Monday, April 13, 2009

What are Act Breaks, Turning Points, Act Climaxes, Plot Points? (Examples)

I thought what I would do this week, to follow up the post on story elements, is to take several movies in a row and identify the Act Climaxes (plot points, turning points, act breaks, curtain scenes, whatever you want to call them) of each, so we can look at what all happens at those crucial junctures.

Also I can get that done faster than an entire movie breakdown, which I will also be doing for all of these examples at some point - but not until I get this !@#%%^! book done.

First, a quick review of what each Act Climax does:

Remember, in general, the climax of an act is very, very, very often a SETPIECE SCENE – there’s a dazzling, thematic location, an action or suspense sequence, an intricate set, a crowd scene, even a musical number (as in The Wizard of Oz and, more surprisingly, Jaws.).

Also an act climax is often more a climactic sequence than a single scene, which is why it sometimes feels hard to pinpoint the exact climax. And sometimes it’s just subjective! These are guidelines, not laws. When you do these analyses, the important thing for your own writing is to identify what you feel the climaxes are and why you think those are pivotal scenes.

Now specifically:


ACT ONE CLIMAX

- (30 minutes into a 2 hour movie, 100 pages into a 400 page book. Adjust proportions according to length of book.)

- We have all the information we need to get and have met all the characters we need to know to understand what the story is going to be about.

- The Central Question is set up – and often is set up by the action of the act climax itself.

- Often propels the hero/ine Across the Threshold and Into The Special World. (Look for a location change, a journey begun).

- May start a TICKING CLOCK (this is early, but it can happen here)


MIDPOINT CLIMAX

- (60 minutes into a 2 hour movie, 200 pages into a 400 page book)

- Is a major shift in the dynamics of the story. Something huge will be revealed; something goes disastrously wrong; someone close to the hero/ine dies, intensifying her or his commitment.

- Can also be a huge defeat, which requires a recalculation and a new plan of attack.

- Completely changes the game

- Locks the hero/ine into a situation or action

- Is a point of no return.

- Can be a “now it’s personal” loss

- Can be sex at 60 – the lovers finally get together, only to open up a whole new world of problems

- May start a TICKING CLOCK.

- The Midpoint is not necessarily just one scene – it can be a progression of scenes and revelations that include a climactic scene, a complete change of location, a major revelation, a major reversal – all or any combination of the above.


ACT TWO CLIMAX

– (90 minutes into a 2 hour film, 300 pages into a 400 page book)

- Often can be a final revelation before the end game: the knowledge of who the opponent really is.

- Often comes immediately after the “All is Lost” or “Long Dark Night of the Soul” scene - or may itself BE the "All is Lost" scene.

- Answers the Central Question

- Propels us into the final battle.

- May start a TICKING CLOCK


ACT THREE CLIMAX

- (near the very end of the story).

- Is the final battle.

- Hero/ine is forced to confront his or her greatest nightmare.

- Takes place in a thematic Location - often a visual and literal representation of the Hero/ine’s Greatest Nightmare

- We see the protagonist’s character change

- We may see the antagonist’s character change (if any)

- We may see ally/allies’ character changes and/or gaining of desire

- There is possibly a huge final reversal or reveal (twist), or even a whole series of payoffs that you’ve been saving (as in BACK TO THE FUTURE and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE)

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Okay, for examples, I'm starting today with two of my all-time favorite films, JAWS and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

Please feel free to argue my points!

And note all times are APPROXIMATE - I'm a Pisces.



