Today I dug through the script pile and chose a sports biopic because someone I know is writing one & I wanted to compare his script (you know who you are) with the competition.
Sports films are a big challenge because general audiences may not have an interest in that sport. It's no secret that is the reason you must create an interesting, relatable human/universal story outside the sports story.
But how is that done?
Today's script gave me a little clue. The story is about a guy who had a personal tragedy in his life, but keeps on truckin' in the sport through high school and college. However, the tragedy resurfaces right before an important match, and he falters, but ultimately triumphs.
The main character is very sympathetic and well written to showcase how extraordinary this guy was. He carries the hope of many on his shoulders. He had an unbelievable grit and training regimen.
The problem with the script is that the main character is so darn near perfect from the start. After a tragedy, his life becomes his sport, and he becomes a one track workaholic. This is understandable, even realistic.
However, sports films are partly truth, partly myth, and sometimes the truth gets in the way of the myth/good story. The character arc flatlines a bit when he's no longer is torn between a rock and a hard place. His unbelievable dedication could be even more true with a dash of fiction. ex. He befriends a made up character who is about to commit the same tragedy that haunts him. The minor character causes him to relive his own personal tragedy. This personifies what is going on in his head so the public can see it. . . and is probably not too far off from what he went through.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Especially in sports biopics, the stakes need to grow and stay high. At the same time, the writer's task is to show the heart & soul of a champion and make him/her accessible to the audience. To bring these two together, sometimes that takes a bit of fiction to make the point.
P.S. I'm one of those writers who hates to stray too far from the truth in true story pics. However, I think you'd be ok too to not include the boring parts, because, honestly, you only want to sit for 2 hrs. in a theater, not all year.