This is yet another bit of encouragement (for you AND me) to put that Netflix account to good use and start breaking open your favorite movies and feasting on all the storytelling goodness that's hidden inside.
Watch the first scene, then pause the DVD.
Now write the generic mission of what you just saw.
For example, the first scene in the film version of The Cider House Rules is a train arriving in a remote location during a snow storm. But don’t write that down.
For this exercise you’d write: establishes location.
The next few scenes of that film are quick cuts – a montage, really – to familiarize the viewer with the orphanage, which is the stage upon which this drama will unfold. For this, you’d write: montage, establishes setting and dramatic stage.
Do this for every scene in the film. Remember, the idea is to stay as generic as possible.
Your notes will be bullets, rather than sentences.
They’ll look like this
- meet the protagonist;
- see where hero works;
- glimpse of hero’s inner demon and backstory;
- suspicious character, possible foreshadowing;
- antagonist appears, but hero unaware of danger;
- hero is unhappy, but hiding it;
… and so on.
I really want to start doing this regularly. I kind of do it now, in my head, but usually only get through the first 15 minutes of the show, and then I get sucked in and forget to pay attention.