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The Book That Is Making All Movies the Same

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the who-needs-a-story-when-we-have-math? dept.

Movies 384

Bruce66423 writes "This Slate story explains how a 2005 book has led to all Hollywood movies following the same structure — to a depressing extent. From the article: '...Summer movies are often described as formulaic. But what few people know is that there is actually a formula—one that lays out, on a page-by-page basis, exactly what should happen when in a screenplay. It’s as if a mad scientist has discovered a secret process for making a perfect, or at least perfectly conventional, summer blockbuster. The formula didn’t come from a mad scientist. Instead it came from a screenplay guidebook, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. In the book, author Blake Snyder, a successful spec screenwriter who became an influential screenplay guru, preaches a variant on the basic three-act structure that has dominated blockbuster filmmaking since the late 1970s.' I've always known we could be manipulated — but this provides a segment by segment, almost minute by minute, guide how to do it."

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No wonder ... (4, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44351129)

No wonder most movies seem like derivative things you can predict what will happen ... because they apparently are.

Still, keep making the superhero movies, and I'll keep going. =)

As you like it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351247)

Me, I tired of "hollywood formula" a long, long time ago. Have been to a few art house films, but nothing mainstream. This is more or less proof I haven't missed anything interesting.

And superheroes? Please. I like comics well enough, but European ones (guess where I'm from) where each one isn't a verbatim copy of the previous or the next one, where the action isn't entirely formulaic, where the story is at least halfway believable, and so on.

But if you want to spend on re-doings of re-imaginings of re-boots of regurgitated old tripe... you keep on going, kid.

Re:As you like it (5, Funny)

robthebloke (1308483) | about a year ago | (#44351433)

Me, I tired of "hollywood formula" a long, long time ago.

Sounds to me like someone needs to check out the canon of work by hollywoods greatest story teller of all time, Michael Bay.

Re:As you like it (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about a year ago | (#44351737)

Yeah, I get the hate for Mr. Bay, but "Pain & Gain" remains in my top 5 of 2013 thus far. I had no idea that he could still make a movie for under $100 million these days. (P&G was made for $25 million).

Re:As you like it (1)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#44351661)

Don't the Art Houses have a Porn formula?

Re:No wonder ... (4, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44351345)

No wonder most movies seem like derivative things you can predict what will happen ... because they apparently are.

Still, keep making the superhero movies, and I'll keep going. =)

it's just not this book though.

the writing schools have been teaching this same classic shit for decades. if you draw storylines(up's and downs of "mood" plotted on a x/y axis where x is time) you'll see patterns with classic movies, plays and books.

it's actually at the point that if you're going to do something new that's going to be classic you might be better off on purpose veering off from it.. but a lot of stuff done like that is shit, too.

 

Re:No wonder ... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44351393)

This.

Or mostly this, anyway.

Look at the latest Start Trek movie. Bleccchh. After that great re-start, the second movie was a re-make of The Wrath of Khan... arguably the most successful of the prior run of movies... but so what?

I was wondering where this year's "blockbusters" are... so far they have seemed formulaic to the point of boredom.

Re:No wonder ... (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44351579)

I didn't think that much of the first. The second was better, but.. the tie-ins to the original series/movies still just felt like a cheap joke.

Re:No wonder ... (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44351683)

My opinion was just the opposite. If their goal was to make a fresh universe, to give them room for brand-new story lines, then the first movie was excellent. And again, if that was their goal, then they threw it all away with the second movie.

Re:No wonder ... (4, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#44351481)

This has been covered extremely well by everything is a remix ( http://everythingisaremix.info/ [everythingisaremix.info] ). I highly suggest people watching that if they want to realize how long ago creativity left everything that was original from Hollywood and simply became remixes of everything from Hollywood.

Which begs the question and/or makes it seem ridiculous when anyone tries to assert ownership of these ideas, when they don't even come up with it themselves.

Re:No wonder ... (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#44351601)

Ideas aren't actually that important when it comes to movies IMO.. it's the way the story is told, the atmosphere of the thing, that makes a movie good or bad. Good ideas might make you go "whoah, I didn't see that coming" the first time you see the movie - but it's the atmosphere they create that will keep you coming back to them.

Re:No wonder ... (2)

theguyfromsaturn (802938) | about a year ago | (#44351593)

Just in time for Transformers. That movie really looked like a formula movie (without a plot). Interesting to note it came in 2007 and felt like junk right of the bad. It had all the elements of "successful" movie, the inadequate boy... who meets the hot girl, pointles fights here and there. Oh yeah, did we mention the hot girl bending over the open hood of a car? Shouldn't miss that. So the bullied boy... oh yeah and the awkward parents who are actually happy to see that he'd been sneaking a girl in his room.... a puppy peeing on somebody. Oh, yeah car chases, you can't have a blockbuster without at least one car chase. And of course, giant fighting robots to add what most wouldn't have.

