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Ten Pages | Drive: The Midpoint

I By Laura Owen


"The midpoint is often a highly intense pivotal moment, twist, or reversal that re-energises the hero on his quest."

- Karl Iglesias


"This event divides the second act in half, providing much-needed structure in a portion of your story that’s so immense."

- Laura Schellhardt

"The midpoint scene divides the second act in half, creating a change of direction for the second half of act two while keeping that acts overall focus which was determined by the first turning point."

- Linda Seger

The midpoint is the moment that changes the dynamic of the film. It can usually be found in the middle of the story, typically serving as a bridge between the first and second half of the second act in a standard three-act structure. It's not used in every film, but when it is, it provides a necessary plot point in our protagonists journey. The second act is usually the largest act in a script contributing roughly half to the overall length. Having this shift, this dynamic change, in the second act brings new life and emotion to characters and their goals, as stated above. Fail to create a strong midpoint and you risk losing the attention of your audience, something you can't afford to do. Let's take a look at how to do this right.


We're going to be looking at the midpoint of the beautifully crafted film, Drive. The film is based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis and adapted for the screen by Hossein Amini. Drive stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Muligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, and was directed by the visionary Nicolas Winding Refn.


Just a little housekeeping before we begin:

  • There will be A LOT of spoilers moving forward.

  • Film is a collaborative medium. Once the script has been written many other creatives such as producers, directors, actors etc. become involved in the filmmaking process. As we will see, there are a lot of differences between the script and the final product. Evidently, we can’t pinpoint the exact reasons for any differences. However, we can observe and try and interpret them with the intention of learning something about the filmmaking process. In short, take it all with a pinch of salt and enjoy!


I highly recommend watching the movie before you continue if you haven't already. We're going to begin at 57m40s in the film and on page 51 of the script. At this point in the film Driver (Ryan Gosling) and Blanche (Christina Hendricks) have just narrowly escaped the hands of hitmen that were hired to kill them following a job going wrong. Driver's motivation for taking the job was to earn the freedom of Standard. Standard is the husband of Driver's love interest, Irene, and the father of their son Benicio, with whom Driver forms a close bond. During the job Standard is killed. Driver and Blanche have no choice but to flee resulting in them taking refuge in a motel room. Let's begin with scene 86...

PAGE 51


51.1 - Scene numbers are useful when your script goes into production. Notes can be communicated easily between the variety of filmmakers that collaborate on the production of the script. However, scene numbers are typically reserved for shooting drafts and will be added by production staff. This is subject to personal preference though, the majority of literature that I have read advises against it. A majority of authors summarise that scene numbers make the script look untidy and serve no purpose up until the script goes into production.


51.2 - This is the date on which this draft of the script was finished/submitted. Again, this is a tool for production purposes. It can be used beforehand to keep track of the many drafts you yourself write before submitting it to a production company, agent or studio, just be sure to remove it before you do.


51.3 - This is something you’ll see on the top and bottom of each page in this script. This isn’t a huge problem, like so many other formatting blunders, you won’t be black-balled from the film industry for including it. Writing ‘continued’ at the beginning and the end of each page is redundant. I’m aware the story hasn’t ended and I’m aware that I’m not at the very beginning. If it serves no purpose it shouldn't be there.


51.4 - Okay, so formatting is subject to preference. There are differences from book to book from author to author. You need to figure out what’s best for you and your story. In this instance, I would just cut to the next scene as if I were cutting to another scene. The reader is going to understand what’s been done as they’ve most likely seen a film before. However, it’s important to remember that this draft is in production at the time of writing. This formatting might have been adjusted for production reasons. The director may have already been attached and requested for this to be added. Be cautious and have a reason for formatting the way you do.


51. 5 - In the final cut Driver puts on his driving gloves before questioning Blanche. Almost as if the action is opening up another side of him. It’s a small indicator to the audience saying “Hey you, pay attention”, a useful tool in the back pocket of a writer.


PAGE 52


52.1 - This is a great way of showing the significant beat that’s happening. Cutting off the dialogue like that and moving straight toward the action clearly shows up what’s happening without wasting any time.


52.2 - This beat is quite different in the final cut. Driver is much more physically violent with Blanche in a way that really diversifies his character. His dialogue has been changed to make him more intimidating and threatening toward Blanche. Though both methods arrive at the same conclusion the choice Driver made in this scene (violence) has a lasting impression that’s important to character development. The choices your characters make say so much about them. Especially with quieter more stoic characters such as Driver.


52.3 - Both line’s were cut. The scene isn’t hindered without them. Play about with your dialogue, make it efficient and necessary. If it can be cut, cut it.


PAGE 53


53.1 - The small changes in action are most likely something that was changed during the filming. There will be many of these in every script. Change is something you should expect as a writer. As long as the overall tone, the overall feeling of a beat, a moment, a scene is how you want it to be, don’t sweat the small stuff.


53.2 - So the film ended this scene differently with one of my favourite shots in the film. Once Driver has shot the second hitman, blood from the impact cakes his face. The camera stays with Driver and lingers before he backs into the bathroom. It’s such a good shot full of life and emotion, its exposing and it was unscripted.