JAWS:

ACT ONE CLIMAX:

JAWS is a 2 hour, 4 minute movie and I would say the first act climax is that big crowd scene 30 minutes in when every greedy fisherman on the East Coast is out there on the water trying to hunt the shark down for the bounty. One team catches a tiger shark and everyone celebrates in relief. Hooper says it’s too little to be the killer shark and wants to cut it open to see if there are body parts inside, but the Mayor refuses. We know that this isn’t the right shark, and we see that Sheriff Brody feels that way as well, but he’s torn – he wants it to be the right shark so this nightmare will be over. But the real, emotional climax of the act is at the very end of the sequence when Mrs. Kitner strides up to Brody and slaps him, saying that if he’d closed the beaches her son would still be alive. This is the accusation – and truth – that compels Brody to take action in the second act. (34 minutes)

It’s a devastating scene – just as devastating as a shark attack, and a crucial turning point in the story, which is why I’d call it the act climax. Brody is going to have to take action himself instead of rely on the city fathers (in fact, the city fathers have just turned into his opponents).


MIPOINT:

The midpoint climax occurs in a highly suspenseful sequence in which the city officials have refused to shut down the beaches, so Sheriff Brody is out there on the beach keeping watch (as if that’s going to prevent a shark attack!), the Coast Guard is patrolling the ocean – and, almost as if it’s aware of the whole plan, the shark swims into an unguarded harbor, where it attacks a man and for a horrifying moment we think that it has also killed Brody’s son (really it’s only frightened him into near paralysis). It’s a huge climax and adrenaline rush. (This is about 60 minutes and 30 seconds in). Brody’s family has been threatened (“Now it’s PERSONAL”). And as he looks out to sea, we and he realize that no one’s going to do this for him – he’s going to have to go out there on the water, his greatest fear, and hunt this shark down himself.


ACT TWO CLIMAX

As in the first act climax, here Spielberg goes for a CHARACTER sequence, an EMOTIONAL climax rather than an action one. About 83 minutes into the movie, the three men, Brody, Quint and Hooper, who have been at each other’s throats since they got onto the boat, sit inside the boat's cabin and drink, and Quint and Hooper start comparing scars – classic male bonding, funny, touching, cathartic. In this midst of this the tone changes completely as Quint reveals his back story, which accounts for his shark obsession: he was on a submarine that got hit during WW II, and most of the men were killed by sharks before they could be rescued. It’s a horrific moment, a complete dramatization of what our FEAR is for these men. And then, improbably, the three guys start to sing, “Show me the way to go home.” (I told you – a musical number!) It’s a wonderful, comic, endearing uplifting, exhilarating moment – and in the middle of it we hear pounding – the shark attacking, hammering the boat. And the men scramble into action, to face the long final confrontation of ACT THREE. (92 minutes in).


ACT THREE CLIMAX –

The whole third act of JAWS is the final battle, and it’s relentless, with Quint wrecking the radio to prevent help coming, the shark battering a hole in the ship so it begins to sink under them, the horrific death of Quint. The climax of course is water-phobic Brody finding his greatest nightmare coming alive around him: he must face the shark on his own on a sinking ship – he’s barely clinging on to the mast - and blowing it up with the oxygen tank. The survival of Hooper is another emotional climax. (2 hrs. 4 minutes).

The interesting thing to note about JAWS is that despite the fact that it’s an action movie (or arguably, action/horror), every climax is really an EMOTIONAL one, involving deep character. I’d say that has a lot to do with why this film is such an enduring classic. . It’s also interesting to consider that in an action movie an emotional moment might always stand out more than yet another action scene, simply by virtue of contrast.

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SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

ACT ONE CLIMAX

I’d say it’s a two-parter: The lead-in is the climax of Clarice’s second scene in the prison with Lecter. She’s followed his first clue and discovered the head of Lecter’s former patient, Raspail, in the storage unit. Lecter says he believes Raspail was Buffalo Bill’s first victim. Clarice realizes, “You know who he is, don’t you?” Lecter says he’ll help her catch Bill, but for a price: He wants a view. And he says she’d better hurry – Bill is hunting right now.

And on that line we cut to Catherine Martin, and we see her knocked out and kidnapped by Bill.

