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Structure: Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead (S. Pegg & E.Wright, 2004) was my first iTunes movie download. I needed it urgently and the download was quick & cheap. Pure craftmanship. No wonder the ‘zomcom’ made $30m worldwide

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by Karel Segers

This is the type of comedy only the Brits can do well. Simon ‘Shaun’ Pegg wrote it with director Edgar Wright, both seasoned comedians with perfect timing.
At the bottom of the page you’ll find some notes on the mythical aspects of this story, but let’s get straight into the minute-by-minute breakdown first!

ACT ONE

Sequence A: The Need to Live a Little (13mins)

SOTD - Live a litte

00.00 Studio leaders (& Dan Mudford’s cool soundtrack)
01.00 Liz: I want to live a little! Shaun: Okay. Tomorrow.
03.30 Titles
04.00 Shaun, living as a zombie at home with Ed, gaming.
05.00 Peter: Ed has to leave. Not students anymore.
06.00 Shaun can’t tell Ed. Ed: Ain’t doing nothing for Pete.
07.30 Liz’s VM message: book table for 8, not 7.
08.30 Nelson’s corner shop. / Person faints at bus stop.
09.00 Work: Team mocks & ignores Shaun. / Selling.
10.30 Stepdad Philip: See you tomorrow. With flowers!
11.30 Shaun ignores Liz’s call to look professional. 8pm.
12.00 Buying flowers for mum. Sees man eating pigeon.
(Inciting Incident of the Zombie story)

SOTD - Pigeon Eater

Sequence B: Shaun’s World is Falling Apart (13mins)

13.00 Bus: people coughing. Yvonne: house, grown up.
13.30 Booking restaurant – forgot. No tables left.
14.30 Liz: What’s the plan? Winchester? Liz hangs up.
(Inciting Incident of Inner Journey /Love Story)
SOTD - Liz hangs up

15.30 Liz doesn’t want to see you.
16.00 Arguing w/ Liz. All promises. David: 9 lives are up.
17.30 Flowers “to wonderful mum”. Liz: gotta do something.
18.30 To Winchester with Ed: keep drinking! Very drunk.
20.00 All “rich, interesting characters” in Winchester.
22.00 Ext. (D.I.) Couple: guy’s head falls off. “White Lines.”
22.30 Pete: Crackhead bit me. Sort your life out, mate!
(PP1 Inner Journey / Love Story)

SOTD - Board Wide

ACT TWO

Sequence C: Remove head or destroy brain. (13mins)

25.30 Note to self: Go round mums – Get Liz Back – Sort Life out!
26.30 Corner shop: blood (D.I.). Doesn’t notice, leaves.
27.00 Street full of zombies & dead.
27.30 TV Reports. Ed: girl in the garden.
29.00 Girl: She’s so drunk! She’s impaled – but she comes back.
(PP1 Outer Journey / Zombie Story)

SOTD - Impaled

31.00 Calling. Have a sit down. Zombie inside.
33.00 TV Anchor advises: Removing head or destroying brain.
33.30 Outside, throwing stuff at zombies’ heads.
34.30 Knock one down. TV: symptoms ‘bitten’.
35.30 Pete out. Mum calls. Not bitten but Philip has been.
37.00 Plan: Go to Mum’s, kill Phil, Grab Liz. Go to the Winchester.

SOTD - Plan

Sequence D: Saving Mum and Philip. (9mins)

38.30 Zombies outside. Shaun goes to Wee; Pete in shower.
40.30 Outside. Rush to car, avoid zombies. Drive off.
42.00 At Mum’s, Ed eyes Phil’s Jaguar. Shaun goes in. Ed stays with car.
43.00 I’ll deal with Philip. He’s watching TV, he is okay. Or not?
44.30 Shaun questions mum about Philip. “How much do you love him?”
46.00 Ed totalled car. Zombies attack, Philip bitten.

SOTD - Totalled

MID Sequence: Saving Liz & Co, losing Philip. (8mins)

47.00 Leaving Mum’s, Ed drives Jag. Shaun runs.
48.30 Zombies outside Liz’s. Shaun climbs up.
49.00 Take you somewhere safe. About Survival. To the Winchester!
51.00 Ed speeds off, dodging zombies. Shaun introduces: Liz/Mum.
52.30 Philip’s dying redemption: “Always loved you, Shaun.”
54.00 Philip zombie. Escaping from car. Surrounded. Walk.SOTD - Walking

Sequence E: Approaching the inmost cave (10mins)

55.00 All walking. David: where going? Other group with Yvonne.
57.00 Mum: Jill & Derrick live here. Derrick attacks & impaled.
59.00 Zombies surrounding Winchester.
60.00 Learning zombie behaviour.
61.00 Moving forward. Works. Door shut. Stay in character!
62.30 Ed takes phone call. Shaun angry. Distracts zombies.
64.00 They go in via broken window.