All they missed was a plot. But they definitely had everything else in the recipe book.

I never understood its success given the lack of plot, but apparently the book was right. Form trumps content anytime. (but really, was a little bit of a plot linking the different ingredients that much to ask? I didn need an Oscar winning plot, just the kind of plot that gets childrens books going).

P.S.
I know the continuity (or lack thereof) will offend some sensibilities. I appologize for this, but I was trying to convey my state of mind as I was watching that disaster unravelling before my eyes.

Re:No wonder ... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year ago | (#44351771)

If content was almighty then the Dune movie wouldn't have been a flop. I am perfectly fine watching a well present utterly banal story.

Re:No wonder ... (2, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44351617)

Ah the criticism of "derivative" the most derived criticism of all, in essence it says I liked it, but I needed to find something wrong to make me look intelligent and cultured. Because only stupid people actually like anything. Intelligent and Cultured people will must be depressed and hate everything.

Big hit movies will not be thought provoking, you need to go to the indie theaters for that, but if you wan't to pay $12 bucks for a two hour show. it better have big special effects and large explosions so all your senses go into overdrive, that is why you go to them.

Movies haven't really changed that much over time. However you will probably see the golden age of movies are from the period you are 8-18. As you are now old enough to see a PG movie and know what is going on, and this is your first time seeing the normal formula, so it is new and exciting. After that decade is over, you see the pattern over and over again, the special effects are less interesting.

It's about the money, stupid (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351131)

Good luck getting funding for a unique motion picture when the studios not only know what makes a profitable film, they can prove it. And because the average moviegoer could not care less, this is not going to change until the sun burns out. What makes matters worse is that each successive generation grows up watching these movies and will never know that there used to be something better -- which makes this approach even more profitable.

Re:It's about the money, stupid (2)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year ago | (#44351195)

What makes matters worse is that each successive generation grows up watching these movies and will never know that there used to be something better

Unless you have a collection of older films and encourage the younger generation to watch them. Obviously only works within your own family, but it's a start.

Netflix (3, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#44351439)

Unless you have a collection of older films

I thought one of the selling points of Netflix and foreign counterparts was older films.

Re:Netflix (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year ago | (#44351469)

That works too :-)

Re:It's about the money, stupid (1)

sodul (833177) | about a year ago | (#44351553)

Unless you have a collection of older films and encourage the younger generation to watch them. Obviously only works within your own family, but it's a start.

That's called Netflix. They have lots of older films and even have Classics and Cult categories. There movies in the Classics start in 1914 all the way to 1993. I'm sure they have a lot more that are not in theses categories but they are making it harder to 'browse' in list mode these days.

Re:It's about the money, stupid (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44351409)

I think they'll find that they can't prove it... because people will stop going. Not all of them, or maybe even most. But a lot.

The movies that have made the MOST money, were not rubber-stamps like the majority of others.

Re:It's about the money, stupid (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#44351831)

The rubber-stamps were copies of the ones that did make the most money.

Until the stamp breaks.

Re:It's about the money, stupid (5, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#44351447)

Good luck getting funding for a unique motion picture when the studios not only know what makes a profitable film, they can prove it. And because the average moviegoer could not care less, this is not going to change until the sun burns out. What makes matters worse is that each successive generation grows up watching these movies and will never know that there used to be something better -- which makes this approach even more profitable.

Depends on the motivation of the movie-goer.

Movies are just an entertainment medium - a way to escape life for a couple of hours. Depending on how you do it, you can see a standard summer blockbuster that'll give you visuals and effects that you won't see elsewhere outside of movies, or an artsy thought-provoking movie.

Fact is, most people go for shiny and don't want to think - the movie becomes a basic 2 hour vacation from the ills of life they don't want to think about (which is one reason we have entertainment).

That, and I'm sure a ton of people just hated English class when they read literature and had all the fun sucked out of books through critical thought and analysis, leaving people less willing to see "better" because it brings back days when they had to look for deeper meanings and such.

There will always be the classics - and then, like now, a bunch of crap was made. We're seeing the survivor effect - the ones we call classics today people remember. They just forgot that at the time, there was a ton of crap as well. The proportions of crap vs. good haven't changed, it's just the crap got forgotten and the good lasted. Movie theatres played more than Gone With the Wind in the past, after all.

you got me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351137)

It was all part of my evil plot to destroy Hollywood!
And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you pesky meddling kids!
-- Blake Snyder

Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351145)

I am sorry but we people are not stupid even if someone in hollywood thinks that :) We know that these movies are bad but if you are teenager what do you do on friday evening ? You can't go to pub, you have problems with the ladies so going to movies with few friends is a nice way to to on a weekend. It actually doesn't matter much what is out there, when you are young, going to movies with friends is something you do. That there is actually people who thinks that they are manipulating us is actually very funny! :D Can you imagine that there is someone who doesn't know that young people likes explosions and good looking women ?

