Laney College

Class 8 Notes — March 11, 2014

Class 8 Notes — March 11, 2014

(The notes from this class also apply to the screenplay analysis homework for the “Erin Brockovich” script.)

Logline – (HW Question #1) — Noemi reviewed examples of good loglines from last week’s homework assignment.

  • Integrates plot and theme
  • Reflects the plot and goal, which is more specific than a general theme
  • Gives the idea of the plot, what the main character wants and what’s at stake
  • Gives a sense of who the protagonist and antagonist are
  • If the logline is not clear, it will be difficult to have clarity in the script

Read  more about loglines  in “Anatomy of a Logline” and the logline information in the textbook.

Main Characters (HW Question #2) — The class discussed what makes a character a main character.  In “The Graduate,” Elaine is not a complex character but is the object of the protagonist’s desire;  so, in that sense, she is a main character.  Plot-wise, she functions as a main character.

What does each character want to accomplish — their objective?

  • Need to to create drama.
  • A very general objective is “to find a direction in life”
  • “Have an affair with Mrs. Robinson” is more specific — it can be shown and can truly create drama!
  • “Marry Elaine” becomes Benjamin’s objective later in the film.
  • It’s okay to explain that a main character does not appear to have an objective, as in the case of Elaine, but be sure to back up your conclusion.

What are each character’s obstacles?

  • Show actual obstacles
  • Not Ideas
  • For Mrs. Robinson, her daughter, Elaine, is an obstacle

What’s at stake?  

  • For Benjamin — not getting Elaine, his freedom (threatened by Mr. Robinson with charges of rape)
  • For Mrs. Robinson — her marriage is at stake as is her reputation

Protagonist — (HW Question #3) — a concise description is good.

Character Arc — (Question #4)

  • Who is the main character is in the beginning?
  • Who they are in the end?
  • Why?

Catalyst – In The Graduate” it was when Mrs. Robinson propositioned Benjamin.

Big Event — was when Benjamin made the phone call to arrange for the first sexual tryst

Crisis — (HW Question #5) —  the “all is lost” moment

  • Important to get an idea of the shape of the drama to see where the crisis is
  • May choose from several candidates for the crisis but back it up — explain why you think it is the crisis
  • Crisis should not happen too early in the story

End of Act I

  • Also called “Crossing the threshold”
  • Many filmmakers use mirrors and/or reflections to show when a character is crossing into a new world

Given Circumstances — (HW Question #6) — Information about:

  • the characters,
  • the setting,
  • the time period,
  • the situations and
  • the relationships established in the script.
  • (“Open” means not specified in the script — back up why you think that something is open to interpretation.)

Rules of the Universe — (HW Question #7)

  • Are they established?
  • What are they?  In “The Graduate,” one rule of the universe is that it is not okay for a married woman and a young graduate to have an affair.

Tone — (HW Question #8)

  • For example, is it okay to laugh?  Show how the tone is established.
  • How quickly is the tone established?

Spine — (HW Question #9)

  • the “super objective”
  • what the character wants for the entire story
  • expressed with action verbs (to find one’s authentic self,  to win his/her love, etc.)
  • the driving force that pervades every element of the story
  • the spine/super objective is supported by all characters
  • The spine is like an umbrella, with each rib of the umbrella representing a character that helps hold up the spine — the whole umbrella.
  • There may not be one correct answer regarding what the character wants for the entire story — the spine.

Metaphor / Image — (HW Question #10) – no one correct answer — just back up what you claim

  • In “The Graduate,” a mataphor could be the fish in the fish tank — they could represent the characters’s situation of being trapped by convention.
  • Also, Benjamin’s time floating in the pool shows actual drifting.


  • The car is used as a motif — shows Benjamin moving forward
  • Elaine was conceived in a car
  • Benjamin yells at young folks (who had loud music coming from their car) to quiet down

Screenplay’s Message — (HW Question #11)

  • What the script is telling the audience
  • In “The Graduate,” the message seems to be “You can get out of your circumstances if you want.”