Impaler State Building – Perry Carter

PerryCarterHeadshotAway from her comfortable Hoboken home life, Nancy, an involved housewife and mother manages the frustrations of a loveless marriage by skewering arbitrary victims over the pointed radio tower of the Empire State Building. The structure’s sheer height and infrequent need for maintenance prevent the discovery of her literal man kabob. The allure of Nancy’s vile hobby is diminished when she falls for an unconventional bar regular who’s crazy about her. She reveals her collection of impaled men to her trusting, new beau and swears that he won’t end up like the men who preceded him. In search of a fresh start, the pair relocates to Dubai, home of the world’s tallest and pointiest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa.


Click Here to Read Perry’s Script


Interactive Storytelling: Cinematic Technique in The Last of Us

TLOU 5In January, TheFilmSchool will host John Williamson at our First Tuesday Event, where he will discuss storytelling in video games, and the unique challenges and opportunities present in the medium. If you’re interested in video games, or curious about the narrative challenges it provides, learn more on our event page!

Truly remarkable narratives can come in many forms, from oral traditions told around a campfire to worn and beloved paperbacks to summer blockbuster films, and video games are no exception. Looking forward to January’s First Tuesday, I decided to take a closer TLOU 7look at one of my favorite video games, The Last of Us, and examine some of the narrative techniques present in the game.

Released last June by game developer Naughty Dog, The Last of Us has garnered near-universal praise for the quality and depth of its narrative. The storytelling accomplished in The Last of Us has undeniable cinematic qualities to it, yet distinctly remains a game. Revisiting the narrative, I found several notable aspects worthy of mention. 

Narrative Arc

While film and games are separate mediums, the two also share a great many strengths, and storytelling in both often rely on the same techniques. Video games, including The Last of Us, quite often utilize the three-act story structure that is prevalent throughout cinema.

TLOU 6The major components of a three-act structure are present in the story of The Last of Us. The call to action, midpoint turn, cave scene, and climax are all easily identifiable. However, certain challenges of the video game medium present themselves in crafting the structure of the overall narrative.

With an overall run time much longer than a feature film, completing The Last of Us can take 16 hours or more, sustaining the rising and falling action of the story requires a fragmentation in the pacing of the narrative arc.

TLOU 9Often realized in less sophisticated games as ‘levels’, the story of The Last of Us is broken up into sequences, each with their own rising and falling action. Each sequence has its own clear narrative arc, and the higher-level pacing between them clearly emerges only near the end of the game.

Video games are certainly not alone in doing this. Most films do this on a scene-by-scene basis. However the distinct breakup of sequences in The Last of Us, is more episodic in its approach, and because of the length of the sequences requires a high degree of coordination to utilize without detracting from the coherency of the master narrative.

Audience Agency

Perhaps the single most significant difference between storytelling in video games and doing so in any other medium is the role that the audience has in the creation of the story. A person playing a video game, unlike someone watching a movie or reading a book, has a degree of control over the course of events in the diegetic world.

This creates unique opportunities, as well as challenges, for a video game’s creator.

TLOU 8Allowing the audience any amount of agency over the story necessarily results in a corresponding loss of agency on the part of the creator. When writing the plot of a video game, the storyteller must allow for the fact that the player has a choice, and even when acting out a prescribed course of events the participation of the audience is necessary to complete the narrative.

However, allowing the audience agency can also increase investment in the story. The involvement of the audience can heighten emotional stakes as players take on the role of the characters in the game and close the emotional distance between themselves and the diegetic events of the narrative. This increased emotional investment, in turn, can assist in the conveyance of meaning to the audience through the story.

TLOU 3In the opening moments of The Last of Us, the protagonist’s daughter dies in a tragic accident. The player is given control of the character as he struggles to save her and almost succeed, only to have her life snatched away.

This already powerful scene is made more impactful by the direct participation of the player who, because of their involvement, feels that they themselves have failed.


Like movies, video games are a visual medium, differentiating them from novels or spoken word. The direct representation of the diegetic world creates opportunities for storytellers to bring their vision of the world directly to the audience. Sight and sound not only convey information, but set the tone of a piece and create a complete world.

When coupled with player agency, these sensory cues can minimize the player’s awareness of the physical self, creating a sense of immersion in the events of the narrative.

TLOU 5Immersion is a helpful tool for storytellers. Like player agency, immersion helps to increase the investment of the audience, heightening the emotional impact of the narrative. Increased awareness of the diegetic world also allows for mood and tone to be conveyed with great efficiency.