Say it Ain't so! (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44351585)

If you are teenager what do you do on friday evening ? ... That there is actually people who thinks that they are manipulating us is actually very funny! :D Can you imagine that there is someone who doesn't know that young people likes explosions and good looking women ?

I think this says it all....

Personally, I thought people had given up doing the "movie thing" as a social escape for the most part... but I guess the current set of teens is getting reeled back into it again, at least in some places. Maybe there's hope for the video arcade after all, if these are the criteria for entertainment.

What explains the crap we get in the winter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351147)

And those ripd trailers look like a steaming pile of bridges.

You really got to fuck up hard to ruin the dude.

Predictable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351151)

But, but... I'm an artist! My work is creative and innovative, it can't be explained by some book!

Re:Predictable? (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | about a year ago | (#44351513)

Well, if you ever speak to any animator, you'll usually find a copy of this [amazon.co.uk] tucked away on a shelf nearby. I actually started my career as an animator, but these days I find myself programming instead (because i found it to be much more creative). I know of no artist (in the film industry, or otherwise) that thinks contract-work is in anyway a form of creative expression. Their creativity is usually bottled up until they get a chance to let loose on their own sideline projects.

Novels, too (3, Interesting)

Roblimo (357) | about a year ago | (#44351153)

Read a recent best-seller thriller or crime novel. It follows the same formula.

Sad, isn't it?

Re:Novels, too (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year ago | (#44351325)

Not Tess Geritson's Ice Cold.

Did you know? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351167)

This was the book that inspired Micheal Bay's mother to conceive.

Yeah. (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#44351179)

'Cause movies weren't formulaic before 2005.

Re:Yeah. (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44351253)

'Cause movies weren't formulaic before 2005.

Really. It's like the 80s never happened to the writer, apparently. Nostalgia doesn't mean movies were better back when.

Re:Yeah. (4, Insightful)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#44351361)

There's always been some notion of formula, what I believe Slate's point was however was that it's gotten pretty much to-the-numbers in recent years, thanks to a book that wouldn't be more specific if it was a "Fill in the words to make the story" thing.

For example, you can reasonably say Star Wars (or "A New Hope" if you're a young whippersnapper who doesn't know about these things and should get off my lawn) was based upon tried and tested formulae. I'm not in any way insulting Lucas by saying this, he's pretty much said it outright, actually pointing at the research he did into everything from Beowulf to Seven Samurai. However, nothing Lucas did was based upon a system that went into such detail that it told you every event that had to happen and what pages of the screenplay these events should occur at.

I think blockbuster-style movies have become increasingly formuliac over the last few decades, but there's a strong argument that they've become ridiculously so in the last few years. This article posits a reasonable explanation as to why, and should also serve to upset anyone who enjoyed, say, the latest Star Trek movie.

Re:Yeah. (3, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year ago | (#44351381)

TFA's claim is pretty bullshit. Syd Field [wikipedia.org] basically wrote the same book on screenplay structure and "how to sell your spec" in the 1970s, there's nothing particularly new about the claim here. I work in LA and have many produced screenwriter friends (yes even ones who've worked for Jerry Bruckheimer) and they haven't read this silly book.

Movies presently suck for a lot of reasons, but structure isn't one of them. The biggest problem nowadays is that a movie must have a simple enough story to be marketable in the international market, and specifically the Chinese market. 2/3s of all of Hollywood's revenue now comes from international distribution.

Re:Yeah. (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#44351597)

TFA's claim is pretty much that Syd Field's work differs in some way from the work of Blake Snyder.

Field and McKee offered the screenwriter’s equivalent of cooking tips from your grandmother—general tips and tricks to guide your process. Snyder, on the other hand, offers a detailed recipe with step-by-step instructions.

So either you didn't read TFA, or you wanted to deliberately miss its message to post your own rant.

Re:Yeah. (2)

dj245 (732906) | about a year ago | (#44351797)

The biggest problem nowadays is that a movie must have a simple enough story to be marketable in the international market, and specifically the Chinese market. 2/3s of all of Hollywood's revenue now comes from international distribution.

Why does a story have to be "simple" in order to be well understood in an international market? As long as country-specific scenarios or themes are avoided, and the translating team is decent, I don't see the problem with a complicated storyline.

