Inciting Incident (book cover)

Does your story beginning set you up for success…or failure?

The beginning of your story has to captivate audiences. At the same time, it must get your plotting pieces in place. Solve this marketing-plotting conundrum with the new edition of Inciting Incident. You’ll learn:

  • how to time your inciting incident for best effect, including how to delay it without aggravating audiences
  • how much “everyday” world to use before the inciting incident—and when reducing these pages can backfire
  • 8 ways to start your story (and why some “controversial” beginnings might not be as bad as you believe)
  • how to tell whether your prologue is justified
  • how to fix a story that starts too fast (rather than too slow)

Download instantly for $4.99: *

* International prices may vary.

Writing for Movies: the 4 Quadrant Screenwriting Myth

Movie Reel

If you’re trying to write for the movies, you’ve probably heard of the 4-quadrant picture. Simply put, it’s a movie which appeals to all four demographics:

  • young
  • old
  • men
  • women

And every studio loves them — for good reason. They can cast their marketing nets as wide as possible, hopefully ensnaring an equally large proportion of the public. Never forget that Hollywood is a business first & last.

I said it in Screenplay Writing Tips from The King’s Speech and I’ll say it again:

Write your movie from the heart, not for the market.

If you’re one of those lucky screenwriters whose passion projects ALSO coincide with Hollywood trends, then my friend, many doors will be open to you. I wish you well.

For most of us however, that is not the case. If you’re writing a one-quadrant picture, don’t add random subplots and supporting characters to increase its appeal to the other demographics. You’ll just end up alienating your target audience. They’ll trash talk it more than New Englanders at a Red Sox-Yankee game.

There is a simple way though for your one-quadrant picture to rival four-quadrant movies at the box office, and that is to make sure they include rewatchable moments.

What are these rewatchable moments exactly?

As their name implies, they are the moments that your target audience connected to so strongly the first time they saw a movie, that they will pay to see it again and again and again.

This repeat business boosts the box office bottom-line…and a few months later, will also drive DVD sales.

Scenes audience strongly connects to =
Repeat visits to movie theater =
Larger box office potential

Romantic comedies are much maligned one-quadrant movies, but the best of them have wonderful rewatchable moments. I’ve collected 6 of them to inspire you as you write your own movie.

Hitch

Do you remember that scene in Hitch? The one where Hitch tries to teach Albert how to dance?

Whenever I pop Hitch into the DVD player, that scene is what I look forward to watching again the most.

Pretty Woman

For anyone who’s been slighted by a patronizing jerk…the moment in Pretty Woman when Vivian gets to crow about a saleswoman’s big mistake is, “huge.”

Notting Hill

Another rewatchable moment provided by Julia Roberts. This time, from Notting Hill. Half of you will say it’s super sappy, but the other half will agree with me, Julia being “just a girl standing in front a boy” is one of the best parts of the film.

Note: the formatting of this script isn’t quite standard.

WILLIAM

Sorry about that.

ANNA

That’s fine. There’s always a pause when the jury goes out to consider its verdict.

PAUSE. SHE’S AWAITING AN ANSWER.

WILLIAM

Anna. The thing is…I’m a fairly level-headed bloke. Not hugely in and out of love. But…

PAUSE – HE CAN’T REALLY EXPRESS WHAT HE FEELS.

…can I just say ‘no’ to your kind request and leave it at that?

ANNA

…Yes. that’s fine. Of course. I…you know…of course—I’ll just be getting along then…Nice to see you.

WILLIAM

The truth is…

HE FEELS HE MUST EXPLAIN.

With you, I’m in real danger. It looks like a perfect situation, apart from that foul temper of yours – but my relatively inexperienced heart would. I fear, never recover when I was once again—cast aside, which I would absolutely expect to be. There are too many pictures of you everywhere, too many films of you. You’d go and I’d be… a broken man.

ANNA

I see.

(pause)

That really is a real ‘no’, isn’t it.

WILLIAM

I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. We’re from different worlds. Everyone in the world knows who you are. My mother has trouble remembering my name.

ANNA

Okay. Fine. Fine. Good decision.

PAUSE

But the fame thing isn’t really real, you know. Don’t forget – I’m also just a girl. Standing in front of a boy. Asking him to love her.

As Good As It Gets

Top-notch screenwriting created the best compliment ever in As Good As It Gets…which is not really a one-quadrant picture, but is definitely rewatchable!

Jerry Maguire

Many of you might think this next clip has more cheese than Wisconsin. Taken out of context, it does. But with Tom Cruise’s delivery, Rene Zellweger’s earnest face, and the backdrop of the divorced women’s talking group, this is a classic:

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Our last rewatchable moment is one of my all time favorites:

Final thoughts

Are there rewatchable moments from these movies that you’d like to add? Or examples from other movies & other genres? I’d love to hear about the moments that drew you into the theater a second time…

Movie Reel by Thomas Galvez

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Annie Macdonald April 29, 2013, 2:49 pm

    The end of SOME LIKE IT HOT

    The end of CASABLANCA

    The end of Gone with the Wind

    • scribemeetsworld April 30, 2013, 10:51 pm

      Hi Annie,

      Thanks for sharing your top rewatchable moments. Gone with the Wind is my favorite example of the three!

Previous storytelling article:

Next storytelling article: