Skip to main content

Story Design: Villain

Lesson 10 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

10. Story Design: Villain

Lesson Info

Story Design: Villain

So we've walked through a setting hero and want our first three fundamentals. The fourth is the villain. Now, when I say villain, I don't necessarily mean the evil character who's out to get the hero, although that's what it is. In many movies, the villain can be internal. It can be external if it's external, it's whoever or whatever is standing in the way of the hero getting what they want. So the story is set somewhere. It's about a hero. The hero wants something, and then there's someone or something standing in the way of he or she getting what they want. So when you think about your villain, I want you to ask him some important questions. One Who is your villain who represents that opposite force. So back to Titanic, right? Hockley is actually the villain of the story because he represents the opposite force from Jack, Okay, and roses caught in the middle. Now, Rose might have an internal villain about how she feels about leaving here. Engage her engagement or her fiance, but you ...

wanna look at who represents that force. Hunger games. President Snow is the face off that opposing force. He's the face off the system that Katniss is up against. So you've got your hero. They are going after something they want. And now you've got an opposing force. So who is the villain who represents that opposite force? Put them through the senses as well. What do they look like? What do they smell like? What do they sound like? What do they taste like? What do they feel like? Not what do they taste like? But what do they eat? What kind of food do they eat? I want you to use your senses. It's just a guide to think about. How do I flesh out this character? Right? What is the villain want? The villain always wants something as well, right? And it is the fact that the hero wants something. And the villain wants something that creates the conflict. So I want you to ask and answer the question. What is it that the villain wants? Why is the villain so powerful? You've really got to get clear about what makes this person so powerful in a movie with a gun. The gun is usually the answer, right? They've got a gun. So therefore they have the power in a movie that smaller or more intimate about a personal relationship between two people. The power dynamic is always shifting between them. Is it manipulation? Is it money? Is it sex? What is it that keeps the power balanced or imbalanced between them? So you always want to ask for the villain what makes them so powerful? And also what is the villains? Weakness? Ultimately, you want the hero to defeat the villain, right? You want the hero. If the villain is external, right is a person. It's a character in the movie that the hero is up against. You want the hero to win so that the movie is satisfying. But if it's internal, you also want to find out. Okay, great. I'm up against this belief that I have is the hero, that my life will never be good enough, and I'm constantly battling that and battling that. Where's the *** in the armor? Where's the weakness for that external villain? Or for the internal one? So let's take a look at die hard first, Who is your villain? Die hard. The villain is Hans Gruber, the German radical who is there to rob the bonds who represents the opposite force. Hans Gruber. Hans Gruber is there. He is the force of crime or evil within the film, right? And McLean is going to go up against Hans Gruber. So he's a really clean cut, clear villain, which is why I use him as an example. Put them through the senses so you could do the smell test on Hans Grouper. But this is my way of asking you to really flesh out. Who is he? Right? And they do that in the film, right? You understand this man, he has a certain look to him. He actually looks villainous. He's first party guest. And then it's revealed that he's this terrorist, right? Um uh, it's important to understand your character and your villain through all of these different dynamics. Third, what does the villain want? Okay, what the villain wants. Hans Gruber wants $640 million in bonds that he's there to steal on that evening of the party. So your villain always wants something. Your hero wants something. Your villain wants something. And those two opposing forces is what creates the conflict. For why is the villain so powerful? Well, in die hard. Hans Gruber is powerful because he has million's right. He's got a team with him. He's got a premeditated plot, and at many points in the movie, he's got a gun on. That gun establishes the power dynamic between characters now that power shifts between McLean and Hans Gruber throughout the movie, and that's where the tension of the film comes from. Lastly, what is the villains? Weakness? Well, for Hans Gruber, he underestimates exactly how clever McLean is right. McLean is not just sort of your run of the mill guy who's there to save the day. He is, in fact, a New York City detective who's well trained and super clever. So the fact that Hans underestimates him ultimately becomes his weakness. So I use Hans Grouper as a really good example because I think it's really clear it's really clean. Another really clear and clean one is Miranda in the Devil wears product Super Super clean. In fact, if you remember the movie or if you've watched it because of this class, there's a scene where she's on the phone telling Andy, get me back from Get me back from this hotel. Hire a private plane, and there's like thunder and lightning crashing behind her, and they've painted her as the classic villain. She almost feels like the Joker from Batman in that moment. So paint the picture of your villain in your writing. Paint the picture of how villainous they are. This is all for external villains. Villains can also be internal, right? What are the beliefs that the character has that they have to overcome in order to get what they want? So, for example, in Good Will Hunting Good Will Hunting is a great internal villain, right? Because will hunting is up against the belief he has about society. Beliefs about money, beliefs about education, beliefs about love, beliefs about himself and who he is, Which is why the movie primarily plays out in therapy. As Robin Williams character, the doctor tries to unlock that for will. So not to get too far in the weeds of internal and external. I do want you to understand, though what is at play are their characters in your movie that represent that opposing force who are really and tangible and in the world and in the movie or is the thing that is being battled inside. Sometimes the answer is actually both, but I want you to be clear about it.

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