This news is about 3600 years late (4, Informative)

TomR teh Pirate (1554037) | about a year ago | (#44351209)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramatic_structure [wikipedia.org] Essentially, the book described here strikes me as nothing more than a derivative of the accepted formula of ancient Greek drama. From Wikipedia: In his Poetics the Greek philosopher Aristotle put forth the idea that "A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end" (1450b27).[1] This three-part view of a plot structure (with a beginning, middle, and end – technically, the protasis, epitasis, and catastrophe) prevailed until the Roman drama critic Horace advocated a 5-act structure in his Ars Poetica: "Neue minor neu sit quinto productior actu fabula" (lines 189-190) ("A play should not be shorter or longer than five acts").[2] Renaissance dramatists revived the use of the 5-act structure. In 1863, around the time that playwrights like Henrik Ibsen were abandoning the 5-act structure and experimenting with 3 and 4-act plays, the German playwright and novelist Gustav Freytag wrote Die Technik des Dramas, a definitive study of the 5-act dramatic structure, in which he laid out what has come to be known as Freytag's pyramid.[3] Under Freytag's pyramid, the plot of a story consists of five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and revelation/catastrophe.[4]

Re:This news is about 3600 years late (1)

LQ (188043) | about a year ago | (#44351411)

I can't find the quote but it's something like there are only two stories - a man sets out on a journey or a stranger rides into town. Anyone know where that comes from? Bit too vague for a search engine.

Re:This news is about 3600 years late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351485)

you could reduce both of those further to the kernel of a singular mutatis mutandis identity story

Re:This news is about 3600 years late (5, Informative)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#44351509)

Did you read the article?

There's no doubt that the structure of effective stories has been studied for millenia, but what's different about this is the degree of detail with which its laid out, including not only the key elements (15, not three or five), their exact sequence and even their timing to a fairly high degree of precision.

Aside: Something that has occurred to me of late (while watching discussion about the Zimmerman trial, actually), is that I think humans have a tendency to fit real-world events into neat, narrative structures that have the same three-act form as good stories. I'm wondering if any news story that achieves really broad penetration of a large population's collective psyche doesn't end up getting "adjusted" until it fits a smooth, memorable narrative arc. This became apparent to me in the case of the Zimmerman trial when I realized that those who argued for guilty and not-guilty verdicts were discussing two rather different versions of the narrative, each of which followed a traditional storytelling arc, and neither of which was overly concerned about including facts that didn't fit the arc. The whole sequence of events, especially when the focus is on the actual evidence, makes a rather lumpy, disjointed tale with false starts and inconvenient edges, but the pro- and anti-Zimmerman stories are both much smoother.

I'm going to start watching to see if that phenomenon arises frequently.

Re:This news is about 3600 years late (3, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44351555)

Creating within a structure can be liberating. That is why students are given the five paragraph essay, with initially very strict guidelines on the type of content and number of sentences.Of course as creative individuals we are supposed to move beyond these structures. The problem is that moving beyond these structures involves violating peoples expectations, which means that commercial success can be jeopardized. Or getting back to school, we are trained to stay within a structure so that we get good grades.

So the challenge is meet commercial expectations while expanding it slightly so not to be too repetitive. I would argue that the six flops of this summer were a victim of over dependence on the structure and the Hollywood star system which lead to bad writing and production. By blaming the structure we blame the car and not the driver. If Dispicable Me 2 can be the #1 film, them repeatedly giving people the same drivel is not the problem. It just has to be fancied up drivel that is well managed and well executed, just like anything else.

Re:This news is about 3600 years late (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about a year ago | (#44351741)

The past 20 years I have found it increasingly difficult to follow action sequences. Maybe we should remember how those were handled in the olden days. Simply replace the whole CGI borefest with plain Teichoskopy interspersed by dramatic monologues for those who are dying.
All that visual story telling makes me pine for the old theatrical days when a chair could be the throne room of Elisnore, a ship boarded by pirates or a poodle who turns out to be the devil. A really good movie can be reenacted by a bunch of good actors on a stage with minimal props directed by a guy who knows WTF he is doing. Your typical summer blockbuster reenacted in this way would hardly last longer than half an hour.


A word to the wise: Romeo and Juliet is absolute crap after the death of Mercutio who is the only likeable character in the whole story. He went and watched the latest Superman flick and now he is a very grave man.

Not just movies, books too (5, Interesting)

Xaedalus (1192463) | about a year ago | (#44351233)

I'm part of an award-winning writer's group, and several of the members swear by this book. They follow it meticulously--and it isn't even the first to do this. The Warrior's Journey describes how Disney and Pixar created all their big masterpieces, and then takes that technique and applies it to novel writing. And then there's the Nora Roberts/James Patterson formulaic ghost-writers, plus the Harlequin series, any of Dan Brown's books; heck 90% of the entire fiction market follows a formula similar to Save The Cat. Formulaic writing is nothing new. Authors and screenwriters follow this like it's a religion--they cling to to the formula because they fervently believe it's the best chance they have of getting their work published. Fortunately, there are two mitigating factors that I've found: 1) a good idea is a good idea and even a plot-writing formula won't ruin it; and 2) good writing is good writing.

Re:Not just movies, books too (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351429)

I'm a big fan of the Writing Excuses podcast, and they talk about story structures all the time. There's a good reason that story structures are followed - they can make for compelling stories. It's like saying that engineering best practices are often followed. Yeah, because it results in working machines! You can break the rules if you work hard at it, but it will always be iffy whether the product will actually be better for it.

