An excerpt from my script review for Finch which will be available 12/29/21:
2.) Plot Stability
Hitting your beats.
Save the Cat is probably the most read book about screenwriting.
In it Blake Snyder discussed how most successful films hit particular beats at specific parts of the script.
Although I never agreed with all of them, especially forcing a beat at a certain page, his book does do a good job of breaking down classic storytelling.
(The Hero’s Journey if you will, which my older two are studying in English and Language Arts class in school.)
Characters, and their arcs, have certain ups and downs that even as writers we expect to see.
This script had two major “beats” that stuck out clear as day, but I enjoyed.
Fun and Games.
Finch lives in a post apocalyptic world ravaged by a lack of ozone and the harsh UV rays of the sun.
Little to no life or vegetation left on the planet.
Not exactly a setting for fun, yet here is this lone survivor with a dog and a droid.
The first two.
Finch and the dog act more like friends than master and pet.
A good portion of the beginning Finch even forgoes eating, knowing he’s sick, and chooses to give his rations to the dog with witty banter familiar to both.
In fact, Jeff’s (the droid) entire reason for being is to keep the dog safe when Finch passes.
So the droid…
Here’s where the fun and games bit really comes into play.
Even against the dismal backdrop of a devastated Earth, Jeff is still a newborn piece of machinery where everything’s new.
Standing. Walking. Running.
Going through doors.
Driving an RV.
These are all everyday actions we’re watching a droid learn to deal with using Finch’s artificial intelligence program.
Jeff was alive as the writers could make a piece of machinery, something the audience will enjoy and relate with.
This one seems to be the most clear cut of all the story points.
(I believe Snyder called it the “dark moment of the soul”.)
It’s one that even the boss and kids yell out on the rare occasion we watch a movie together as a family because it’s generally pretty obvious.
This script actually had two.
One for Finch.
One for Jeff.
Not really too much of a spoiler here, but Finch’s comes when the RV is ravaged due to a storm and hasty retreat into a low tunnel.
Finch finally gives up hope in a world without it.
It worked and it made sense.
His was slightly more sad when you consider that he’s only been…sentient?…for a few days.
Finch is all he’s known, and we know Finch has been dying since we met him, but the news is thrust upon Jeff rather suddenly…
…and then Finch dies.
Jeff doesn’t handle it well, and although his programming allows him to adapt, the “emotions” he’s developing won’t allow him to give Finch up.
So what’s the point?
When writing, don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
Good storytelling has existed for millennia, and with that comes basic principles whether drawings on cave walls or pixels on a computer screen.
You don’t want to hit specific beats on the corresponding pages? Hey, I get that.
Just make sure you can justify to yourself that not including them (or hitting them on a certain page) is because it’s what’s best for your story.
If it’s not, and you’re just trying to look “different”, well your heart may be in the wrong place.
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