So here we have an excruciating SUSPENSE SCENE (Catherine’s kidnapping); a huge REVELATION: Lecter knows Bill’s identity and is willing to help Clarice get him; we have a massive escalation in STAKES: a new victim is kidnapped; there is a TICKING CLOCK that starts: we know Bill holds his victim for three days before he kills them, and the CENTRAL QUESTION has been set up: Will Clarice be able to get Buffalo Bill’s identity out of Lecter before Bill kills Catherine Martin? (34 minutes in).


MIDPOINT:

The midpoint is the famous “Quid Pro Quo” scene between Clarice and Lecter, in which she bargains personal information to get Lecter’s insights into the case. This is a stunning, psychological game of cat-and-mouse between the two: there’s no action involved; it’s all in the writing and the acting. Clarice is on a time clock, here, because Catherine Martin has been kidnapped and Clarice knows they have less than three days now before Buffalo Bill kills her. Clarice goes in at first to offer Lecter what she knows he desires most (because he has STATED his desire, clearly and early on) – a transfer to a Federal prison, away from Dr. Chilton and with a view. Clarice has a file with that offer from Senator Martin – she says – but in reality the offer is a total fake. We don’t know this at the time, but it has been cleverly PLANTED that it’s impossible to fool Lecter (Crawford sends Clarice in to the first interview without telling her what the real purpose is so that Lecter won’t be able to read her). But Clarice has learned and grown enough to fool Lecter – and there’s a great payoff when Lecter later acknowledges that fact.

The deal is not enough for Lecter, though – he demands that Clarice do exactly what her boss, Crawford, has warned her never to do: he wants her to swap personal information for clues – a classic deal-with-the-devil game.

After Clarice confesses painful secrets, Lecter gives her the clue she’s been digging for – he tells her to search for Buffalo Bill through the sex reassignment clinics. And as is so often the case, there is a second climax within the midpoint – the film cuts to the killer in his basement, standing over the pit making a terrified Catherine put lotion on her skin… and as she pleads with him, she sees bloody handprints on the walls of the pit and begins to scream… and just as you think things can’t get any worse, Bill pulls out his T–shirt to make breasts and starts to scream with her. It’s a horrifying curtain and drives home the stakes. (about 55 minutes in)


ACT TWO CLIMAX –

The act two climax here is an entire, excruciating action/suspense/horror sequence: Lecter’s escape from the Tennessee prison, which really needs no description! It’s a stunning TWIST in the action. But it’s worth noting that the heroine is completely absent from this climax. The effect on her is profound, though: She was counting on Lecter to help her catch Buffalo Bill. Now that is not going to happen (the Central Question of the story is thus answered: No.) – it’s a complete REVERSAL and huge DEFEAT (all is lost). Clarice is going to have to rise from the ashes of that defeat to find Bill on her own and save Catherine.

The sequence begins about 1 hour and 12 minutes in and ends 10 minutes later, at 1 hr. 22 minutes.


ACT THREE CLIMAX –

… of course is the long and again, excruciating horror/suspense sequence of Clarice in Buffalo Bill’s basement, on her own stalking and being stalked by a psychotic killer while Catherine, the lamb, is screaming in the pit. This is one of the best examples I know of the heroine’s greatest nightmare coming alive around her in the final battle, and it is immensely cathartic that she wins.

Note that the climaxes in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS are very true to the genre, with elements of suspense, action, thriller and horror. Every single climax delivers on the particular promise of the genre – the scares and adrenaline thrills, but also the psychological game playing.

Okay, so any examples for me today? Or any stories you're having trouble identifying the climaxes of that we can help with?

- Alex


=====================================================


All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  Any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amaxon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT


If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.


Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE




Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Story Elements checklist

I was teaching this Screenwriting Tricks for Authors class at the Jubilee Jambalaya Writers Conference this past weekend and I compiled a list of all the story structure elements I've been breaking down (okay, I've undoubtedly left some out...).

I thought I'd post it here, too.

It's a great list to use when you're brainstorming index cards, because even if you don't know the exact scenes yet, you can write the elements on cards and stick them into your story structure grid in relative order and feel like you've done a whole day's work. Hah!