Re:Not just movies, books too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351441)

I think this is what draws me to creative fiction online and away from books, films and television: variety.

Reading online prose can be hazardous to your health obviously but for all the rough edges or poorly thought out plots it is new and organic and dangerous and not bathed in familiarity.

I realized that I hadn't stopped reading like I thought, I just stopped reading boring books.

formulaic isn't all bad (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44351237)

Formulaic isn't always bad. For example, TFA would have been better if it had followed a formula for conveying information in a shorter space, instead of droning on and on.

Overall the article reads like an author's lament that she doesn't have as much freedom as she used to (or wouldn't, if she were a screenplay writer). It's not like movies have gotten noticeably worse in the last 7 years......

Re:formulaic isn't all bad (1)

JeanCroix (99825) | about a year ago | (#44351295)

Um. From the end of TFA: "Indeed, I relied on Snyder’s beat sheet to write this piece, using every beat, in the order he lists. (Try reading this piece from the beginning and see if you can spot all the beats. Or click here to see a version of the essay in which they are all labeled.)"

Re:formulaic isn't all bad (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44351337)

No wonder the piece drags on. Those 'beats' are supposed to fill an entire movie. You can't take such a long formula and expect it to fill an essay.

Re:formulaic isn't all bad (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#44351697)

Um. From the end of TFA: "Indeed, I relied on Snyder’s beat sheet to write this piece, using every beat, in the order he lists. (Try reading this piece from the beginning and see if you can spot all the beats. Or click here to see a version of the essay in which they are all labeled.)"

From Xaedalus' comment above:

1) a good idea is a good idea and even a plot-writing formula won't ruin it; and 2) good writing is good writing.

I think the inverse also holds true.

Re:formulaic isn't all bad (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44351457)

Formulaic isn't always bad.

If someone were to "figure me out" and make my brain happy every time I watched something, I might not complain, actually. Netflix does a surprisingly decent job of this, actually. And Pandora is just creepy :)

Re:formulaic isn't all bad (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44351817)

If someone were to "figure me out" and make my brain happy every time I watched something, I might not complain

Good point. Can you imagine? "I hate you for making entertaining movies!"

Just like all chic flicks (5, Funny)

ichthus (72442) | about a year ago | (#44351273)

Formula for chic flicks:

1. Eye contact. They play coy for a while. He makes a buffoon of himself. She likes him, because he's a little shy.
2. Connection. She hides her innermost feelings from him, while he opens up.
3. Conflict. He either screws up somehow to make her unhappy, or she just can't get over some painful memory from her past.
4. Separation. The relationship falls apart, for whatever idiotic reason.
5. Resolution. Days, weeks or months later, they make contact. They either get together and everything's peachy, or they realize it was never meant to be and end up happy with someone else.

And, #3 always ALWAYS ends up being something so idiotic and petty that nobody with any kind of rational thought process can relate. This is called the estrogen phase.

Damn, I hate chic flicks.

Re:Just like all chic flicks (4, Informative)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#44351369)

Mate, I can feel your pain. You girlfriend must love you very much for taking her to each and every one of them, but you really have my deepest sympathy. One day when you are in the vicinity, do drop in for a beer.

Re:Just like all chic flicks (3, Interesting)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year ago | (#44351545)

Great summary! I'd like to add one more step.

4b) Humiliation/Realization. Something happens that humbles one or more of the main characters into realizing just how stupid the Conflict in #3 really was. Optionally, there's a montage of regret set to sappy music (Pretty Woman), really pounding their regret home.

Re:Just like all chic flicks (5, Funny)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44351659)

They either get together and everything's peachy, or they realize it was never meant to be and end up happy with someone else.

This is the only thing that matters. If the couple in the movie don't end up together, you are not going to get laid after the movie.

Protip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351809)

Chick: a baby chicken, or a young woman

Chic: Pronounced like "sheek". French for "fashionable."

I seldom bother with movies, especially recently (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44351283)

And how I know why. Thanks, Slashdot!

Lack of originality (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#44351307)

I think the idiotic lack of originality that emanates from American 'creative' industries is no news.

For instance, there was Independence Day, so there were several cheap knockoffs in quick succession immediately afterwards. Movies with brutal rape scenes were in vogue for a while, again, the copycats. This summer -- superhero movies and a stack of copycats.

When you have the autistic American obsession with profit at the expense of fulfilling your primary mission well, you have a recipe for lack of innovation and general crappiness. Might explain why Americans can't make cars -- and worse yet, can't even manage to copy the Japanese effectively.

Shakespeare and Tropes (1)

kaliann (1316559) | about a year ago | (#44351311)

Several of these themes and structures are found in Shakespeare, and a few echo Greek tragedies. It's not just this one book, though it's convenient, I guess, that he broke it down for screenwriters rather than leaving it in the realm of Theater and Literature Liberal Arts classrooms.

