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Story Design: Want

Lesson 9 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

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Lesson Info

9. Story Design: Want

Lesson Info

Story Design: Want

Yeah. Our third story fundamental is the want this is super key to the story really, really, really important. They're all really, really important. But this one particularly because this is what drives the story. We talked about setting where the story takes place. We talked about hero, who the story is about. Now we want to look at that hero and ask, what is it that he or she wants, what is it that they want so badly that they're about to disrupt their entire world to get it. This is really, really important to answer. So you want to ask first, what does the hero want Now I want to break this down into two things. There's very often what the hero wants on the surface and what the hero needs underneath emotionally or psychologically. So let's take a look at devil's product, right setting new york more specifically runway magazine. The hero Andy what is it that she wants? She wants to be a journalist right now. She gets this job at runway. And so in order to become a journalist, she mu...

st survive a year of Miranda priestly. Now there's a line in that script in that movie that the entire movie rests on. If I survive the year of Miranda priestly, she'll get me any job I want in new york. The entire movie rests on that. The movie falls apart. If you do not have that line, right? It's what we call an if then statement a conditional statement. If this happens, then that will happen. And I'll get what I want. Very often we see movies that are full on if then statements, right, 90 minutes of a person looking for something because they believe that that's something will get them the thing that they want. So for Andy again, setting new york runway magazine, the hero is Andy she wants to be a journalist and the conditional want there is if she can survive a year Miranda priestly, she'll become a journalist. So throughout the story and we're going to talk about this later when we talk about the first and the second act, she employs different tactics to get what she wants, which is to survive Miranda priestly. Very often the want or actually exactly the want is a verb to do something right In Team Marco, my film, my film, the character wants to get to level 100 in his video game so that he can go to app con this convention with his father, that's what he wants. And in each sequence of the movie, he's going to do different things to build up to that want but that's what he ultimately wants. Devil wears product. She wants to be a journalist. We're gonna look at Coco in a second. Miguel wants to be a musician. Now we've got to answer what does the hero need emotionally underneath. Right? And the hero may or may not be aware that he or she needs this thing emotionally. Now for Andy what she needs emotionally underneath is to feel good about her life and her job and her world in new york. She thinks by surviving Miranda priestly, she will get that. But what happens is her whole world falls apart. Her boyfriend doesn't want to date her anymore. Her friends don't want to be her friends anymore because she transforms into this sort of fashionista, right? What she needs is to feel comfortable and happy in her life and in her work. But she thinks that by getting what she wants, she's gonna get that ultimately she has to decide, you know what, that's not gonna get me what I want. So let's stay basic for a second. What does your hero want? What does your hero need emotionally? Okay, third, what will happen if the hero doesn't get what they want. This is what's called the stakes stakes are super important. And when you talk to film executives, they're always gonna ask you what are the stakes here? What happens if this doesn't happen? And in my riding, this is probably something that I only really learned how to work within the last few years, what will happen if this doesn't happen? Right? Why is this important? Why is this want driving the story? Because if it doesn't happen, the world's gonna end, right? Action movies are great at this? If I don't annoy, why are the bomb the world is gonna end? Those are pretty high stakes, right? Um smaller movies movies that are less action oriented have less clear wants um sorry, less clear stakes, but it's your job to make sure that the stakes are super clear. If I don't get this then this will happen. And you'll often see lines within the script that say something like that. If I don't meet the love of my life, I'll never love again. If I don't get that apartment, I'll have to go home and live with my mother, X, X, y and Z. Right? So what will happen if not for what will they do to get what they want? How far will the hero go to get what he or she wants? What are they willing to do? Movies and tv are about extremes, right? The reason we watch is because these characters do things that we wouldn't do in our normal life normally. Right? Drama is drama because it's bigger. It's larger than life right? From an italian american family. Everything is really big and dramatic. What Italians don't really understand is life doesn't always have to be lived at that volume and that enormous production um scale. So I think it's important to always remember that life exists here day to day, but drama exists here on a different plane. So you want to push your characters to the extreme you want and if I had to do team marco over, I'll tell you and me and whoever is watching, I would push them more to the extremes, right? Yes. We have an argument scene. Yes. If he doesn't get his tech back, he's gonna have a meltdown. But let's push it even further. What will they do to get what they want? And five What journey occurs because they pursue that want. So if you've got your writer's purpose and your core message, right? And you know what you're going to prove right now, you know where to set your story, who your story is about what it is that they want. Now you've got to answer the question, what journey are they gonna go on to get what they want? So let's take a look back at coco in cocoa. We know the setting. Mexico, a small town Uh, in Act two and forward in the film. The setting is the Afterlife. We know the main character is Miguel and now let's look at what he wants, he wants to become a musician. That is the overall want of the character in the movie. A lot of things have to happen in order for him to do that. His family has to accept him. He has to win the music competition to prove it to them and to himself. He has to get a guitar in order to enter the competition when it gets to the after world. He has to get back home in order to do all those things, but they all add up to this major want of the character, which is to become a musician, to what does the hero need emotionally. Now this movie is about family, it's about love. It's about legacy and underneath the want to become a musician is this need to connect to his ancestors and to his family through music. So he may be aware of that. He may not be aware of that. Your character may be aware of what they need emotionally or not aware of what they need emotionally, but I want you as the writer to make that decision. What is it that they want? What is it that they need emotionally? And the movie will reveal that um excuse me, what will happen if the hero doesn't get what they want? These are the stakes again, right? So if Miguel doesn't become a musician, The world will end. He's 12. Everything is high stakes. When you're 12 right in the movie, he needs to get the blessing in order to go home to win the music competition to become a musician. If he doesn't get the blessing within 24 hours, which we would call the ticking clock, what is giving this narrative urgency? The ticking clock is he's got to get that blessing in 24 hours or else he'll go home without the blessing. Can't be a musician, can't fulfill his dreams, the whole world will end, Right? So those are the stakes for Miguel, what will they do to get what they want? This is the length of the character will go to and in this movie, Coco Miguel will go to the end of the the end of the earth, right? He'll go to the afterlife in order to get what he wants. He finds himself in the afterlife. Now he's gonna go on this journey to figure out where his grandfather is to get this blessing and nothing is gonna stop him. Movies are about extremes, take your character to the extreme. What journey occurs when they pursue what they want. The journey of the movie is this musical journey through the afterlife where he meets a sidekick character. They go to another music competition. They go to a rehearsal for the grandfather, then he discovers that the grandfather is not his grandfather with his big party. This is the journey that he goes on to learn the lessons of the film. So the want is super important because it drives your narrative so so far we've done setting, we've done here. We've done want I want you to take a pause. I want you to go through the story design worksheet. I want you to write about your characters. What world are they in? Who are they? What do they want

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.

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