No, what I really mean is, when you're writing out cards for just general story elements, it, you will be shocked at how great scenes suddenly come to you that will fill in huge gaps in your story. If not right that second, then after you sleep on it, or a few days later.

The post on doing index cards is here, and I've linked to more in-depth discussions on each individual act, too.


STORY ELEMENTS CHECKLIST FOR GENERATING INDEX CARDS

ACT ONE

- Opening image

- Meet the hero or heroine
- Hero/ine’s inner and outer desire.

- Hero/ine's ghost or wound
- Hero/ine’s arc
-
- Inciting Incident/Call to Adventure
- Meet the antagonist (and/or introduce a mystery, which is what you do when you’re going to keep your antagonist hidden to reveal at the end)

- State the theme/what’s the story about?

- Allies

- Mentor
 (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story).
- Love interest 

- Plant/Reveal (or: Set ups and Payoffs)

- Hope/Fear (and Stakes)

- Time Clock (possibly. May not have one or may be revealed later in the story)

- Sequence One climax

- Central Question
-
- Act One climax

-----------------------------------------------

ACT TWO

- Crossing the Threshold/ Into the Special World (may occur in Act One)
- Threshold Guardian (maybe)
- Hero/ine’s Plan
- Antagonist’s Plan
- Training Sequence
- Series of Tests
- Picking up new Allies
- Assembling the Team
- Attacks by the Antagonist (whether or not the Hero/ine recognizes these as being from the antagonist)
- In a detective story, questioning witnesses, lining up and eliminating suspects, following clues.

THE MIDPOINT –

- Completely changes the game
- Locks the hero/ine into a situation or action
- Can be a huge revelation
- Can be a huge defeat
- Can be a “now it’s personal” loss
- Can be sex at 60 – the lovers finally get together, only to open up a whole new world of problems

----------------------------------------------------------

ACT TWO, PART TWO

- Recalibrating – after the shock or defeat of the game-changer in the Midpoint, the hero/ine must Revamp The Plan and try a New Mode of Attack.

- Escalating Actions/ Obsessive Drive

- Hard Choices and Crossing The Line (immoral actions by the main character to get what s/he wants)

- Loss of Key Allies (possibly because of the hero/ine’s obsessive actions, possibly through death or injury by the antagonist).

- A Ticking Clock (can happen anywhere in the story)

- Reversals and Revelations/Twists. (Hmm, that clearly should have its own post, now, shouldn't it?)

- The Long Dark Night of the Soul and/or Visit to Death (aka All Is Lost)

- In a romantic comedy or romance - the All is Lost moment often looks more like: The Lover Makes a Stand.

THE SECOND ACT CLIMAX

- Often can be a final revelation before the end game: the knowledge of who the opponent really is

-Answers the Central Question

-------------------------------------------------------

ACT THREE

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The third act is basically the Final Battle and Resolution. It can often be one continuous sequence – the chase and confrontation, or confrontation and chase. There may be a final preparation for battle, or it might be done on the fly. Either here or in the last part of the second act the hero will make a new, FINAL PLAN, based on the new information and revelations of the second act.


The essence of a third act is the final showdown between protagonist and antagonist. It is often divided into two sequences:

1- Getting there (Storming the castle)
2- The final battle itself


- Thematic Location - often a visual and literal representation of the Hero/ine’s Greatest Nightmare
- The protagonist’s character change
- The antagonist’s character change (if any)
- Possibly allies’ character changes and/or gaining of desire
- Could be one last huge reveal or twist, or series of reveals and twists, or series of final payoffs you've been saving (as in BACK TO THE FUTURE and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE).

- RESOLUTION: A glimpse into the New Way of Life that the hero/ine will be living after this whole ordeal and all s/he’s learned from it.


=====================================================


All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  Any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amaxon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT


If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.


Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE






Thursday, April 02, 2009

CHINATOWN - second half breakdown and analysis

I realized I need to finish this one off!

Here are the posts about Act One and Act Two, and a breakdown of Jake Gittes as protagonist.