However, the presence of these possibilities creates additional potential for a story to fall short, as well. If the visual aesthetic of a game feels incomplete or incongruous with the story, it has the opposite effect, drawing the player out of the game and calling attention to its textuality.

The Last of Us skillfully uses aesthetic in a number of ways. The narrative relies heavily on multiple instances of carrying on after devastating loss. The game supports this motif by immersing you in a world in which life has continued after death, mirroring it in the ruined buildings of abandoned cities juxtaposed with the thriving new plant life which has overgrown them.

TLOU 2The game also utilizes seasonal changes within the diegetic world to signal shifts in the narrative arc. The story’s initial call to action occurs during the spring, the mid-act turn in the second act occurs at the shift from summer to fall, and the cave scene occurs during the winter. The climax of the game then takes place during the spring again, creating a complete cycle as the narrative comes to a close.

If you’re interested in learning more about video game storytelling, come out to Roy St. Coffee for our First Tuesday event January 7th at 6:30 pm. RSVP here!

Making a Film in 48 Hours

by Heather Pilder Olson
TheFilmSchool Alumni

How long does it take to make a short film? That depends. If you’re in the 48 Hour Film Contest, you have just two days to write, shoot, edit, and submit your movie.

Our team, Speetzfire, was convened by executive producer Kevin Owyang, whom I met at a recent Crash Cinema event at SIFF. Kevin got the ball rolling and had worked previously with our director, Andy Tribolini, also an actor, writer, and TheFilmSchool alum, and our DP, Matthew Bane, on other projects. Andy recruited the awesome actors Danita Bayer, Scott C. Brown, Janeanne Wilder, and Henry Mark, and the stellar ADs Amy Sedgwick, also an alum of TheFilmSchool, and Becki Chandler, who worked with Janet Berkow to scout out our excellent locations ahead of time. 

Here’s how the contest works: two of the team members attend a meeting Friday evening and draw a genre. Every team has to work within their genre using an assigned prop, line of dialogue, and character name. Our genre was thriller/suspense, the prop was cheese, the line was, “There must be something in your ear,” and the character was Gina or Gino Asplund, a barista. So we were off and running with a group meeting Friday night where all cast and crew were invited to brainstorm ideas. Andy was the primary writer, and he, Kevin and I started working that night to come up with a script. I was running on too little sleep already, so I faded out around midnight. Kevin stayed another couple of hours, and Andy wrote into the wee hours of the morning and sent out the script to all of us.

I woke up at 6a.m. Saturday and read the script, which was then called HELL IS EMPTY. I liked it, I was excited, and I had to pull together breakfast to take to the set to feed the cast and crew. I showed up right on time at the location that we had been sent, only to discover we were sent the wrong address! Fortunately the real location was just a few blocks away, so we packed up all the food and took it to a park on the shores of Lake Union. My husband Clint helped me set up, and saved the day by getting coffee for everyone. He also helped load and unload the camera gear and lights. Our first shots went well, and we moved on to our next location at Serafina, a lovely Italian restaurant nearby. We had permission to shoot there from 10a.m. to 3p.m. and we were able to (just barely) get all of our shots in. Andy was setting up shots near the bar while Amy was working with actors for the next shot in another part of the restaurant, and two other DPs shot different scenes simultaneously. Another crew member Damian Stonebreaker was busy making fake blood, while Janet and Becki prepared a pig’s heart for a scene. One of our actors, Scott, took bites of the raw heart. This is dedication to the craft. Do not try this at home. I took script notes, did the slate, held lights, moved gear, took pictures, and ordered lunch. Brian Nunes, our editor, was working the entire time to start to cut the film together. 

We then moved to an apartment nearby for the last part of the shoot. A friend of Becki’s graciously loaned us the use of her place from 4p.m. to 11p.m. We broke out the wine around 9p.m. and that helped things go smoothly. Kevin brought in more snacks and we refueled with carrots, celery, chips, and beef jerky. Brian kept editing as soon as he got new footage, and he, Andy, Kevin and Matt agreed to meet the next morning to finish the edit. Amy Enser was incredibly helpful with the final edit on Sunday, we got to use the great music of Catherine Grealish, and the film was turned in 15 minutes before the deadline on Sunday evening.

Our film was retitled CONVICTED, and we got to see it on the big screen at the Uptown Theater on July 16. It was a ton of fun to see the other films that had been made, and it’s always quite a thrill to see your name in the credits. While we didn’t win any awards, we have received a lot of positive feedback on our film, and we all learned a lot in the process. We’re ready to do it again next year!

