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Analyzing Stories

Lesson 4 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

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Lesson Info

4. Analyzing Stories

In this lesson, we’ll break down a story and you’ll learn how to analyze a story.
Next Lesson: Writer’s Purpose

Lesson Info

Analyzing Stories

Yeah, let's take a few minutes to talk about analyzing stories. So this is one of my favorite exercises. I'm a total geek about it. I think this is a really great thing to learn how to do and to do often I still do it. I do it all the time. I'll watch a movie and be like, oh, that'd be a great movie to analyze and I'll watch it again with my laptop and sit and break it down. So if there's any ongoing homework to this class, I would recommend this as an exercise. Even if you do one a week for the next six weeks, you'll really get into the cadence of looking at stories differently, looking at how movies roll out how their story unfolds, looking at how a tv show manages, its reveals and introduces its characters and all of its drama and how it builds. Um it's, it's really fun. So I call this a scene by scene, I want to take a look at it with you and the case study for this one is the devil wears product. So if you haven't seen the movie, I would actually pause this, Go check out double we...

ars product. Just search it on google and we'll show you where you can buy it or if you're subscribed to certain certain providers and watch the first minute. So the first minute, first of all, let's talk about the story analysis document. I set this up in my laptop. I've got 100 of these in my laptop from all my favorite movies. Uh it's just an excel sheet and it has the time code. So you know, the first minute from 00 seconds to 40 seconds. The setting, where is the scene take place? The characters who is in it? What happens in the scene? What is the scene accomplish? We'll talk a little bit about that and just some notes for you. Now this document can get more complicated, you can get more extensive, especially when we start to talk about the story fundamentals, you can break down and do a column on setting a column on hero, a column on want etcetera etcetera. But this is a nice, great basic way to start To learn how to do a story analysis. So if you watch the first minute of double words, product, um, time code right now, weather mannequin, timecode right now. 00. The movie starts. The first shot you see is in the bathroom. Andy we don't know her name is Andy but we will come to know that her name is Andy, she's our main character. What happens in that first shot Andy brushes her teeth. What is this accomplish? This is probably the column you need most to think about. Okay, well this accomplishes establishing our main character. We're gonna meet Andy in this very opening shot of her brushing her teeth and a couple of notes that I had. I really loved the wipe reveal. Right? I love when movies open with something that opens it, right? A curtain parts or a window opens or in this case the steam on the mirror is wiped and you're introduced to and brought into the movie. So you're already seeing some different ways. You can open your films right earlier we talked about the heart pendant, that initial image that represents the theme of the movie or in this case for double R. S. Product, we open the movie with this swipe of the mirror to introduce our main character. So these are just my notes from that. Very first beat. Second beat at 42. We start the next scene, 42 seconds. We start the next scene. It's in New york City. There are no main characters in it. It's the Manhattan's tall office buildings, what does this accomplish? It establishes where we are. This is our setting. We're in new york city and my notes for this one were this is where the titles go. Quick note about that. Um you can put titles anywhere in the first five minutes, 10 minutes. You can put them at the end if you want. Um I always note those as cut to title colon the title of the movie. Some production companies and studios have different ways of doing it. If you're actually building out a title sequence and that's scripted, then obviously you wanna script that all out. But generally if you know where you want the titles to go as the writer, put it on the page, the director will either do it or they won't do it, but it at least introduces your reader to the name of the movie or tv show. Um 2nd 48. Next shot is at the apartment, this beautiful woman woman puts on her bra, She's sexy. What does this accomplish? It sets up a contrast between Andy who's frumpy in this first act and the other beautiful women of new york city. It also sets the story in the fashion world, right? We see close up shots of clothes, a bra, underwear, it's lace, it's beautiful. We're starting to understand the tone of the film. Next beat is an apartment. Another beautiful woman puts on her underwear. Again, it's the same contrast. So um I would do this for every minute of the scene, right? I'm sorry, every minute of the movie, you can either do it as a scene by scene where you just go, this is this scene and this is this next scene and this is the next scene or do it minute by minute. This is what happens in minute one, then this is what happens in minute too. So that you see 90 minutes or 100 minutes. The purpose of a story analysis is to begin to understand over three of them, five of them 10 of them 20 of them how these films are laid out, right? And if you want to take it even further, go download the script online, if it's available. Many scripts are are available. If you just google the name of the script or the name of the movie plus script pdf, some of them pop up. There's a really great website called simply scripts that is like a storehouse of scripts. Uh many of them are not available. But if you can do a story analysis on a movie and then download the script and see how your analysis actually lines up with how it's scripted, you'll start to learn and see exactly how those words on the page become images in the movie, then watch the movie. So you've done your story analysis, you've downloaded the script and you've read it and now go watch the movie and see how the movie comes out of that script as well. And if you do this over and over again, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. I want you to do 25 of them for the genre that you want to work in. You'll start to see the things that repeat in that genre, right? Horror movies have a certain have certain story milestones, certain story elements that are key to horror movies, comedies have certain story elements that are key to comedies, dramas, the same westerns, the same, Spaghetti westerns, the same etcetera etcetera. Take a look at that and you'll start to see these trends in your own work. Also, there are no shortcuts here, right, The more work you do, the more you're gonna get out of this class. So, um if you do do that and you do engage in story analysis, um you'll really start to see how things are put together a minute by minute or beat by beat.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Case Study Films
Story Analysis Template.xlsx
Sample TV Scripts
Story Design Worksheet
Story Fundamentals Worksheet
Seed to Script Process

Ratings and Reviews

Carlos Sandoval

Just a great way to start on your path to screenwriting. A clear and concise class with a friendly tone and humor. I think it is important that a teacher has actually worked in the field. Kudos.


Perfect for a beginner or actors who need a better understanding of what is and why is. Info packed and FUN too!

Asem Nurkina

I took this class last year. And after one year of working with presented tools (story design worksheet, story fundamentals workseet, seed to script process) on different projects I can say that it is very powerful and useful course I ever taken. I can strongly recommend this detailed screenwriting guidance by Julio Vincent Gambuto.

Student Work