SOTD - Shaun distracts

Sequence F: Inside the Cave / the Winchester (10mins)

64.30 Pub empty. Shaun has been gone for 20mins.
66.30 Having a drink. Shaun returns.
67.30 David doesn’t trust Shaun. Liz: plan?
69.00 Shaun switches electricity on. Zombies outside.
70.00 Shaun admits: zombies followed. Ed makes noise; surrounded.

SOTD - Shaun makes noise

71.00 Bartender zombie appears; “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Bartender out.
73.30 Gun is loaded. 29 shells.

Sequence G: The Ordeal (16mins)

74.00 Zombies come in. Liz looks after Barbara. She’s bitten.
77.00 Shaun & Mum. David wants to shoot her: She’s a zombie. Shaun: No!
78.00 Mexican standoff with bottles.
78.30 Shaun to David: You’re in love with Liz. David: you hero hypocrite!
80.00 Liz takes control: don’t fall apart. Mother is zombie, Shaun kills her.
81.00 David says sorry, Zombies come in, take David.

SOTD - David

83.00 Full-blown zombie attack.
83.30 Ed is bitten by Pete. Shaun shoots him. Zombies close in.
85.30 Trapped in basement. Shaun redeems himself. Liz comforts him.
87.30 Ed: I want to be shot. Have a fag now.
89.30 Zombies come through – leaving the cave via lift.

ACT THREE

Sequence H: Climax (2mins)

90.00 Going up, outside. Explosion. Army arrives.
91.00 Yvonne.

SOTD - Yvonne

Sequence I: Aftermath (2mins)

91.30 6 months on. TV report: Good use for zombies.
93.00 Shaun & Liz watch news report.
93.30 Shaun into garden shed. Gaming with Ed.

SOTD - Zombie Game

Note: D.I. = Dramatic Irony. This is information the audience sees but the character doesn’t.

STORY STRUCTURE

For a broader look at the film, check out fellow blogger Merrel Davis’ piece “How do you Pegg it when you Wright?”

As usual, I will focus on the Hero and the key turning points.

The Hero

Shaun’s strengths: he is funny and he loves Liz.
Shaun’s flaw’s: he is lazy, lacks responsibility and he loves the Winchester more than he loves his girlfriend.

The Journey

Outer Journey: to get his girlfriend back.
Inner Journey: to grow up.

Note how – like in many successful movies – the hero needs to complete the Inner Journey before he can achieve his goal of the Outer Journey.

Inciting Incident

The first zombie action Shaun witnesses, is the man in the little park eating the pigeon. Before that, we saw other ‘weird’ events but none of them beyond logic.

Call to Adventure

When Liz hangs up the phone, Shaun knows he needs to act. But rather than take the appropriate action (sort his life out), he ‘refuses the call’ and tries to make her change her mind. Meanwhile, he also keeps refusing the call of the zombies.

Mentors

The story has two mentors, who travel opposite journeys.

Pete steps in at the right time to tell Shaun he needs to get his act together (22:30). Right after that, Shaun rights the note to himself, which will propel him into action the next morning. This mentor will become a shapeshifter and attack Ed at the end of the story (83:30).

Despite his genuine advice to Shaun to bring his mum flowers (10:30), Philip starts as an antagonist. He turns out a shapeshifter when at the mid point he opens his heart and redeems himself (52:30). He was a mentor all along.

could be seen as mentors. Philip

Plot Point One / Crossing the First Threshold

Act One has a clear ending as it is the end of a day and we’re reminded of Shaun’s objectives the next morning: Go round mums – Get Liz Back – Sort Life out!. The Zombies will be the obstacle to achieving these objectives.

Mid Point

With the death of Philip, the first casualty within Shaun’s circle, things get a lot more serious. It is also a first symbolical step in his growing up: the loss of the father figure.

Plot Point Two / Ordeal and Reward

In order to grow up, Shaun will also have to let go of his mother. The death of David is important because he was interested in Liz. In a sense both characters could be seen as reasons why Shaun could not fully commit to Liz.

What follows feels like the final showdown with the zombies – and in a sense it is, as later the army does the job for our heroes – but within Shaun’s journey(s), we’re still in Act Two.

True to the genre, we have a long Ordeal scene, ending in the hero’s redemption. Only then does he find the controls for the lift (Reward) that will bring them outside safely.

Crossing the Threshold

Once outside, almost immediately we have an extremely brief climax when the army arrives and overpowers the zombies.

Aftermath / Return with the Elixir

We have a glimpse of Shaun’s new life with Liz – and his secret in the shed.

Sequence J:

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 2

  1. wow! great piece of work! yes, the screenplay and your structure analysis. enjoyed reading it getting frame-by-frame information plus the whole idea of the movie. the Hero,s Journey does make sense after all. got to check out your other structure analysis here soon – after having found “Sequence D” in this one… ;D
    take care!

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