1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is this montage sequence necessary or should I cut it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ryan Elder, May 15, 2015.

    For my screenplay, the protagonist, a cop, is following the villain around on his own time, since he cannot catch legally while on the job. He follows him around hoping that he will incriminate himself or make contact with his suspected criminal associates. This way the protagonist will know if he is after the right person and can tell what is going on. That's the montage sequence, very short scenes of him following the villain around, only to find he seems like he's just your average joe citizen with a normal private life with a family.

    The one day of following the villain, the protagonist gets impatient and decides to phone the villain, and set him up with a blackmail. He hopes that by doing this, the villain will be sent into a panic causing to make contact with his associates finally. Which it does. However, just after he makes the call, he notices that another character he met earlier in the story, is also tailing the villain as well, which makes him very suspicious cause why is this other character doing so?

    I am seeing what scenes can be cut to save on length and shooting, and was wondering if the montage was necessary? Can I just skip to the scene where me makes the call? Or do I have show the montage to show that he tries to find out who the man is, crime connection wise, without having to expose himself by calling him first before even observing the guy for a days?

    Another thing is, does it come off as a convenience that the other guy is there as well following the villain around, right off the bat when the protagonist starts following him? Cause the protagonist decides to follow him around on his own time, but then right when you cut to him following for the first scene, the other character just so happens to be doing so too coincidentally? And if I want to establish that the villain is leading a normal life with a family I can just have him say something like that his associates in another scene, if need be.

    Perhaps if I show the montage first, it might not come off as a coincidence? Does the audience need to see the impatience grow before making the call, and do they need to see that the other character following as well, is not as coincidental or right off the bat? Or can I cut the montage, and the protagonist seeing the other character right in the first scene of following the villain, will play just fine?

    What do you think? Thanks for the input :)
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2015
  2. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I think, all those doubts you have about cutting it, and how it effects the story ring true. It sounds like at the moment the montage is needed, but you are worried about filming costs. I'm not sure what the alternative is. Sorry!
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I could do without the montage scenes, budget wise. I mean it's a string of at least three scenes in different locations to acknowledge that the villain is being followed. How bad would it be if I cut it. Would it be too much of a convenient coincidence with the audience?
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you need something to establish that the cop only makes the call because he's getting frustrated that tailing the suspect is getting him nowhere. And you also need to make it less of a coincidence that the OTHER tail is there just at that moment.
    So, yes, I think that you need this montage.
    I'd also suggest that you need to think about the locations...shooting all three in a remote location, say near an abandoned factory, would cry out "Bad guy! Doing bad things!" So you need him to be going about his lawful business...Anybody following me would get awfully bored...I catch the train to work, walk a mile to the office, spend 8 hours behind my desk, walk back to the station, drive home to my wife. Sometimes I'll go out to get a meal, either convenience or takeaway. A couple of times a week I'll go for a jog. I'm not very social, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to stick in a few nights down at the pub.
    What, of all that, would you want to take for a montage?
    What, of all that, would you tail?
    Another jogger who stayed fifty yards behind me would stick out like a sore thumb after five miles of some pretty obscure trails - but it might be more credible in a more jogger-intense public park, where the paths are more intervisible.

    Another thought. If the cop's doing it on his own time, no wonder he doesn't spot the contact, because he'll be spending time on his day job, eating, sleeping...so the villain will have half the day unobserved to do his villainy.
     
  5. rincewind31
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    rincewind31 Member

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    Last edited: May 15, 2015
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  6. rincewind31
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    rincewind31 Member

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    Why not one scene where he's possibly talking on the phone to someone. You could even throw in the other person who's following.

    "No nothing. We've been to the park, the chemist, the dry cleaners, and so far the only thing dodgy about him is his pants..."

    spots someone else following.

    "Wait, I've just spotted something. I'll call you back."

    Or some such thing.
     
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  7. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I was thinking something similar. Or if it's only him who knows, he could be talking to himself about his impatience or confessing to a pet about his absence, etc.
     
  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I thought of the same thing before, but do you think that a phone call may confuse the audience? If he talks about following the villain around for several days, will the audience be asking 'When did this happen?"
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Ah, this is the time to worry about showing/telling. Yes the audience will definitely be asking that. If following the guy around is pertinent to the story the audience should see it happen, not hear about it in a casual line of dialogue.
     
  10. james82
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    james82 Member

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    The rule of thumb is to the start closest to the end of the scene as possible. Montages usually occur to indicate a passage of time taking place within a story. For example, the training montage in Rocky. By the time it's over, after a whole few minutes and a cool song, we see months have gone by, the main character is now prepared, changed on some level, and that progression takes us right into the third-act.

    The teaching Johnny Utah how to surf montage in Point Break is another example, and another montage accompanied by a suitable song in which the character Tyler (the love interest) in this case, teaches the main character Utah, how to surf over a number days, not months. The montage ends when Utah first lays his eyes on
    masterful surfer Bodhi, pasted in silhouette against a breaking wave.

    And then there's the montage in The Italian Job when the characters prep the mini-coops as well as their intricate heist plan and escape plan with the gold, again, over a number of days. Look at all the info the audience receives within those few minutes...

