About the Book
In Screenwriting Unchained, Emmanuel Oberg busts many myths and sets out an innovative method
This practical, no-nonsense guide leaves behind one-size-fits-all story theories and offers a modern approach to story structure, making it a precious resource for anyone involved creatively in the Film and TV industry (or aspiring to be): writers, directors, producers, development execs, showrunners and, more generally, storytellers keen to reach a wide audience at home and abroad.
Having identified three main story-types – plot-led, character-led, theme-led – Oberg reveals in a clear, conversational style how each of these impacts on the structure of any screenplay, and how we can use a single set of tools to develop any movie, from an independent crossover to a studio blockbuster.
This leads to a powerful yet flexible way to handle the script development process: the Story-Type Method®. A new framework that doesn’t tell filmmakers what to write and when, but focuses instead on why some storytelling tools and principles have stood the test of time, and how to use them in the 21st century.
According to readers (see reviews below), Oberg’s new approach is a game changer.
Here are some of the easy-to-understand concepts explored in Screenwriting Unchained that will help you improve any screenplay
- How to identify the story-type of your project to make its development faster, easier and solve most story structure problems.
- How to leave behind the prescriptive, logistical three-act structure based on page numbers or minutes and replace it with a flexible, dramatic three-act structure that will help you design a rock-solid screenplay.
- How focusing on emotion, character development and managing information will allow you to go beyond the “protagonist–goal–obstacles–conflict” basic chain of drama.
- How to use the fractal aspect of structure to design not only the whole story but also its parts in order to avoid the dreaded "sagging middle" syndrome and breathe new life into your script.
- How to clarify what’s at stake and increase your chances of getting the project made with a new take on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
- How to use subgoals to Sequence the Action and psychological/emotional steps to Sequence the Evolution of your characters.
- How to keep the audience engaged using tools like dramatic irony, surprise, mystery and suspense, adding a third dimension to your storytelling.
- How to master these tools and principles in scenes through practical exercises before using them in a short film, a feature film, a TV episode or a whole series following hands-on tips and advice.
- How to design an attention-grabbing opening and a satisfying ending.
- How to deal with hybrids and exceptions, as story structure isn't about forcing all narratives into a single formulaic paradigm.
- With The Rewrite Stuff: 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay, how to approach a new draft creatively and efficiently.
- How to make the difference between selling documents – used to raise development or production finance – and story design tools.
- Once you've developed a killer script, how to best pitch your project according to its story-type and get enthusiastic partners on board.
- …and much, much more!
If you’ve ever questioned why screenplays should be structured in three acts, eight sequences, fifteen beats or twenty-two steps then this book was written for you. And if you never have, well… no time like the present!
Using many case studies including films as diverse as Gravity, Silver Linings Playbook, Crash, Billy Elliot, The Intouchables, Birdman, Alien, Groundhog Day, Misery, Edge of Tomorrow, The Secret in Their Eyes, Cloud Atlas, L.A. Confidential and The Lives of Others, Screenwriting Unchained will transform the way you write, read, pitch, design, assess and develop screenplays. Guaranteed!
About Emmanuel Oberg
Emmanuel is a screenwriter, author and script consultant with over two decades of experience in the Film and TV industry.
After selling a first project to Warner Bros as a co-writer, he went on to be commissioned by StudioCanal and Gold Circle before writing solo for Working Title / Universal and Film4.
He has also designed an internationally acclaimed 3-day Advanced Development Workshop – based on the Story-Type Method – which he delivers with passion to filmmakers all over the world.
Emmanuel lives in the U.K. with his wife and his two daughters. His film agent is Rachel Holroyd at Casarotto in London.
A few key points in Screenwriting Unchained
What Is Story Structure?
Oberg defines a good story as a metaphor for a problem-solving process.
Identifying where the main problem lies – outside the protagonist (in other characters or nature); within the protagonist; in society – leads to the Story-Type Method, which defines three main story-types: plot-led, character-led and theme-led.
This innovative way of looking at story structure works as well for a character-driven story as an action movie, a multi-stranded narrative or even hybrids and exceptions.
The Fractal Aspect of Structure
The three-act structure can be used to design not only the whole film but also its parts: acts, sequences, scenes, subplots, strands… This is one of the many differences between what Oberg calls the dramatic three-act structure and the logistical three-act structure, based on page numbers or minutes, such as the 30–60–30 paradigm. The dramatic three-act structure is more flexible, more powerful and is even optional, at least when it comes to designing the story as a whole.
Is Maslow Running the Show?
Oberg comes up with a completely new way of looking at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a well-known theory of human psychology, and explains how it can be applied to screenwriting.
This results in practical applications in relation to potential audience, genre, story-types and ultimately getting the film made.
It also leads to a powerful assessment tool called the M-Factor.
Bringing It All Together
In the last chapter, Oberg makes the distinction between selling documents and story design tools, explaining how to use well-known documents such as step outlines, beat sheets, index cards or treatments, but also less well-known tools such as relationships maps, strands maps or story structure frameworks. In The Rewrite Stuff – 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay, he offers a practical guide to the re-writing process, using twelve aspects of the Story-Type Method to check if a story engine is firing on all cylinders.