Jennine Lanouette has taught screenwriting, been a story consultant and lectured on story structure and script analysis for a couple of decades. That doesn’t mean, however, that she’s totally satisfied with the current status of just how this whole industry works – and it is an industry, whether it’s ‘Hero’s Journey’, ‘Save the Cat’, or the ‘Syd Field Paradigm’.
“About 20 years ago, screenplay writing became popular,” says Lanouette, who has studied screenwriting and dramatic history at Columbia and NYU. “It’s more or less replaced the desire to write the Great American novel.”
In her lectures and writing, Lanouette situates the audiences’ involvement to how well the writer delivers on the three-act dramatic model — yes, that same one that has been around in the West since the time of Aristotle. (She notes that Aristotle only wrote notes to analyze what went into the best drama of his day, but he didn’t attempt to codify it. That came later via other writers.)
Today though, most scriptwriting courses promote a few catch phrases and offer a simple, linear three-act progression built around plot development only. In her search to go beyond simplistic models so that writers didn’t feel limited by the structure, Lanouette realized that she could give equal consideration to character and theme, and how they could function in determining a screenplay’s total structure.
That’s when she developed in the following chart, “A Meditation on Character, Action and Theme.” Here theme and character take on equal importance to action, or plot. (The diagram is part of her article in Filmmaker magazine that you can access here.)
But, while that’s a useful approach, it alone is not the future of script analysis we noted up top. This is…
Lanouette has been working to take script analysis into the modern era, using iPads and Macs as well as Android tablets to offer all of the multimedia capabilities we’ve come to expect. Apple’s iBook Author was useful to go this route – she used the app to develop her initial eBook – but it limits playback to OS X-based devices, and don’t try web streaming it.
She’s recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the first of a series of dual platform eBooks that use the information she has developed for lectures on some 13 different films. Future plans will take that to the full 24 film lectures now in her notebooks.
Like the DIY movement in filmmaking, eBooks have been gaining popularity as an ideal way to get your message across to today’s readers. You might go the route of the Amazon Kindle self-publishing platform, for example, or other variations from Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Apple (iBooks). However, Amazon does to authors what Apple does to music, profiting at a whopping 30-percent of every sale.
A web-streaming version is also in the works, so those without tablets won’t feel left out. (You can check an initial version of it here.)
The completed $20,000 campaign allows for the creation of eBook s on her first two choices for analysis, The African Queen and Thelma & Louise. Other films in the pipeline include Traffic, The Crying Game, Chinatown, Sunset Boulevard, Annie Hall, and Pulp Fiction.
As Lanouette notes, her take on multimedia eBooks “makes for an engaging and enjoyable learning experience, even for the heady, in-depth structural analysis that I provide.”
While the campaign is finished, you can still check out her Kickstarter page to see a few short video examples of what she’s up to.
Also, it’s worth checking out Lanouette’s Screentakes website for updates on the eBooks as well as articles and short videos that show some of her thinking about script analysis. One current favorite of mine is this short compilation video, Sympathetic doesn’t have to mean likeable.