Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Assignment 6: It's All in the Cards

Purpose: To tell a story well by putting each piece in its place.

Basis: It is difficult, in the middle of a script, to figure out what piece is missing or what scene should go where. The solution, then, is to figure out where everything goes before you start writing. This is where most writers discover the power of Notecards.

Directions: Choose the story you like the most from Assignment 5: Tell Me a Story and break it down into events. For instance: A girl alone in her house gets scared by the TV and begins to hear noises; turns out it was her cat. Break down this story into its individual moments (scenes) and write down each scene on a notecard. Example: 1. Girl on couch gets scared by TV show. 2. Lights go out (power outage). 3. Relaxes when power comes back. 4. Package delivery startles her. 5. Everything's okay. 6. Bump in the night. 7. Goes to the closet to find the problem armed with frying pan. 8. Cat jumps out and runs away.

Now write out the purpose of each scene on the card: 1. Setup the issue. 2. Increase tension. 3. Relax conflict. 4. Knock audience off guard. 5. Let it all cool down again. 6. Present problem. 7. Build tension. 8. Climax.

Try rearranging the different moments of your movie. Does everything make sense? Does it flow? Show your cards to someone else and ask if they follow the story or think something is missing. Look for gaps or holes in your story. Write new cards or remove cards that aren't needed.

Looking Forward: Once your story is fully "fleshed-out" and structured so it works on paper you will start to tell your story in script format.

What to Watch: "Lost Unanswered Questions" [Lost is TV-14] A very clear depiction of the frustration brought on by writing a story without having it all figured out before hand.

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