    We see the mini-coops are getting supped up and able to handle weight. Charlie is falling for Stella. The Napster is hard at work on hacking his way into the traffic control. Handsome Rob is gauging how long it will take to escape with the gold on the route chosen (with all green lights). Left Ear is setting his explosives in place
    in the sewer. By the time the montage ends, bingo, by the look on his face, we see that The Napster has hacked his way into traffic control.

    All of that ^^^ did NOT happen in one day. Therefore, a montage was necessary.

    So to sum it up, something important should be introduced following the montage. Take us into an act, a turning point. Implement some form of valuable exposition. In your case, that phone call should be important, and from what I've read so far, it sounds like it is. But I don't think you need specifically in screenwriting terms, a montage to set it up, unless of course, this cat and mouse between cop and suspected criminal takes places over a long period of time and we see the protagonist growing obsessed with his investigation on his own time. His determination to take the villain down increasing each day. So yeah, I take that back, it could work. But then you begin to question the blackmail. Maybe that won't work, because it would be better if your protagonist's determination has paid off following the montage, and a phone call with a blackmail in mind doesn't do that. He's more or less throwing in the towel in that regard.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I see what you mean, but my montage was intended to show, over a period of days, what lead him throw in the towel, rather than throwing it in right away, and giving up before he even started to tail the suspect around. So isn't a montage necessary to show how the cop was lead to throw in the towel, after long days of getting nowhere?

    Also the phone call does have a pay off after he makes, since it leads to a series of consequences, so it would be throwing in the towel, which leads to a pay off, although tragic one that is necessary for the story. What do you think?
     
  12. james82
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    james82 Member

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    I would like to think this sequence/montage would happen later on in the story, but not right out of the gate.
    If you look at the examples I gave you above, there WAS a pay-off following the ending of each montage.
    Rocky is ready to go 15 rounds. Johnny Utah has become a surfer. The Napster, after all of his hard work over
    the days of prep, has finally managed to hack into traffic control. So each of the characters determination within those montages has paid off.

    I think you need, or your story needs, a TWIST during that specific sequence. Something that both the
    READER and the MAIN CHARACTER in the cop, did not see coming. Again, a phone call with a blackmail in
    mind does not do that.

    It all comes down to your villain. Maybe the cop sees the villain conversing with another cop who is not only his partner in crime (someone that tags along with him in his squad car), but is also a good (or best) friend of his outside of police work, and when he sees this, witnesses them seemingly doing something suspicious together, a deal or... maybe the friend cop hands the villain something that will play a role later, who knows, than both the reader & the main character are completely caught off guard, and completely stumped at what just happened. And then you take it from there. But of course, you would have to introduce this friend cop character much earlier in the story if this were to happen. (Show them riding together in the squad car doing good old police work, having dinner with their families off duty etc..) So the impact when he sees both villain & friend cop together is more powerful ......at the end of your montage,
    Now, is that not better than a phone call???

    But honestly, you could go this route, and wouldn't even need that phone call. It creates more suspense overall,
    and your protagonist will not have thrown in the towel.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. The montage happens about a little over half into the script, so it's not right out of the gage.

    But the phone call is was sends the villain into a panic and gets him to meet his other co-conspirators, which the cop is following him to, and that is what causes a plausible scenario for the cop, the other mysterious character, and all the villains, including the co-conspirators, to all end up in the same place at the same time. If I do not have the phone call, then the villain is just meeting the co-conspirators for SOME reason, and we do not really know what that is. The villain is actually laying low since the police have him as a person of interest, so he logically only meet them if it was an emergency. So I need to create a reason don't I, hence the phone call.

    There is also pay off. The other character who is also mysteriously following them is killed by the gang as a result of that phone call, since the gang has reason to believe it came from him. The main cop does not know this, and has to live with what he did, and it gets him fired, which is what I want. The main character cop gets someone murdered, because of his impatience and frustration.

    So that is the pay off, and if the villains do not get that call, then they do not have a reason to all meet and everyone cannot arrive in the same place at the same time, unless they meet for no reason that is explained or that I have a reason for.

    Now I could not have the montage and cut right to the phone call, but then it would feel coincidental to the audience that the first day the cop follows the villain, the other character who is also, is right there for the plots convenience. I thought that if I showed a montage of following around the villain for days, it would come off as less convenient that the other character is there.

    Is the call still not necessary now that I have explained it more perhaps?
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    The montage is necessary.

    But being fired because somebody got murdered? How can the police know why the bystander was killed? How can they trace it back to the cop's phone call? I'm not buying this.
     
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    The cop out of guilt, said it was because of his phone call. Plus the cops already suspect who the main villain is. That's why the main character was following him around, to get evidence. So if the main cop comes to his superiors and told them that he saw the villains kill a bystander, then the superiors can use that to get a warrant, to check the villain's activity up to the murder. The phone record could come up, so the cop figures me might as well just fess up.

    If this is not believable, I could write it so the cop does not tell anyone, but wouldn't it eventually be traced back to him likely?
     

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