The author of the article would probably get lost if he ever stumbled into TVtropes.org.

Thematic elements recur. Surprising absolutely no one. The originality is in where things buck trends or subvert expectations, or in how they execute classic themes in fresh and exciting ways.

Harry Potter and Star Wars weren't thrilling because the themes were original, they were fun because they brought a fresh and intriguing context to classic themes.

Marketing keeps it there (3, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44351317)

This is the method, but it's the sheer horror of marketing the stuff [slashdot.org] that makes it the bible.

“The closer you get to (or the farther you get from) your thirtieth birthday, the more likely you are to develop things like taste and discernment, which render you such an exhausting proposition in terms of selling a movie that, well, you might as well have a vagina.”

New rating: the Snyder scale (2)

j-b0y (449975) | about a year ago | (#44351323)

One point for each beat present, with a bonus point for being in the right place

Then we can easily tell how generic the structure is...

Slashdot posts too. (5, Funny)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about a year ago | (#44351349)

Yes, there's also a formula for the perfect +5 Slashdot post too.

Always start by "I know this will get modded down into oblivion, but..."

Then bash Google, Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft, no matter what the subject is.

Make a car analogy.

Br a grmmer Nazi.

Insinuate all /. are virgins who live in their parents' basement.

Use Simpsons, TBBT, Star Wars/Trek references whenever possible.

Link to XKCD.

Label someone's facts as opinions simply because the guy didn't post a Wikipedia link, and say "oh, don't let facts get in the way of your biased argument."

Re:Slashdot posts too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351415)

I for one would love to see more posts which do all of those things in just one post.... for efficiency reasons ya know.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (4, Funny)

Talderas (1212466) | about a year ago | (#44351551)

I know this will get downmodded into oblivion but.....

It's pretty obvious you're a Microsoft shill. Your usage of 'ya know' is horrible grammar and you should be ashamed of that odiferous basement dwelling Captain Kirk loving body of yours that no woman would be caught dead near. You probably even think that these ringtones are acceptable to use http://xkcd.com/1241/ [xkcd.com] just like the guys think it's okay to replace their car horn with the General Lee's.

As if you want this for efficiency reasons, provide a citation to prove it rather than labeling your opinions as facts.

Ba doom boom! (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | about a year ago | (#44351761)

I think we get the joke . . .

Re:Slashdot posts too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351773)

I know this will get downmodded into oblivion but.....

It's pretty obvious you're a Microsoft shill. Your usage of 'ya know' is horrible grammar and you should be ashamed of that odiferous basement dwelling Captain Kirk loving body of yours that no woman would be caught dead near. You probably even think that these ringtones are acceptable to use http://xkcd.com/1241/ [xkcd.com] just like the guys think it's okay to replace their car horn with the General Lee's.

As if you want this for efficiency reasons, provide a citation to prove it rather than labeling your opinions as facts.

You can't prove a negative, fwiw. Stop trying.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351475)

Alternately, make a post about how easily you can make a post to get a +5 moderation.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (3, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44351499)

Yes, there's also a formula for the perfect +5 Slashdot post too.

Always start by "I know this will get modded down into oblivion, but..."

I'd welcome you as the new slashdot post overlord, but Natalie didn't like you for not mentioning hot grits and she was also upset that you were not the frist to mention that vi is superior. Such an attitude almost petrifies me and thus instead of welcoming you, I have to ask you to hand in your geek card.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (1)

pr0nbot (313417) | about a year ago | (#44351613)

I know this will get modded down into oblivion, but...

Seriously, writing a list of slashdot memes is the kind of crap that passes for funny on these days? It's so uncreative [xkcd.com] , I bet fucking Clippy suggested it to you. (Although if he had, at least he'd also have highlighted that you're supposed to have a comma before speech quotes.)

In all honesty, I don't know why I still read slashdot. Every time I feel like a Fiat owner driving back to the garage for one last rust treatment. And FWIW I don't know wtf TBBT is, would it have killed you to include a wiki link?

Retard. If my mum were home I'd get her to drive me round yours for a good slap.

Forgot one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351663)

Reply with "who cares" to any story featuring any bit of technology that doesn't personally concern you, and enjoy being modded up by everyone else who isn't personally concerned with the issue. Finally, bask in the warm afterglow of having offered absolutely nothing of value to anyone -- yet being rewarded for it.

That's slashdot in a nutshell.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (1)

bwintx (813768) | about a year ago | (#44351685)

You forgot "[Citation needed]" but, otherwise, well played, sir.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (1)

CelticWhisper (601755) | about a year ago | (#44351687)

It helps for Beowulf clusters to be involved as well.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (2)

ericloewe (2129490) | about a year ago | (#44351699)

Lemme try:

"I know this will get modded down into oblivion, but this absurd focus on social media crap (Thank you Facebook and to a lesser extent Google), along with the support from mobile/pseudo-mobile OS makers (It always comes down to Google, Apple and Microsoft screwing up, doesn't it?) is the perfect analogy for crap traditional media - masses digesting previously regurgitaded content that seems to never have been original and spreading it around so that more memebers of the idiotic masses can rinse and repeat.

