Read Shockya.com's exclusive interview with screenwriter and producer Todd Klick, whose new book, ‘Something Starling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs To Know,’ is now available in paperback from Michael Weiss Productions. The book offers a minute-by-minute breakdown of classic and contemporary films, and is the first source that reveals the techniques that drive successful movies. Klick also describes how he first realized that all acclaimed films utilize these techniques at the exact same minute, regardless of what’s happening in the plot; for example, at minute 8, in such movies as ‘The Matrix,’ ‘Jaws,’ ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sixth Sense,’ something starling happens. The writer discusses with us, among other things, what his motivation in writing the book was, and how he realized that all films share the same minute-by-minute components.
Written by: Karen Benardello
ShockYa (SY): In ‘Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs To Know,’ you offer a minute-by-minute breakdown of classic and contemporary films. What was your motivation in writing the book?
Todd Klick (TK): Oh, it was to make myself a better writer. I used to break movies down, genre-by-genre, on whatever screenplay I was working on at the time. I’d break them down with a yellow legal pad, and play the movie on a DVD player, and then write down what was happening with every scene. I’d write paragraphs, explaining them. It was during that process that I realized (movies were using the minute-by-minute technique). I broke down about 300 successful movies, and I realized that with certain lines on my legal pad paper, the exact same things were happening across the board, story-wise. I found this very, very interesting, and I realized they were happening at certain minutes, too. This was something in the screenwriting books that I read, and I read quite a bit, and I just found this fascinating. So I started breaking movies scene-by-scene, and minute-by-minute.
SY: Do all genres take part in sharing the same components minute-by-minute?
TK: Yeah, that’s what I found really interesting. Minute-by-minute, the foundation of all movie stories, if they’re good, they’re doing the exact same things, story-wise. It’s the base of everything. It’s set in stone, it’s cemented there, and placed. Great writers take these beats, no matter what genre they’re doing. In the book, I show how ‘Halloween’ is doing the same thing as ‘Jaws’ and a Woody Allen comedy. They’re all doing the exact same thing, which I found very exciting. Once I found these beats, I knew what the masters are doing, and now I can my own thing, in my original voice. Then I can put all my focus into making that page better and original. It gave me more focus.
SY: Do you feel the minute-by-minute component benefits movies?
TK: Oh, my gosh, most certainly. It really helped my screenwriting, because up until that point, I wasn’t getting through with screenplays yet. When I started applying these beats, doing the same beats as the great storytellers were doing, my screenplays started shooting up to the top of contests. My first one went to the quarters of the Nicholl Fellowship. The one after that, I made the finals at the Page (International). My screenplays after that all got optioned. I got a manager. In addition to that, I just did a deal, two deals, in the past few months. I’m simply following the beats, and just doing what the greats are doing.
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