Even if you’ve seen the preview and decided this isn’t your cup of tea.
It’s a high concept story that has traces of, well, some creative and contemporary blending of fantasy, science fiction and The Twilight Zone.
Why should you see this movie?
Because you’re a writer. That should be reason enough.
Because, like a med student who doesn’t consider those cadavers in Pathology 101 her cup of tea, either, we need to pursue every possible avenue and opportunity to wrap our heads around the craft of storytelling. And nothing says “ah-hah!” quite like seeing it done well.
And if you’re about to invoke your rights as a novelist who feels above the craft of the screenwriter, think again: story is story, and there’s no more transparent tutorial for it than in a solid flick.
If you were a budding tennis player and Roger Federer was in town for an exhibition, you’d go, right?
This story is like a 2-hour crash course in concept, story structure and theme. Which, if you’ve been paying attention here on Storyfix, are two of the six things we need to master before we can produce publishable work.
The other three essential core competencies are on display, too, but it is these three – concept, structure and theme – that are sometimes best internalized by seeing them in full glorious action, rendered by skilled professionals.
The Adjustment Bureau, while a pretty good movie (my opinion), is a clinic in those three particular core competencies.
Let’s start with story structure.
I won’t belabor it (again), but there are four parts of a story – novel or movie – each with different contextual missions, each separated by specific milestones that have their own mission statements.
Internalizing that little gem alone can set you apart from the workshop crowd.
Take a notepad to the theater for this one, see if you can pick out the hook, the first plot point, the first pinch point, the context-shifting mid-point, the lull before the second plot point, and the second plot point itself.
If you can’t, then I hope you’ll go back to study up on them. Because they’re dramatically evident in this movie (they might as well scroll font across the bottom of the screen when they show up).
A Killer Concept
There’s little doubt that the first spark of creative life for this story began with its concept. Such a spark can theoretically come from any of the four elemental core competencies, by the way – concept, character, theme and story sequence/plot – but in speculative stories like this it’s concept that is often the ignition point.
Chances are, too, that the creator of the original story (Phillip K. Dick, upon whose short story this film is based) used the tried-and-true “what if?” technique to get there:
What if our fate is really being controlled by forces we cannot see or control? What if we try to defy them in the name of love?
See this film to experience how many directions a powerful “what if?” concept can take you, and why a descending decision tree of creative choices becomes the most powerful story-design technique ever devised.
That alone is worth the price of admission… times a thousand.
An Eternal Theme
Often when we stumble across a compelling and powerful “what if?” concept, we are milliseconds away from encountering an equally provocative thematic landscape.
Go to the film’s official website and you’ll see the theme announced in the title graphics. You can watch the trailer, too, which reveals (as they often do) of several of the story’s major milestones.
Watch and learn.
And grab some popcorn while you’re at it… just don’t get any that that greasy stuff that is supposed to pass for butter on your notes. Because you’ll want to go over them in detail later.
(Storyfix is an affliate of Amazon.com. Somewhere out there is a guy in a cheap suit making sure this is noted.)