The entire process was well organized, fun, intense, and we made a great short film. Watch CONVICTED, enjoy, and make your own 48 hour film. If you dare. 

Write On: Top Screenplay Editing Software

godfather screenplayYou are probably already aware that studio script readers won’t so much as skim your screenplay if it is improperly formatted. For those just beginning to test the waters of screen writing, making sure your screenplay follows the right conventions can be a chore. Here then, is a short list of programs that can help you get around this road block.

Final Draft

While Final Draft isn’t exactly cheap, some users would claim it’s still a bargain. The upshot of paying top dollar for a professional program like this is that the guarantee that it works and works well.

Final Draft offers a host of mobile apps that compliment their software, and is widely regarded as the industry standard for screenwriting tools.

The amount of features packed into this program might even be a little daunting at first, so Final Draft gets the recommend for intermediate to professional level writers.

Adobe Story

Adobe’s cloud based screenwriting program uses the freemium model of subscription. You can use it for free, but if you want the extra features you must pay. This makes it an good option for some, and at the very least an affordable option for others.

Because Adobe Story is cloud based, writing your screenplay on multiple platforms is easy. It’s all there, whether you’re working on your PC, tablet, or laptop. Like other programs, it includes tools for managing multiple collaborators.


While Celtx might not be the sleekest software out there, it might be the best open-source (read: free) option out there. Designed to compete with Final Draft and Adobe Story, it offers many similar features and automated formatting. Additional features such as storyboarding make this an good tool for anyone involved with pre-production, not just writers.

Don’t let all the bells and whistles distract you though. You can put together a perfectly formatted screenplay using only one: the editor.


Fountain isn’t software, but I’m putting it on the list because there’s a large population of folks out there who use it. In essence, Fountain is pure text. A few new syntax rules to learn, and you can start typing without having to fret over the formatting. Documents written in Fountain must be converted into a screenplay format, which can be done by importing the doc into one of the aforementioned softwares.

Seems like a little extra work, rather than less. Perhaps it is. Fountain users appreciate the ability to keep their fingers on the keys though, rather than take a break to fiddle with some peripheral tool. The ability to use any text editor, from Notepad to Google Docs, allows for a greater degree of compatibility and portability across platforms.


Did we skip your favorite screenwriting tool? Let us know in the comments, and join us for First Tuesday to learn more about what studio script readers looks for, and how to get that coveted “Recommend”

Highlight Reel: 7 July, 2013

Movie Reel and FilmAnother week has passed, and with it, another news cycle. We’ve got the rundown on the latest in film news from the past week so you can spend as much time as possible out in the sun… or at the movies! Without further ado, here’s a quick rundown of what’s new this week in the film industry…

That’s all we have for you this week. Did we miss any news stories of note? Have anything you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments below!

Sean Bean’s Most Delightful Deaths

220px-SeanBeanMar09Sean Bean always dies.

It’s a statement supported by 25 films, from the 1991 television series Clarissa to the 2007 thriller The Hitcher. Filmgoers have taken note, and the phenomenon has even inspired a Facebook page, “Let Sean Bean live thru an entire movie,” which has about 200 likes. The handful of comments includes such intellectual musings as, “LET THE MAN LIIIIIIVE!!!!” and “He lives through Bravo 2 Zero.” Sadly, all activity on the page seems to have come to a halt about six months ago.

Anyway, back to the man himself. Granted, he does survive in some of his movies. But how – and why – has he amassed such a collection of dying roles? Chalk it up to fate, his knack for playing villains, or some other mystery variable like earlobe width. Whatever it is, Sean Bean always dies.

Do you have a wealth of ideas for creative death scenes? How would Sean Bean’s life end in your film? Enroll in TheFilmSchool’s Summer Session of the 3-Week Intensive and figure it out!

1. The Field (1990)

Adapted from the 1965 play of the same name, The Field starts with a dead donkey and ends with a dead Bean. Tadgh McCabe (Bean) and his father, Bull, have had a complicated relationship ever since Tadgh’s brother committed suicide. In the end, Bull goes crazy and herds his cattle toward a cliff. Tadgh tries to stop him, but ends up getting pushed off the cliff by the stampeding animals. 

Death by cow – it’s a novel idea. 

2. Black Death (2010)

For some reason, I was eating when I first watched this YouTube video of Bean’s deaths. I was doing just fine until I got to the scene from Black Death. Here’s what happened: each of Bean’s arms got tied to a horse, and the horses started running in opposite directions. Bean was ripped apart, and I almost lost my lunch.