Screenplays are blueprints for film and this is a prime example of why. Create strong scenes with conflict and questions at the core of them. Create a bedrock for actors, producers, directors, cinematographers, wardrobe personelle, set design, artists, filmmakers to stand on top of and create emotion. That's why people go to the cinema. It's for these moments. Don't get bogged down with the specifics of the action.



53.3 - The next four scenes (89-93) are conveyed differently in the film. This could be something that was changed in the editing room. In the film scene, 89 is cut down to one shot. The shot establishes that Driver is calling Shannon (Bryan Cranston). That’s all it needs to do and if we take a look at the scene in the script that’s all it accomplishes. Everything it gives us on the page we already know, hence the reason it’s cut. Don’t underestimate your audience, they’re paying attention.



PAGE 54


54.1 - As previously mentioned this section of scene 89 was cut.


54.2 - These two expository scenes were cut because they’re trying to give us the information we don’t need; twice. In the final cut, we’re shown the doctor just working on Driver in the garage after we see Shannon answering his phone (see below). We know Driver called Shannon and Shannon called the doctor just like we know 2+2=4. You can give your audience much simpler information and allow them to put it all together.



PAGE 55


55.1 - So scene 93 wasn’t cut but it was changed quite a bit. The dialogue takes place in a different location without the presence of the underworld doctor. The doctor being there originally added instant conflict but his comedic undertone does slightly undermine the gravity of the situation. The comedy and the informality imply that this is a regular occurrence, though that might be true, it lessens the stakes. It puts all the characters in a place that they’ve been before, a place they survived, deflating the conflict. It’s ridiculous detail, but it matters. Read the scene and watch the one from the final cut (01:03:12) and see if you can feel the difference.


PAGE 56


56.1 - This scene was cut from the final cut. Let’s take a look and try to determine why. The point of the scene is to establish that Cook runs the strip club and that’s where Driver can find him. However cutting straight to Driver entering the strip club in pursuit of Cook, as they did in the final cut, accomplishes the same goal. This choice is obviously strengthened by Shannon mentioning that he’s going to ask Bernie about Cook AKA Chris (S93).


PAGE 58


58.1 - The first section of this scene was cut. You want the violence to impactful and purposeful. Driver uses it to get what he needs. He seems to be indifferent about it actually inflicting violence. It seems to be more of a tool to him rather than a vice. In the final cut, he breaks Cook’s hand with a hammer and that’s all he really needs to do. After that, he’s in control.


58.2 - In this final cut Driver threatens to hammer a bullet into Cook’s forehead. The bullet was given to Benicio by the men that attacked his father, Standard, the men that Driver is now hunting down. Driver’s motivation is to protect Irene and Benicio. The bullet works as a reminder of this motivation. It’s easy for the ‘why' to get lost in the narrative especially when our protagonist is so enigmatic, this is where symbolism can be very useful.


PAGE 59


59.1 - Try to avoid writing establishing shots into your script. Especially in the middle of a tense scene. It slows down the action on the page. As soon as we’ve seen the shot on screen we’ve got the setting. On paper, it takes too long to get the point across. Keep it all at the start of the scene.


PAGE 60


60.1 - This is a big moment in the story. The script needs to read clean and efficient. This is where formatting can come into play. Formatting can be confusing but finding the best to convey the tone and the pacing of a dramatic moment is really important to the flow of the script.


There you have it. These ten pages transformed the caring criminal that held Benicios hand to comfort him into a man that kills out of necessity and almost too easily. Whether the shift is good or bad is irrelevant. The shift is what we care about. It deepens the character and changes the dynamic of the story moving forward. We now know this story isn't going to be resolved with good communication and a handshake, it's going to be resolved with unforgiving violence. It changes the nature of the story thus far. It changes the tone. It's a useful tool for any writer to have. You can learn so much from comparing a script to its finished counterpart. Remember this is just one writers take on why some of these differences have occurred. Have a look for yourself, come to your own conclusions. However, take care to remain as open as possible. So much of what we can conclude is based on interpretation.


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Reading piles of scripts will help you as a writer but tearing a script apart and questioning everything from formatting to dialogue to character to the structure will elevate you as a writer. That's what Ten Pages is about, we want to look at some of the best scripts, some of the worst, and everything in between to take the study of screenwriting to the next level.

Thank you for reading and come back soon!











REFERENCES:


- SEGER, L. (2010). Making a Good Script Great. 3rd Ed. California. Silman-James Press.

- Schellhardt, L. (2008). Screenwriting For Dummies. 2nd Ed. New Jersey, USA. Wiley Publishing, Inc.

- IGLESIAS, K. (2005). Writing For Emotional Impact. California. WingSpan Press.

- Drive. 2011. Streamed Online. Nicolas Winding Refn. USA. Bold Films. OddLot Entertainment. Marc Platt Productions. Motel Movies. 09.04.2021.

- AMINI, Hossein. Drive. Unpublished Manuscript. 2010. pg 51-60

 

Laura Owen is a screenwriter based in Manchester, with a particular interest in thrillers. Laura is a graduate of Falmouth University’s Writing For Script and Screen masters programme.

Twitter: @Laura_Owen2

Insta: Laura_owen24



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