Chinatown - Act One breakdown

Chinatown: Act Two, Part One

What Makes a Great Protagonist? Case Study: Jake Gittes



So picking it up from the Midpoint: Jake has just learned that the Water Department thugs have been blowing up the farmers' water supply and poisoning their wells, then was knocked unconscious by farmhands.


ACT TWO, PART TWO

As he comes to consciousness, Jake sees Evelyn’s face. She’s come to pick him up; the grove owner and his wife called her (indicating that they’re good people, and likely telling the truth about everything).

In the car with Evelyn, Jake has begun to figure out that the dam is a con job. Someone has paid water officials to cause an artificial drought to force farmers out of the Valley, and is now buying up land on the cheap. The dam will eventually divert water back to the Valley and the value of the land will skyrocket. And Jake thinks Mulwray was killed because he found out about the scheme. (DETECTIVE VOICING HIS THEORY).

The conversation triggers Jake’s memory and he recognizes the name of one of the new landowners, Jasper Lamar Crabbe, from the obituary that Ida Sessions pointed him to. But Crabbe died a week before he “bought” the land. MAJOR CLUE) The obituary notes that the service for Crabbe was at the Mar Vista Inn. (Hero’s new PLAN – to investigate this new clue.)

1:15: Evelyn and Gittes go to the Mar Vista Inn, a retirement home , and Jake pulls another clever bit of business – he pretends to the manager that he and Evelyn are looking for a good rest home for his father and want to look around the place. They realize from names on a recreational sign up sheet that whoever is buying the land is doing it in the names of the senior citizens of the home, who have no idea their identities are being used. Jake and Evelyn speak to an Emma Dill, who is quilting a pattern with a flag from the Albacore Club - the yacht club from the scene with Noah Cross. The Albacore Club sponsors the retirement home. (CLUE).

The irate manager comes to escort Jake out; he’s obviously on to the deception. Mulvahill is waiting for them outside, with a gun. Jake insists Evelyn leave; Jake and Mulvahill fight and Jake knocks Mulvahill out and disarms him. As Jake tries to leave, the thug (Polanski) and more goons come after him with guns, but Evelyn rescues Jake (again) when she screeches up in her car and drives him to safety. (ATTACK ON HERO).

1:20: Back at Evelyn's house. Evelyn has given the servants the night off. She tends to Gittes' wounds. In this famous bathroom scene, Jake notices a flaw in her the iris of her eye -another reference to a flaw in seeing- and they kiss, and then make love.

After sex, there is pillow talk, but all thematic: Evelyn presses Jake about his background. He says he worked Chinatown and that there, like with Evelyn, nothing was as it seemed, so the cops all tried to do “as little as possible.” He reveals that he tried to help a woman there but she ended up getting hurt instead. Evelyn asks if this woman died (all FORESHADOWING), but before Jake can answer the phone rings. Whoever it is and whatever is said upsets Evelyn deeply. She says she has to go and asks Jake to trust her. Before she showers she tells Jake that her father owns the Albacore Club, then gets very distraught when Jake says that he knows, he talked to her father. She covers her breasts with her arms when Jake mentions her father. (CLUE)

While Evelyn is in the shower, Jake breaks one of the taillights of her car in order to follow her (CROSSING THE LINE/IMMORAL ACTIONS), then as she leaves, he takes Mulwray’s car to tail her. (Jake in Mulwray’s car – again, following in Mulwray’s doomed path). The taillight is another one-eye, flawed vision image.

1:30: Jake follows Evelyn to her mystery location. He spies on her through a window and sees her with the distraught blond girl that Jake thinks is Mulwray’s mistress. Evelyn forces the girl to take pills. (The way the girl is splayed on the bed face down is sexually vulnerable – a disturbing FORESHADOWING of her fate).

