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Sweet Home Alabama

- went to see it last night.(Dec 2002). Very good. No doubt for all you American types, this film has probably been on release for several months. It's been out here in the UK for about a month, I think. It was a nice & relaxing, pleasant kind of movie. And it had, for me, the appropriate ending that a movie of this kind should have - the right one.

Several years ago I embarked on a self learning procedure for writing movie screenplays. It all started out because I would visualise scenes/action/ dialogue in my head. I then began to write this stuff down, but in a long hand format - just describing what I was thinking. As you can imagine - this was v....e....r....y long. Finally, I used to divide a sheet of paper down the middle, and have 'dialogue' down one side and 'action/description' down the other. This sufficed to satisfy my image-to-paper fetish, but it didn't quite qualify as a 'screenplay'. Then one day.................
I came across a book entitled "Writing Screenplays That Sell" by Michael Hauge. As many a book review will tell you, this is possibly the best book ever for teaching you how to write a screenplay from scratch. It allowed me to take my incomprehensible gibberish and convert it into a commercial viable movie screenplay. It took me about 1.5 yrs to complete. This was whilst working full-time, and moving on a couple of occasions. And y'know what it's like trying to motivate yourself to write after a hard days slog. But enough about the book, (just buy it if you're thinking of writing a screenplay), and back to the plot........
One of the main lessons I learnt was that a movie  is basically in Three Acts:

  • Establish - setting,characters, situation, and our heros 'outer motivation' - that's a screenplay writer's techie term for 'why we think the guy is doing what he's doing'.
  • Build - hurdles, obstacles, conflicts, suspense, pace, humour, character development & character revelations.
  • Resolve - everything, particularly our heros outer motivation & any conflict for our hero.
And as your standard movie is 90mins long, these three stages are approx. 30mins each. Armed with those basic facts alone, you can now go about analysing every movie you see. At the time when I was writing the screenplay I studied a lot of movies in this way. Nowadays, it becomes a bit of an obsessive compulsion. So bear this little fact in mind:
  • If you're 35mins into watching a movie and you still don't know what the hell is going on.....
- leave now. It's likely to go tits up very soon, and you'll be wondering why on earth you spent all that time trying to find a parking space in the first place. (And no - don't kid yourself that you still had a good time because this is the only place in town you can get a giant bucket of popcorn!).   

"Sweet Home Alabama" is not one of these movies. It does have it's writing faults, and the plot isn't perfect. But if you want a genuine 'good feel' movie that makes you laugh, cry and pass away an hour or so in someone else's love life traumas - then this is the one for you. And above all - it has a really nice ending :)


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