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Learn From My Mistakes

Recently a thought occurred to me.

Two of the short films I produced each have the exact same story problem.

I will explain it to you, so you have no excuse whatsoever to make this same mistake.

Aerosol (2005) is the story of a factory worker who has to deal with an ant that is perniciously keeping him from his work. At the end of this tether, the worker sprays aerosol into his machine and it explodes. Here is – from the film’s synopsis – what happens next:

The ant, feeling guilty, tries to help reconstruct the machine.
From this moment, the Worker begins to realize
that there is more to being human
than his life to that point has lead him to believe.

Tin Can Heart (TCH) tells the story of a robotic puppy. To become friends with a visiting android, the puppy offers his help when the droid starts disintegrating. The third act goes like this:

When the pup gives up his very own battery, his last hope comes
from a within mysterious spherical chamber…

… as a new droid appears from the chamber to rescue the pup.

Can you see what is happening here?

In both cases, there is a strong ‘all is lost’ moment signalling the end of Act Two, in which the hero redeems himself (Aerosol) or makes a sacrifice (TCH).

However, there is no third act for the Hero.

The main action in the final act is done by a different character. I am almost certain that this left audiences confused.

Although both films have had relatively good festival runs because of their outstanding production values, I believe they would have fared much better if there had been a consistency in who the hero character is throughout the film.

Whoever is your Hero at the beginning of the film, must stay the Hero.

And the final climactic action in the story’s third act must be initiated and completed by that same Hero.

These films are proof that you must always have someone with a professional understanding of story structure look over your story before you sign off on it. Even if you believe you know enough, you probably don’t. Spend some money and get a professional opinion. It will save you the disappointment afterwards.

Do you know other examples of a similar story issue?

Or have you seen successful movies that prove me wrong?

About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

Comments 1

  1. This is the deus ex machina problem, no? The resolution of the story has to derive directly from the hero’s actions. In TCH, for instance, the robot the puppy saves should then save the puppy, not some third party.

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