Jake surprises Evelyn in her car, now calling her Mrs. Mulwray. He accuses her of kidnapping her husband's mistress and threatens to go to the police. Evelyn insists the young woman is her sister (she hits her head on the steering wheel before she reveals this – FORESHADOWING). She says she would never have harmed her husband – she only wanted him to be happy. The revelation that the girl is her sister makes Jake back off on going to the police, but he still doesn’t trust Evelyn; when she asks him to come back home with her he refuses, again calling her Mrs. Mulwray.

1: 35 Back at home, an exhausted Jake has no sooner hit the bed when the phone rings. A hoarse voice says “Ida Sessions wants to see you”. Jake says she can come to his office in the morning and hangs up, but the caller calls back and insists, giving him an address. (Note the horse lithographs above Jake’s bed – tying him visually to Evelyn).

1:37: Jake goes to the address. The apartment has been broken into (SUSPENSE SCENE) and Jake finds the dead body of Ida Sessions, the phony Mrs. Mulwray. Water is dripping inexorably in the sink. (The lettuce head and spilled groceries on the floor are a great creepy touch).

1:40 FALSE SCARE scene as Jake investigates the apartment: someone in the bathroom, who turns out to be Escobar and Loach, the other detective. Jake’s number is written beside Ida’s phone and Escobar accuses Jake of being an accessory to Mulwray’s murder after the fact; he thinks Jake is blackmailing Evelyn because he saw her kill Mulwray. Jake insists that Mulwray was killed because of the water conspiracy and tells Escobar he can prove it.

Jake takes Escobar and Loach to the water pipeline beside the ocean, but there is nothing but a trickle of water. A phone call to Yelburton yields the same excuse of “a little runoff”, but Escobar believes it and demands that Jake get his client, Mrs. Mulwray, to the police station in two hours. This fight between them yields one more huge CLUE: Mulwray drowned in salt water.

1:45 Jake goes up to the Mulwray mansion and finds the servants covering the furniture with sheets, and packed luggage in the hallway. Jake goes out to the back yard, where the gardener is re-turfing around the pool. This time he says “Salt water bad for grass,” and Jake realizes the pool is salt water. He gets the gardener to fish out the shiny object he saw in the pond earlier – it’s a pair of eyeglasses with one lens broken that Jake assumes are Mulwray’s. Now Jake is certain Evelyn killed her husband, in their own back yard.

1:47 Jake drives to the Canyon Road house, where he had followed Evelyn the night before. He calls Escobar in front of her and tells him the address of the house, then confronts Evelyn with the glasses that he found in the pond and tells her what he’s figured out: she confronted Mulwray about the affair, they fought, Mulwray got killed falling into the pool, but his girl was a witness and she’s had to shut her up. (DETECTIVE VOICING HIS THEORY). Jake demands to know who the girl is – since Evelyn doesn’t have a sister. He slaps her (CROSSING THE LINE, IMMORAL ACTIONS) until Evelyn reveals that the girl is both her sister and daughter - her father, Cross, molested her when she was 15. (Huge and climactic REVELATION; TRUE NATURE OF ANTAGONIST.). Evelyn ran away to Mexico and then Mulwray came to find her and take care of both her and the baby. Now she wants to care for her daughter and take her back to Mexico, away from her father’s grasp.

Jake realizes Evelyn is innocent and decides to help her and her daughter. He tells Evelyn to go to her butler’s house – which is in Chinatown – and Jake will arrange for them to escape, since the bus, planes and the train are out; Escobar will be looking for them. (Change in HERO’S PLAN. STAKES – Evelyn could be arrested for murder and Jake as an accessory. HOPE – that Jake will be able to help Evelyn and Katherine escape. FEAR – not just that Escobar will catch them, but that Cross will catch them, too. More FEAR – the fact that Jake is going back into Chinatown, the setting of his haunted past, is ominous.).

As Evelyn goes upstairs to get Katherine, she looks at the glasses and tells Jake that they could not belong to Mulwray as he did not wear bifocals. Again, the "eye" motif. And, knowing this new CLUE, Jake can see the case in a new way. ACT TWO CLIMAX

Jake lowers the blinds in the house (a literal CURTAIN on Act Two).

