthouse cinema had gone before him.

The bottom line for the independent filmmaker:

Your choice to make a movie for a discerning audience does not absolve you from the obligation to tell your story following a traditional three-act story.



My friend San Fu Maltha, producer of Paul Verhoeven's BLACK BOOK, once asked me if I knew the total gross box office figures for Australia over the past year.

To my embarrassment, I didn't. Although San Fu works out of Amsterdam, he knew the numbers for Australia.

My attitude was symptomatic of many independent filmmakers, too focused on their own little films, not really working towards take a share of the money people spend every year. And that figure is - despite all the alleged doom and gloom - significant.

The AFC have just released the figures for 2007 and here are some highlights:


Box office: In 2007 Australian-produced features accounted for a 4 per cent share ($36 million) of the Australian box office, a decrease from 4.6 per cent ($40 million) in 2006.

Top five titles in 2007: Happy Feet was again the top grossing Australian film in 2007, adding a further $20.7m to its $11.1m earned in 2006. Romulus, My Father followed ($2.6m) with Rogue ($1.8m), Bra Boys ($1.7m) and Razzle Dazzle: A Journey into Dance ($1.6m) rounding out the top five.


Screens and theatres:The number of cinema screens in Australia has risen by 134 per cent between 1980 and 2007, from 829 to 1,941. Following several years of gradual growth, 2007 recorded the first fall in screen numbers since 1987, down 1 per cent on 2006.

Films screened: The vast majority (63 per cent) of films screened in Australian cinemas over the past 24 years have come from the US. However, in 2007 the US proportion was under 56 per cent for the third year in a row (172 out of a total of 317 films). Local titles comprised 8 per cent of films screened in 2007, just under the 24-year average of 9 per cent.

Box office: The gross box office rose to $895.4 million in 2007, a 3 per cent increase from $866.6 million in 2006. Admission numbers also rose in 2007 to 84.7 million. Films released through Roadshow/Warner Bros earned the largest share of the Australian box office in 2007 – 24 per cent, up from 20 per cent the previous year – with gross takings of $212 million.

Top films: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the highest grossing film at the Australian box office in 2007 with earnings of $35,527,464, followed by Shrek The Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, The Simpsons Movie and Transformers. Happy Feet ranked eighth.

Australians spent nearly $900m at the box office. Nine hundred million dollars. That's a nice chunk of change. Can we please have a small share of that?


Stop making arthouse films.


At the end of my workshops, I send my students home with the message: "Don't try this at home. Yet."

It is hard to apply the material of a course or seminar to your own work. At least immediately after the course. How do I know? Four of my clients took a course (NOT any of mine) that was dealing very specifically with the issues they were facing in their scripts. Right after the course, not one was able to address those issues successfully.

I am a bit wary of courses, seminars and workshops that deal directly with a writer's work. Too often, even if you point at the specific scenes, the students may not see it. Let's face it, the work of inexperienced writers is hardly ever a good benchmark to learn the craft. And it is impossible to see weaknesses if you don't have a frame of reference.

When it comes to story structure, you need to become completely familiar with the major story points before you can even look at your own work. Identifying an Inciting Incident or Crisis scene immediately after learning about it, is virtually impossible. This may sound bizarre and almost unbelievable, but it is a fact.

The only way to quickly sharpen your mind and critically look at stories, is to systematically view and analyse films. This is how I have learned much of what I now know. Watch a movie, preferably one you know well, summarise and note down the DVD timing for each plot point.

Only then, after acquiring a natural feel for a story's core beats, can you return to your own work and analyse it. Only then will you have the competence and authority to not only identify the main plot points but also critically assess them.

As promised, I have started to publish some structural overviews of films on The Story Dept. - Premium Ed.. Recently I analysed the first act of BLADE RUNNER. Meanwhile I have added the full three-act structure of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and MICHAEL CLAYTON (all links are for Premium Readers only, make sure you log in first.

This is not an exact science and we may disagree. Hell, I know I make mistakes. But the main thing is: the exercise of breaking down a story in its primary plot points helps you to understand how to shape and propel the drama.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Exciting Coincidence

"A strong inciting incident is an event that happens to the protagonist, never an action by the protagonist", I said.

Then I asked you for exceptions, i.e. strong Inciting Incidents that
are actions by the protagonist.

Now have a look at the first three responses I received: 1.) THELMA & LOUISE, 2.) PULP FICTION and 3.) KING LEAR.

Look at them again and see if you remember 1) who causes the inciting incident and 2)how does the character end in the story?
The answer is baffling.

1. Louise kills a man. The end: Louise dies.
2. Vincent kills Marvin. The end: Vincent dies.
3. King Lear excludes Cordelia. The end: King Lear dies.

For these three, Tom, Brett and Margaret each earned themselves three months Premium Subscription. Well done.

Recently UNK blogged about Inciting Incident (another exciting coincidence: one day earlier, someone hit my web site using the key words inciting incident definitions.) and among his favourite I.I.'s he lists COOL HAND LUKE.

Here we go:

4. Luke cracks open parking meters. The end: Luke dies.

Exciting coincidence? Or does it mean that EACH TIME a protagonist incites the story, we have a down ending? Probably not. Perhaps the readers of this blog have a slight predilection for somber movies. ;)

Anyhow, I found the examples you sent to me striking.