You don't see cars running on the waste created by other cars, do you? It's a similar concept to this - something of no value gets reused to create supposed value. Just like it doesn't work for cars, it doesn't work for media. Yet idiots still fall for it and act like it's the best thing in the world! Maybe I should scam some people with a car that runs on CO2... I dunno, maybe I'll say it's as revolutionary as Warp drive in Star Trek. Or turning a bunch of furry stuffed animals into raging mass murderers capable of defeating a trained, well-equipped army. How more revolutionary can something be? If they fall for this, I might even convince a couple of cities to splurge on a monorail line that serves no useful purpose.

Obligatory xkcd [xkcd.com] perfectly illustrates the current media situation: Some random guy with no knowledge of anything about the subject can succesfully pretend to be a big shot - the situation is that crappy, yes.

And for the parent: It's fucking "Grammar". Not "grmmer" or even "grammer", it's "grammar"! And we're supposed to believe you? How about a link to Wikipedia at the very least, to support your opinion, huh? Oh, must not let facts get in the way of your biased arguments, right? Idiot."

How did I do?

Re:Slashdot posts too. (3, Informative)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year ago | (#44351725)

Someone posted a perfect formula for getting mod points years ago, but I can't find it. I'm stealing some of the following from that post:

1 - The earlier you post, the more people will read it - thus, the higher the moderation may go.
2 - If you reply to a +5 post (vs. starting your own thread), you're more likely to get read and get modded up.
3 - Repeat something obvious someone else has said (getting modded Redundant doesn't seem to happen often anymore).
4 - Keep your posts shorter, and more people will read them - possibly modding them higher.
5 - Use subtle flamebaiting that comes off as Insightful in a groupthink-like environment.
6 - Have a left-leaning, Democrat-focused, progressive viewpoint. If you lean more conservative on /. with your posts, you'd better have a solid argument or it's more likely to get ignored/blasted.

I'd list more, but I need to post this now or I may miss out of a mod point or two.

Re:Slashdot posts too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351819)

Citation Please.

Save the Cat! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351351)

I can hardly wait for the Hollywood blockbuster movie version of this book.

Dark Knight series? (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about a year ago | (#44351371)

I'm curious if the Christian Bale Batman movies follow that formula. They felt pretty original to me.
Of course after their success, I'm sure other people decided to copy them.

Re:Dark Knight series? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351533)

They most certainly do follow the formula. They are well directed, artistically pleasant and not Michael Bay-esque, but they are entirely formulaic.

the syfy channel B-movies all seem to be alot a (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44351385)

the syfy channel B-movies all seem to be alot a like each other.

Re:the syfy channel B-movies all seem to be alot a (1)

wed128 (722152) | about a year ago | (#44351801)

You mean....awesome?

Who noticed the essay following the formula? (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#44351431)

Who noticed the essay following the formula before the end when it pointed it out? I didn't notice until the "all is lost" section, but perhaps more astute readers saw the pattern earlier.

Hero's Journey (2)

MLRScaevola (1984056) | about a year ago | (#44351435)

Looking at the article, and the actual structure as it seems to have been laid out, it basically seems like its just an application of the hero's journey to screenplays, with some additional timing help. This isn't really something new, although the hard-line 'here's-exactly-when-each-thing-should-happen' might be. You never really know though -- the hero's journey is incredibly precise as well. The main reason that this structure is used is because it tends to work -- it gives you a nice plot that will typically make a modicum of logical sense, with opportunities for various emotional states. Honestly, it just seems like this is a standard story structure, and for movies that don't want to tell an experimental story, this structure works fine for them.

Campbell did it back in the 40s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351453)

http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Faces-Collected-Joseph-Campbell/dp/1577315936
I'm sure someone else did it earlier that him too.

infecting game developers as well (1)

Jerry Atrick (2461566) | about a year ago | (#44351501)

Most depressing is the way game designers use the same language, concepts and guides when created AAA games. They don't even think there's a problem being so obvious about it, willing to discuss how well they've following their chosen established story structure.

If you've ever wondered why all blockbuster games seem so damn familiar I bet they have a copy of the same guide. Except they spend less on competent screen writers and more on slapping lipstick on the same old pig.

Decades ago (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44351503)

...someone I know in the industry told me that the quintessential Hollywood story line was "Boy meets girl, girl gets boy into pickle, boy gets pickle into girl."