ACT THREE -

1:54: Jake puts his PLAN of escape into action. He calls Walsh and Duffy and tells them to meet him at the butler’s house in two hours, or come find him in jail if he doesn’t show up. Escobar arrives at the house and Jake pretends they both missed Evelyn; he says suspects she’s fled to her maid’s house, in San Pedro (a long drive, which will give Evelyn and Katherine a big head start). Escobar insists Jake go with them to find Evelyn.

In San Pedro, Jake asks to go up to the house and have a moment with Evelyn alone; Escobar gives him three minutes. A woman with a black eye opens the door (the wounded eye again, and also part of the motif of violence against women.). When she lets Jake into the house, we see Curly, the client from the first scene, and realize this is his cheating wife. Jake is calling in the favor Curly owes him (PAYOFF) – he wants Curly to drive him to Chinatown and then take Evelyn and Katherine to Mexico by boat. Jake successfully evades the police by driving out with Curly. This is all a hugely clever plan of Jake’s that make us HOPE that he’s actually going to get away with all of this and save Evelyn and Katherine. And since the film ends tragically it’s important to provide this sense of hope so that the actual resolution will be that much more disastrous.

2:00: Jake calls Cross to have him meet him at the Mulwray estate, saying he has the girl. Gittes confronts Cross with his crimes. Cross admits his culpability with the water diversion and real estate scam: “Either you bring the water to LA, or you bring LA to the water!”, and also with his daughter (“Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time, the right place, they’re capable of anything.”), and Mulwray's murder, but he has no remorse. He’s buying the future. Mulvahill steps out with a gun and Cross forces Jake to take him to “the girl”, saying ominously, “I want the only daughter I have left.”


On to the CLIMAX AND FINAL BATTLE:

THEMATIC LOCATION: The final showdown brings Jake’s greatest nightmare to life around him; he is back in the place where he suffered his huge defeat and wound in the past, a place that he has told Evelyn is “bad luck”.

No sooner does Jake get out of the car in Chinatown than he is arrested by Escobar and cuffed to the car. Cross sees Evelyn and follows her and Katherine on the street, Cross wheedling that “She’s mine, too” Evelyn scrambles into her car with Katherine, pulls a gun and tells her father to get away from them. Cross puts on an innocent victim act for the police, saying Evelyn is a disturbed woman. The cops warn Evelyn to stay put and Jake pleads with her to let the police handle it; she counters that her father “owns the police.” She shoots her father in the arm and peels out in the car. The police start shooting, Escobar into the air, but Loach at the car, and the car skids to a halt, horn blaring, then we hear screams.

The police and Jake and Cross run to the car; Evelyn is dead, shot through the eye (horrifying PAYOFF of all those single-eye images, and archetypal reference to OEDIPUS). Cross enfolds Katherine and takes her away to her obvious doom.

Escobar yells at Jake to get out of there – “I’m doing you a favor.” Jake is shell-shocked, mumbles, “As little as possible.” Jake’s greatest nightmare has been repeated, in spades, and we see he is a broken man. Walsh takes his arm and tells him gently, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown,” as the locals gather to gape.

RESOLUTION AND NEW WAY OF LIFE – it’s not happy. Jake has lost everything and our strong sense is that he will never recover.

2 hours 11 minutes.


====================================================

For anyone in the New Orleans area, I'll be teaching a story structure workshop and signing books at the Jubilee Jambalaya Writers Conference in Houma, LA this weekend. More info here: Jubilee Jambalaya.



=====================================================


All the information on this blog and more, including full story structure breakdowns of various movies, is available in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks.  Any format, just $3.99 and $2.99.



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amaxon DE

Amazon FR

Amazon ES

Amazon IT


If you're a romance writer, or have a strong love plot or subplot in your novel or script, then Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks II is an expanded version of the first workbook with a special emphasis on love stories.


Smashwords (includes online viewing and pdf file)

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble/Nook

Amazon UK

Amazon DE