Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TODAY'S 2nd NUGGET: #27 WGA Script of All Time - Groundhog Day (1993)

For each of these Scripts of All Time, I'll focus on one skill of my choosing, and how the writer did it.

I'm going to focus on the setup of Act 1 of Groundhog Day.

[Why? Because I just listened to a Creative Screenwriting podcast with Michael Arndt re: Toy Story 3

Arndt lays out his steps for a great Act 1 & I'd like to see how it applies here.]

1 - Set up the character, the world he lives in & his passion.

Phil Connors is a man "full of himself" & thinks he's too good to cover Groundhog Day for his Pittsburgh tv station.  His passion is to make it big so he doesn't have to "be stuck with the groundhog for the rest of my life." (p. 3)

2 - Introduce a character's flaw, & bring a dark cloud in the horizon (inciting incident).  Show his fear, which is something that could harm his passion.

His flaw is that he's self-absorbed, & doesn't appreciate Rita, the segment producer. (p. 4)  He's also curt with a correspondent who's fallen for him [this is in the script, not in the movie].

This foreshadows how badly he deals with people (dark cloud), & his fear of having to interact with people in a real and vulnerable way.

3 - Fears are realized as a bolt of lightning appears from an outside source (outside than his regular realm). His world is turned upside down.

Snow blocks Phil from leaving. (p. 21)

4 - Make unhealthy choice to regain what he's lost.

He's rude to everyone at the bed & breakfast, Ned Ryerson, Rita, etc. (p. 27-35).  He desperately tries to get out of town.

5 - The goal of regaining what he's lost will drive the rest of the character's journey into Act 2.

Phil tries to get out of another Groundhog Day by killing himself, driving at high speeds, etc.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Groundhog Day has a great Act 1 b/c it neatly sets up the inciting incident.  We know who Phil is & we want to see if he ever gets out of Punxsutawney. 

I like Ardnt's Act 1 steps b/c they focus on making the character face his fear.  Something is always at stake ---> this leads to tension & a good story.

Groundhog Day (1993) 
by Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis

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