All literature can be broken down into a formula (2)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#44351507)

All literature (and for the purposes of this post, movies are a form of literature) can be broken down into formulas. The book in this article breaks down plot structure, but there is also a formula for the actual plot. As to the plot structure there are only two choices, the three act plot, or the five act plot. The three act plot structure is the beginning, the middle, and the end. In this structure, the beginning introduces the characters and sets the stage for what happens. The middle is where the main conflict of the plot plays out. The end is where the conflict reaches its resolution. The five act plot is a more granular approach to the same way of viewing story-telling (and screen writers would probably do well to adopt the five act approach, at least for a few years).
As to plots, there have been several studies which show that there are only seven plots. Every story falls into one of these seven plots.

Summary seems to have missed something. (5, Informative)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#44351523)

No, I'm pretty sure that Joseph Campbell published The Hero With A Thousand Faces [wikipedia.org] in 1959, and Christopher Vogler wrote the seven page summary [thewritersjourney.com] that was the closest thing to a book that anyone in Hollywood had ever read in 1985.

JJ Abrams (3, Funny)

synapse7 (1075571) | about a year ago | (#44351537)

So what explans JJ Abrams latest products that seem to be random action scenes edited together, is this the next evolution? Who needs a complex plot or any kind of plot at all?

Pacific Rim (1)

Piata (927858) | about a year ago | (#44351539)

Despite Pacific Rim having nearly the same plot arc as Independence Day, it was bloody amazing because it delivered on the giant robots fighting giant monsters. Sometimes formula isn't bad if the subject matter is uncommon and handled well. The big problem with Hollywood is they often manage to do neither and rarely manage to do both.

Save the alternatives! (0)

Peter (Professor) Fo (956906) | about a year ago | (#44351547)

Snyder's book implies there's ONE way to plot a film. The danger is that this sort of story arc does not fit well with the way females do their heroing. (In short, boys go away to have an exciting time and the story is about them, girls stay at home and deal with whatever has to be dealt with and the story is about how people deal with issues.) A good example of the boy's story is the Wizard of Oz. A good example of the girl's way is the TV series Dad's Army. (There's a reason why the first is a film and the second TV. Notice of course the main protagonists are 'wrong-sex')

So if you follow 'Save the cat!' you'll miss out on lots of interesting plots with powerful characters. I've got an essay on the subject at http://vulpeculox.net/writing/HeroismForGirls.pdf [vulpeculox.net] for anyone who wants to compare and contrast.

Formulaception (1)

MassiveForces (991813) | about a year ago | (#44351565)

Wow, I love the way that piece drops a bomb at the end. I am definitely going to work this formula into my toxicology thesis which is due in the next few months. I cannot fail!

The "formula" has been around since late 1500s (1)

Scot Seese (137975) | about a year ago | (#44351595)

.. and it's called "William Shakespeare."

Protagonist? Antagonist? Complication in the third act? All the "Save the Cat!.." author did was write a Dummies version.

This is why great films don't (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#44351621)

When you need to put forty million butts into paying seats just to make back your investment, it's going to be a hard sell to stray from what everyone knows works. Great films, in this world, can't really be blockbusters -they are almost mutually exclusive because of the high bar that modern blockbusters have set for effects and top shelf talent. The rigid form of the blockbuster precludes exploration of more interesting styles.

In a way, it actually helps set those who do stray apart that much more, and makes the experience that much more refreshing.

Doesn't IT today (1)

bferrell (253291) | about a year ago | (#44351645)

Call this sort of thing "best practices"?

Mindless repetition of a formula?

Blame the screenwriters? (1)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year ago | (#44351701)

"We can appeal to screenwriters to buck the trend. But why would they? The formula is incredibly useful"

And soul destroying as any decent writer who sold his soul to Hollywood would testify to. The screenwriters haven't stopped writing movies for grown-ups, they've moved to television. The best stuff being written currently is on television, "The Americans", "Breaking Bad", "True Blood", "Boardwalk Empire", "Mad Men", "The Big Bang Theory", "The Sopranos" ..

Blame it on Rocky (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#44351707)

Every fight scene ever: Protagonist beaten within an inch of his life only to suddenly find enough energy to rise up and defeat arch-enemy. Only after defeating villain does he discover fractured skull/pelvis, punctured lungs, ruptured spleen, missing testicle and multiple bruises on brain. Somehow still has enough energy to drag self to leading lady and collapse at her feet.

Hollywood needs a reboot. Only a few movies come out every decade which are worth $15 bucks to see.

Shakespeare (1)

nerdyalien (1182659) | about a year ago | (#44351735)

perhaps Shakespeare is the pioneer of this... with his comedy, history & tragedy plays.. e.g. Romeo Juliet

If you watch any Bollywood film today (or last 20-30 years for that matter), it follows similar plot like Romeo Juliet

George Orwell predicted this (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about a year ago | (#44351783)

Reminds me of the pornography generating computers in 1984 that took the same few plots and edited them together over and over.

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