by Tom Benedek
More applause for Gravity, please. In addition to being a massive hit worldwide — a movie movie — an IMax 3d spectacle with eye-popping CGI, and a big awards contender, As such, this type of script is not a practical genre for a spec script.
But Gravity is much more than this — it is also a small and intimate character piece. Gravity modulates brilliantly between its small quiet moments, the internal ruminations of its protagonist and the spectacle of space.
Gravity operates on its own terms while straddling time tested genres. Without any of the spectacle, if this film had been made DIY, using a packing crate for a space ship and black sheets with pinholes of light shining through for outer space, it still would have been a compelling film, a first class enclosed thriller.
Gravity modulates intimate character story with high impact life or death scenes of physical jeopardy. Writers Alfonso and Jorge Cuaron and filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron did not allow many obvious theatrical elements which could have easily been justified.
The Cuarons kept the faith with their simple film. Two actors on screen. One character alone for most of the film.
Special effects, cool space vehicles, vistas of amazing outer space realism modulate and enhance the storytelling. But those visuals will never make a movie work. It’s the story, the conflict, the characters.
Gravity is a story of survival. It is also, just as importantly, an exploration of character. The way the protagonist struggles with the most important personal issues of her life as she confronts the possibility of her own death is poignantly visceral, beautifully interwoven into the main conflict. This modulation of story strands has a thematic and dramatic unity which makes Gravity an amazing movie experience.
As writers, we often struggle with the meaning of our “character” story to the plot. Finding that unity, the best way to have one element amplify and enhance the other is something we may do instinctively. But sometimes, it may be best to step back and brainstorm, find the right issues of character story which really belong to the main conflict. A careful look at this and other aspects of the build of the Gravity script is a fascinating and enriching writer’s (reader’s, film viewer’s) journey.
Please do join me for more of this in my Writers Store Webinar, Gravity: Piece by Piece – The Chemistry and Physics of a Great Feature Script, that will be all about the screenplay of Gravity.
Tom Benedek wrote the screenplay for Cocoon, The Adventures of Pinocchio, and other films. In addition to teaching the craft of screenwriting, Tom has interviewed dozens of agents, managers, production execs, working screenwriters for his Network Hollywood class at ScreenWritingMasterClass.com. He has written screenplays for Robert Zemeckis, Lawerence Kasdan, Lili Fini Zanuck and Richard Zanuck, David Brown, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack, Richard Rush, Harold Ramis, Lauren Schuler Donner and Richard Donner, Ray Stark, and many more.
Screenwriting Webinar from The Writers Store
At a Glance:
- Through a careful studying of what makes the screenplay for Gravity successful, writers will expand their base knowledge of screenwriting, particularly character and film story development.
- Learn techniques for elevating elements of setting, characters, and nuanced spectacle, all of which are handled wonderfully in both the script and motion picture — Gravity.
- Explore how Gravity entertains, fascinates, thrills and breaks intriguing new ground — cross-fertilizing the rules of the blockbuster with the basics of a bare bones, ultra low budget enclosed thriller.