In an interview with Adam Woodward of Little White Lies, Bean explained that the scene was especially difficult to film because he would only allow one of his arms to be tied to a horse at a time. You know…just in case.

3. GoldenEye (1995)

GoldenEye features one of Bean’s most elaborate deaths. As a viewer, you think he’s going to die when he falls off of a satellite tower onto the dish far below – but he miraculously survives…until about two seconds later, when the dish blows up and falls on top of him. The fake-out factor, combined with the fact that this is a James Bond movie, puts this death near the top of the list.

4. Don’t Say a Word (2001) 

Bean plays Patrick Koster, the leader of a New York gang. Koster’s search for a $10 million gem eventually leads him to a graveyard, where he locates the treasure. Unfortunately for him, he also gets buried alive. 

5. Equilibrium (2002)

In Bean’s filmography, gun deaths are a dime a dozen. So, you might guess that Bean’s death scene in Equilibrium is nothing special. You’d be wrong. This time around, Bean holds a book of poetry in front of his face, and his enemy shoots him through that. Yowza. 

2596949_1334179176111.54res_386_3006. The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

As the noble Boromir, Bean was impaled by arrows from Orc archers. Boromir believed that dying was his rightful punishment for having previously tried to take the Ring from Frodo. His body was sent down the river in an Elven boat.

While not overly creative or surprising – arrows are a traditional weapon, after all – this death makes the list because Orcs were involved. How many frequently-dying actors can say they’ve been killed by Orcs? I can’t say for sure, but I’m going to hypothesize that it’s a pretty small number.

7. Scarlett (1994)

In this TV miniseries based on Alexandra Ripley’s novel by the same name, Bean was stabbed to death while sleeping. Talk about not even having a chance. 

8. Caravaggio (1986)

Bean plays Ranuccio in this story of the tumultuous life of Caravaggio, the Baroque painter. Caravaggio seduces both Ranuccio and his girlfriend, and Ranuccio ends up killing his girlfriend so that he can be with Caravaggio. Unfortunately, the artist then slits Ranuccio’s throat. The killing is so up-close and personal that it makes you imagine how that would feel. Ew.

Poor Ranuccio. Nobody goes into a love triangle expecting it to have a 66.67% death rate. 

9. Lorna Doone (1990)

Bean’s villain, Carver Doone, drowned in a swamp after a fight with the film’s protagonist. He should have seen that one coming – he had just shot the title character at her own wedding. It was bound to come back to bite him.

It’s interesting to note that one of Bean’s daughters is named Lorna. Granted, she was born before Lorna Doone was made, but it still seems odd that he opted to die in a movie with that name.

10. Henry VIII (2003)

If you know you’re going to be killed, you probably hope for at least a somewhat epic death. Something dramatic. Something a little showy. At the very least, you hope it’ll be relatively quick.

You don’t hope to be tied on a gate and left there to die. But that’s exactly what happens to Bean’s character in Henry VIII. He goes out slowly, in an anticlimactic way, and with no audience. As if dying wasn’t disappointing enough.

Check out even more Sean Bean death scenes in The Island (2005), Game of Thrones (2011), Outlaw (2007), Airborne (1998), Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (2009), Essex Boys (2000), Ca$h (2010), Patriot Games (1992), Clarissa (1991), War Requiem (1989), and The Hitcher (2007).

Think you could top the creativity of death by cow? Prove it! Enroll in TheFilmSchool’s 3-Week Intensive today. We’re only accepting applications for a few more days, so don’t wait!


Highlight Reel: June 30, 2013

Movie Reel and FilmHappy Sunday, film folks. I  hope everyone’s been getting out and enjoying the sun this weekend. This week marks the end of an era (of sorts) as Google Reader shuts down. Reader has been a staple of the highlight reel process, and will be sorely missed as we migrate to Feedly for our RSS needs. All that’s boring and technical, though, so let’s get on with the news. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new this week in the film industry…

That’s all we’ve got for you this week. Do you have anything to add, or think we missed any news worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments below!

Highlight Reel: June 23, 2013

Movie Reel and FilmHello again, film fans. Hope you’re all doing well as summer progresses along. We’ve got a fresh batch of news for all of you this week, so give it a look through. If you haven’t already, also consider checking out the summer session of our Three Week Intensive, our flagship course. Without further ado, here’s a quick sampling of what’s new this week in the film industry…

Don’t forget, the application deadline for the summer session of our Three Week Intensive is fast approaching, and you can Sign Up Here!

That’s all we’ve got for you this week. Did we miss anything, or do you have something you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments below!