Who’d have thought a bunch of flowers could bring on a life long orgasm?
No – not that kind of orgasm. I mean a creative “climax” in a story.
Way back in the Jurassic history of our company, John Watson – my Trilogy partner – and I started our company by making short films.
Really short in some cases. We were hired to make two to three minute abstract visual filler material for the CBC.
The Canadian network bought TV shows from the USA where more commercials per hour were tolerated, leaving the CBC short a few minutes on their broadcasts, which they plugged with filmed fillers that they could just jump in and out of like wallpaper. The rule was: no story that needed to run to a finish.
I know, I am getting to the ORGASM stuff, trust me.
We made flat little films, like a day sailing, a day in the park… icicles dripping. And we were going to make a nice little movie on wild flowers blowing in the wind, dappling with sunlight.
And then I had an inspiration… What if we cut our flowers to the 1812 Overture? Tchaikovsky’s classic music that ends with cannons blowing off and church bells pealing?
John trimmed the overture to a tight 5 minutes and wove our fields and flower images to it. It started off seductively pastoral, and slowly built to the cataclysmic effects of real cannons and a whole orchestra belting out the triumph of war. The resulting combination of the power of the music and the synchronization of sunlight flashing and flowers zooming at the viewer like fireworks, was amazing! It was visceral, it made you want to cheer. I coined the term ‘orgasm’ to explain the effect.
The only problem was the CBC refused to buy the film… The impact was too successful. They said it had to be played in one piece and could not be cut away from. For them it told a story.
We were distraught – but strangely, the more we showed the movie the more we learned of its power. The film’s build to its climax moved people immensely. It got applause. Distributors volunteered to blow the movie up to 35mm and it played in paying theaters. Not just that, but critics reviewed the damn thing in the newspapers!
And we learned a lesson that we never let go of. Human nature instinctively values a powerful sense of completion. From then on, we never made a film that didn’t build to a catharsis. Our films won awards.
We consulted in Hollywood on films like Rocky 2 and Victory — films that ended with a peak of characters in a physical challenge. We noted movies like Jaws, Star Wars – even Avatar today, all saved the best to last and sent their audiences out of the theater dazzled.
And we never wrote a script that didn’t finish with its greatest emotions saved for the end.
We read a lot of script submissions. Too many stories that do not have that physical build, or a short story-like twist, or dynamic character completion.
It may sound crude — but a script without an orgasm — has less chance of getting made. And if it does get made, less chance of thrusting the audience out of the theaters eager to share their experience as word of mouth.
So. My third act advice – don’t let down your investment of time and love… make sure your story comes to a climax. So everyone can feel good!