More exceptions to the "event-not-action" rule:
- Simon: "Not my kind of thing really, but what about Ferris Bueller's Day Off?"
- Simon D.: "What about any story where the protagonist activates something, like the Princess and the Frog in the pond, Pandora's Box etc"
- Jim: "If Russell Crowe is the Protagonist in 'Yuma', then it happens in that."
- Chris: "3 Movies that the protagonist is responsible for the inciting incident: Scarface, June, O Brother Where Art Thou."
- Robert: "Chow Yun Fat's Hitman character accidentally blinds a girl during a hit on a triad boss that he is carrying out. Therefore he himself sets in motion the "inciting incident" and for the rest of the film sets out to redeem himself and possibly help the bling girl regain her eyesight by doing more "hits" to pay for the operation!"

Thank you all! It was a great exercise.


As to screenwriting theory, there are so many sources of conflicting advice it is difficult to know who to listen to. Each new piece of advice can be as convincing as the one that came before it. What should you do?

How do you choose who to listen to?

Do you take the word of

  • the most influential,
  • the most popular,
  • the most convincing,
  • the loudest,
  • the most confident,
  • or maybe what they perceive to be the safest.

As a person who dishes out daily doses of advice I am as guilty as anyone out there who tries to offer opinions of what you “should” do.

The fact is, at worst people do not have any idea what will work for you, and at best they can only rely on their own experience. Certainly I give you the benefit of what I have learned through my work, but you still have to work out what will work for you.

I am still learning, things still take me by surprise. You may have read me say before, I am of the opinion you can learn something from every person you meet. Your job is to not blindly accept what you are told but collate it, cogitate on it and apply it in your own unique way.

Work out the approaches that suit you best, that fit what you are trying to achieve and how. Which stories resonate with you, and enthuse you, separate out those that leave you cold.

You can never take the same journey twice, your journey is yours and yours alone, but you can learn about possible pot holes and beauty trails from people who have traveled a similar path before you.

Here I have to confess something: all the above (except the first four words "As to screenwriting theory") was taken literally from Chris Garrett's blog on blogging. When I read it, I found it so completely true for pretty much any field of learning, including ours.

My own little piece of advice on where to start learning?

Just write, every day, undisturbed by what you learn or what people say. While you are doing so, go through the list below. And take your time.

1. Read McKee's STORY, or better: listen to the audio book. You won't learn too much about the craft, but you'll get a feel for what you're in for. If you have less time and you want to be fashionable, read Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT.

2. Take a craft workshop. Mine, Hauge's or John Truby's. Read the stuff they have published.

3. Watch movies a second time to break them down into acts, sequences and plot points. Dozens of them, until you start seeing the light.

4. Carefully choose a story consultant you can trust and you like to work with. You will continue to learn, but now specifically about your own strengths and weaknesses.

At this point, you will have found your vision and direction. You will see which of the savants out there fall within your view on storytelling. Read their books, join their seminars.

Finally, you are on your own, confidently.

And while you just continue writing, your craft will improve, and improve, and improve...


It has been the core of my consultancy and teaching: the protagonist needs a clear and present desire.

Nothing new, though, Michael Hauge has been teaching this for much longer. In the context of Michael's visit to Australia in two months, I interviewed him and the full text will soon be available to my clients and for subscribers of The Story Dept. Here's an excerpt:

Karel: Two problems I often find in screenplays by inexperienced writers are 1) the choice of protagonist and 2) the key qualities of the protagonist. Would you mind giving us an insight?

Michael: In almost every case where the problem seems to be choosing the wrong protagonist, the writer isn't clear about what the story concept is, about what the hero's visible goal is.

In other words: if the writer is operating under the belief that they just need to portray characters and show them going through a situation in their life and let's see what happens, then that's the quicksand they have stepped into. Because movies are about heroes who are pursuing specific visible goals.

It is about stopping the serial killer, about escaping from the panic room or from N.Y. or from Alcatraz, about winning the love of another person or winning an athletic competition. Or it's about getting the buried treasure. But the goal must be specific, must be visible, must have a clearly defined end point.

The first part of the full interview is now online on the Premium Ed. As usual, it will be visible for a few days only. After that you will need a subscription to see it. Part two and three will follow over the next few days, as well as a podcast (audio) version of the telephone interview.


The RATATOUILLE DVD shows has 1 (one) deleted scene. It is a long, uninterrupted travel from a wide establishing shot of the Paris skyline down to street level, through the Auguste Gusteau restaurant and ending on Remi, our hero.

The shot could have been spectacular, reminding of the opening shot of TOUCH OF EVIL and its pastiche in THE PLAYER.

Brad Bird's commentary talks about the reason why it was cut and it is simply: Point of View.
ego.JPGThe natural question that would occur is "Why would you cut this spectacular shot?", because it is obviously great. "I want to see that film!" Well, I feel that way, too.

The problem, once you get passed the initial sort of rush of seeing this very elaborate shot that shows you a lot of different things in one shot and very impressively, is that it is no character's point of view.

It is just a sort of God-like shot where you're presented this whole world and it is spectacular and there have been many fine shots like that - Touch of Evil being one - that were great but I felt that this is Remi's movie and it needed to be Remi's perspective.

And I want to know the emotions that lead up to Remi looking into the kitchen. I don't just want it laid on a platter, you know, just cut to Darth going "You're my son, Luke."

We should be with Remi when he has that moment. We should know how he is experiencing it and what is he feeling when he is experiencing it. And you kind of aren't, this way.

It did lay everything out, but I don't think that it took the audience with it.

-Brad Bird

Brad Bird's reasoning confirms what I have written about 'omniscient POV': it is weak, or worse, it doesn't work.

Movies are inherently about empathising, even identifying with characters.

When you step out of the protagonist's POV, it should be to shift to another POV, never to take an omniscient POV.

Omniscient POV is devoid of emotion.

Read some more about Point of View here.