1. Inaktiv
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    Inaktiv New Member

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    Screenplay writing : Central character switch problem

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Inaktiv, Nov 19, 2011.

    Fellow writers,

    I am currently in the process of writing a screenplay for a short feature film (1:20'). I have decided to try out a writing trick, and I need to know if anyone can refer me to cases where it's been used and it worked. Without further ado, here is my situation:

    A couple of characters are introduced together at the start, they form a 2 person music band. We only see them in one scene, and I deliberately hide them for the first half of the movie.

    Right after the introduction of these characters, my "fake" hero is introduced. He's a character that starts out good and meets the band in the middle of the film.
    At this stage I plan on focusing more and more on the band, as the "fake" hero begins to turn bad and eventually becomes the villain.

    The band ends up having to defeat him to save the day.

    I am worried about this hero switch, especially since I can't think of any reference besides a pretty weak one: The Village.

    I would strongly appreciate any comment, opinion or critic you guys could make regarding this narrative structure, as well as any film or book reference where this structure is used.

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. forgotmypen
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    forgotmypen Member

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    I think it's a good idea. Though it may not be something that's done often, I wouldn't be afraid to do it. I do see villains becoming heroes more often then I see it the other way around. Unconventional can be good, just so long as its done well.

    A good example is actually Harvey Dent, in The Dark Knight.
     
  3. SnappyUK
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    SnappyUK Member

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    I honestly can't think of an existing reference, but with the exception of someone undergoing such extreme trauma as to drive a personality change (like Harvey Dent), people generally don't change from being good to bad. Your biggest challenge, therefore, will be one of disguising the truth from the audience. Excluding the introduction of the band, the first half of the script will be from the 'villain's' perspective. If we're not to suspect that he is a villain, and you mention that he is to appear heroic, his actions must be both consistent throughout and appear 'good' to the audience for the first 40 minutes or so.

    For example, if the guy was a showbiz agent, we'd see him talking to his clients saying that he just got them a great deal earning $300 per night, less his 15%, when in fact (though the viewer wouldn't find this out until much later), they're being paid double that and he's pocketing the difference.

    If he's a hitman, we'd just see him entering a room to 'negotiate' with the occupants before cutting away. We might then only find out about the killing some time later, or it might be mentioned in passing - for example we hear the end of the story on the TV news, but the audience's focus is meant to be on the next story, which could be about the band.

    If he's a lawyer, he may take on pro bono work but when negotiating settlements on behalf of his clients, he takes a kickback from the defendants to ensure the settlement is low, or a gagging clause is signed, or there's a hidden caveat in the contract that means the person gets screwed out of the money.

    I could go on, and usually do ;), but hopefully I've got across my meaning: that you've got to perform a 'bait and switch' on the audience to make the story work.

    The very best of luck and I hope it all works out.
     
  4. MVP
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    In my own opinion...

    I am understanding it like this - the band is introduced, and you want them to be your protagonist. But you are adding a fake protagonist in the interim, who starts good then becomes bad, and then you want to switch to the band to be the protagonist in the end.

    Example of this...I dunno. But I do know that in 'Psycho' there is a switching of protagonists...i.e the famous shower scene, she dies, so someone else has to take it from there.

    Are you sure you need the protagonist to switch? It sounds like you want the switch because you are afraid of having a villain for a protagonist. A protagonist can be a bastard, he or she doesn't haven't to be a hero, but you do have to get your audience to root for him somehow, and it sounds like you already have that established. Your protagonist also doesn't have to get what he wants, he can lose, there are protagonists that fail (tragedies). The way you are presenting your question, seems to me that you don't want your protagonist to be anything but on the good side. I think it might be worth your while to look up some examples where the protagonist wasn't a shining star, yet was still the main character, it could make for a very interesting film. Although he wasn't the protagonist, this is reminding me a lot of Al Pacino in the Devil's Advocate. He comes across nice in the beginning to help out Keanu Reeves, then his true colors come out.

    The other thing is, if you introduce the 2 person band as the protagonist, and then want to hide them until the middle of the movie, are you sure they are really the protagonist? If you feel they are, then think about the first half of the movie, is it story or backstory? If it is story and not backstory, is it a multiplot?

    Which ever way you look at it and decide to pursue it, I wish you luck, and have fun with the writing experience!
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's been done many times... also in reverse, when the bad guy turns out to be the good guy... i just saw one the other day from the early 50s or late 40s, with richard todd as the purported villain who is revealed at the end to be a cop...

    the proof is in the writing... if you're a good enough screenwriter, you can pull it off...
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Anakin Skywalker?
    Breaking Bad.

    It might be difficult to pull this off in one minute and twenty seconds.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can't see anything being done in that short a time other than an ad!
     
  8. Inaktiv
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    Inaktiv New Member

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    Thank you all for your input!

    @mamamia, it's a 1 hour 20 minutes film not 1 minute 20 sec :)

    I recently started watching Breaking Bad and it got me hooked. When I think of it Lost constantly used to mess with the viewer's opinion of who's good and who's evil.
    I will try my best to keep the writing going, and will probably post updates as I go along.

    Have a nice day everyone
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, i didn't get that unfamiliar time coding...

    80 minutes is pretty short for a feature other than comedy, so if it's not one, why so short? [current optimum for drama/action is 110]...
     

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