Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Script

As I look at this summer, I'm getting movie fever.  Movie's are coming out, my friends are starting their projects, I'm working on my next project.
As I look at movie's made by big studios or short films made by my friends or other indie film maker's; I see that your script is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the film or short.
I just recently watched the first Transformer movie.  Michael Bay can make movies seem so real with modern technology, CGI, and special effects.  Watching it makes you get pulsed as the massive transforming robots slam into each other, transform, and explode through buildings.  Wide sweeping panoramic shots bring the epic battles close in and we are entranced by the massive battles.
But then we start thinking about the plot.  The movie begins to fall apart, things that we had just gulped down when we were hypnotized by the epic battles now seem stupid.  The plot is suddenly full of holes and we cringe at cheesy lines and it is not so enjoyable anymore.  Why?
The reason is simple: the script.  The script is where the plot is formed and the characters are brought alive from the text on paper.  When the script is strong the movie is strong.
The script is 80% of the movie.  It doesn't matter how much special effects, great acting, sound quality, music, world class director's you have without the script your movie will not be a great movie.  
This is no less true for a short film.  Even if it's a silent film, your script will outline what will happen and if your script is no good, your movie is on the fast track to cheesedom or boredom.
So what is a good script?  How is a good script fashioned?  Isaac Botkin says in his book(which I STRONGLY recommend)
First, take a look at the structure.  Western audiences learn best from this format:               
A flawed but sympathetic protagonist                                       
 summons moral courage to face and then overcome                 
 increasingly difficult, seemingly insurmountable moral tests to achieve a compelling desire.
The best movies you've ever seen follow this structure.  It's not a formula, its a form.  This particular structure is brilliantly complimentary to the Christian worldview because the protagonist is a hero.  This structure can illustrate the truth.  It can teach moral authority.  It can clarify ethics.  It can elucidate the meaning of moral courage and can explain the applicability of biblical wisdom.  It can show the world what masculinity is.  It can show the beauty of manners and family life.  It can tell the truth about evil and show the cast difference bad character.  It can pit evil against good.  It can criticize evil instead of good.
Your script must not just be a good story in the sense of story itself it must (if you call yourself a Christian film maker) proclaim God's truth to all men. Mark 16:15 says  
And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
If we are Christian film makers our scripts must not only be good scripts but they need to cry out the hope to this dying world.  
You may have the best actors, the best cinematography, the best whatever, without a good script and a Christian message your movie will not be any good.

A good example of a good script but no good message is the movie, "The Adjustment Bureau" The overall plot is a excellent plot.  Its well built and is thrilling and exciting.  But the theological message is warped.  The message is that God is many people and that we can control our fate.  As a Christian this ruins the movie.  Our scripts must be good thematically and sound theologically as well.
So as Christian film makers and servants of God our films MUST glorify him.  
No Excuses. 


  1. Hello, John! I thought I'd check to see how you were doing when I saw this superb blog post. I've read reviews on the Transformer movies - they're certainly not like the little robot/vehicles I used to play with! It's also interesting to note what they are teaching people watching these films. There are major errors in this film that are completely antichrist - yes, they currently have the upper hand in quality, but we should still not support such wicked movies. This is why people like Doug Philips and Geoff Botkin encourage Christians to take dominion of film for the glory of Christ. I too read "Outside Hollywood", and found it very encouraging - it certainly is not impossible to excel Hollywood - even for us "indies".