Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rollercoaster Charts

Just finished a couple of revision passes on D.K.N. (Naughty Little Nazis) a screenplay by Nikita Mungarwadi that we're developing.
Log Line: A 14-year old German girl battles an Nazi S.S. officer and his platoon to rescue her Jewish friends from the ghetto before they are liquidated.
The most recent revisions dealt with pacing. Since this is a war-time action picture, we had to make sure there were no long slow spots. In fact, while producing this graph we eliminated six pages that slowed the story down.  The numbers on the bottom indicate "calculated" pages based on Final Draft's 1/8 page as the smallest scene length... the actual script is shorter than the chart indicates.

Click to Enlarge

The top chart (Progress vs. Regression toward Goal) measures the scene's portrayal of the protagonist's progress or lack of it toward her goal. The Moment of Grace is near the center of the chart at the GREEN ARROW. Until that scene the protagonist's efforts are up and down, without any great progress. But after the protagonist learns some tough lessons that takes her to apparent defeat (end of Act 2) -- she rises to apply the moral premise and finally make serious progress toward her goal. Yet, there are repeated set-backs of ever escalating danger all along the way.

The bottom chart shows how much reflection vs. action exists and where.  As we should hope, as the story progresses the action becomes more intense, with the clear majority of the story above the line, well into the action arena.
The RED arrow is the Inciting Incident. BLUE the beginning of Act 2. GREEN the Moment of Grace. PURPLE the Climax to Act 2. YELLOW the beginning of the Final Conflict, with the Act 3 Climax occuring there the action and the coaster action gets the most fierce. These turning points are not positioned perfectly, but they respect the dynamics of the story. As we move forward we may find the need to adjust them.

If you want to know how these charts were created, HERE ARE THE INSTRUCTIONS. I began with Final Draft's Scene Report and used Excel 2011 chart generator.


Alex Melli said...

Yes...I'd like to know how the charts were created! For some reason, I'm very intrigued with charting, graphing, plotting and in general, diagraming entire screenplays, and this seems like a good visual barometer to add to the mix.
Also, I read your book (loved it!) and attended a seminar about a year ago in California, and will attend are very inspirational!
-Alex Melli

Stan Williams said...

Here you go, Alex. I've embedded this link in the post above, as well.

Alex Melli said...

Hello are The Man! Thank you very much for your incredibly detailed instructions on making this type of chart! It will really help, and can't wait to give it a shot. (And sorry for the delayed response to your prompt reply, but I didn't get an alert, and actually just re-stumbled upon my original post!)
Be well!!