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INCEPTION, SCI-FI THRILLERS

AND NON-LINEAR WRITING


LEARNING FROM THE MASTERS SERIES 2014
SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

British-born screenwriter/director; married to


producer Emma Thomas and has three kids; lives in LA
Born July 30, 1970 Started making short films using
his fathers Super 8 camera at the age of 7
His second feature film Memento (2000) earned Best
Original Screenplay nominations from both the
Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards;
Inception(2010) won both best picture and best
original screenplay at the Academy Awards
His reboot of the Batman movies have been critically
acclaimed and are world-wide successes; The Dark
Knight grossed more than $1 billion worldwide
Nolan doesnt like CGI in movies and purposely
avoided it in Batman Begins; prefers shooting on film
stock over digital
Learned about film by shooting and doing sound for
training videos; his first feature, Following (1998),
was shot for $6,000; he raised money for Memento
at film festivals showing Following.

Heros Journey
12. Return with the Elixir

11. Resurrection

1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure

Act Three

Act One

4. Meeting
the Mentor
5. Crossing
The Threshold

10. The
Road Back

9. Reward and
Seizing the Sword

3. Refusal
of the Call

6. Tests,
Allies and
Enemies
Act Two

8. Ordeal, Death and Rebirth

7. Preparing
and Approach

INCEPTION
- THE HEROS JOURNEY
Act One

Ordinary World: Cobb (protagonist) and Arthur are corporate espionage agents
who enter dreams and steal secrets; They fail to extract info from Saito, a
Japanese businessman, because of the intrusion of Cobbs dead wife, Mal; Cobb
is on the run from authorities and cant see his children;
Call to Adventure: Saito asks Cobb to do an inception on Robert Fischer, the
son of a dying business rival; Saito wants Cobb to plant the idea of dismantling
his dying fathers business into Roberts mind to eliminate competition;
Refusal of the call: Cobb says its too tricky, refuses; Saito offers Cobb the ability
to see his children as a reward and Cobb cant refuse the chance;
Meeting with the Guide: Cobb visits his father-in-law, Miles, who taught him
how to navigate peoples minds; Cobb needs a new architect who can create
mazes; Ariadne is introduced to Cobb;
Crosses the First Threshold: Cobb shows Ariadne the dream world; Ariadne sees
Mal and leaves the team;

INCEPTION
- THE HEROS JOURNEY (CONT.)
Act Two
Tests, Allies and Enemies: Ariadne returns; Cobb meets Eames, the forger, who projects
Fischers Godfather Peter Browning; Cobb is chased by agents of the corporation who wanted
Saitos secret and Saito saves him; a chemist, Yusuf, prepares a heavy sedative to enable 3
dream levels;
Preparation: Team discusses inception which is to be triggered by a synchronized physical jolt
once a certain song is played; Saito buys the airline that carries Fischer and his fathers body
to do inception during the long flight; Ariadne goes into Cobbs dream and discovers Mal is
imprisoned in his memories;
Approach to the Innermost Cave: Team enters Yusufs dream with Fischer (dream level 1);
Saito is shot but we learn that if he dies, he will end up in limbo; Eames, disguised as
Browning, tries to extract and plant information from Fischer; Ariadne learns of Cobbs past
limbo experiences and tells him he has to face his projection of Mal; Yusuf drives the van while
the team goes into Arthurs dream (dream level 2) at the hotel; Meanwhile, Yusuf drives the
van over the bridge to give the team a jolt back into reality; Cobb uses the Mr. Charles
approach and they enter Eames dream (dream level 3) in the snow-covered mountain to the
vault; Saito and Fischer go to the vault; Saito dies and goes into limbo;

INCEPTION
- THE HEROS JOURNEY (CONT.)
Ordeal: Fischer is at the vault but Mal shows up; Cobb fails to shoot Mal
who kills Fischer, who also drops into limbo; Cobb and Ariadne go into
Cobbs limbo where they meet Mal; Meanwhile, Yusufs van is about to hit
the water, so Arthur must create a jolt in zero gravity; he does this with
explosives in the elevator; Cobb tells Ariadne that he planted an idea of
questioning reality so that Mal and Cobb could leave limbo; unfortunately,
this idea made Mal believe that reality was not real and she killed herself;
Cobb tells Ariadne to leave; he has to find Saito; Ariadne pushes Fischers
body over the edge of a building; he wakes up in level 3; Ariadne jumps for
her own jolt back to reality;
Reward: Cobb realizes that his projection is not real and can move on;
Fischer enters the vault and finds a paper windmill from his childhood and
believes his father wants him to be his own man; inception has worked; all
three dream levels are triggered and everyone is back on the airplane;

INCEPTION
- THE HEROS JOURNEY (CONT.)
Act Three

The Road Back: Cobb lets Mal go; washes up on his own
subconscious ocean; finds an elderly Saito, who has been lost in
limbo;
The Resurrection: Cobb and a young Saito wake up on the airplane,
alive and not lost; Saito makes a call to arrange Cobbs reward;
Return with the Elixir: Cobb returns to his children who finally turn
around and their faces are shown; he twirls his totem (top) just to
make sure hes not dreaming; Nolan cuts before totem topples over
or does it?
Partially taken from: http://screenplay70.wordpress.com/

From
TheScriptLab.com,
actfourscreenplays.
com and
http://letsschmooze.
Blogspot.com/

A Thriller is a
genre that
revolves
around
anticipation
and suspense.

ELEMENTS OF A THRILLER
1. Crisis opening.
2. Protagonist is set against a problem an escape, mystery or
mission.
3. Set-ups and pay-offs; elements of the future
4. Grave consequences if the Protagonist does not succeed.
5. Master antagonist/great villain.
6. Audience is in the superior position; but depends on story.
7. Unexpected complication that subverts the audiences
expectations, usually around the mid-point.

From
TheScriptLab.
com and
CarltheCritic1
291.hubpages
.com

ELEMENTS OF SCIENCE FICTION

Sub-genre of thriller, fantasy or horror


Incorporates hypothetical science-based themes
First sci-fi film in 1902 Le Voyage Dans Le Lune by French filmmaker
Georges Mlies; B&W film depicts moon with rocket in its eye
1950s were the golden years of sci-fi films; The Day the Earth Stood
Still (1951), War of the World (1953); Pioneers Jules Verne and H.G.
Wells
Uses unusual heroes, villains, unexplored locations, fantastical quests
and advanced technology.
Themes include future-gone-bad storylines such as alien invasions,
dystopian scenarios and super diseases.
Often uses time travel into the past or future

NON-LINEAR WRITING
Christopher Nolan on non-linear writing: It really is a question of finding
the most suitable order for releasing information to the audience and not
feeling any responsibility to do it chronologically, just like we dont in life.
Non-linear writing involves using scenes or groups of scenes that tell parts
of the story outside of the chronological narrative.
Non-linear techniques include: flashbacks and asides, using mosaic
construction where the story jumps around from one time to another and
starting at the middle, then going back to the beginning, middle and end.
Examples: MEMENTO, PULP FICTION, USUAL SUSPECTS
Complaints: distracts from main building of conflict, dulls cathartic impact,
confuses audience, puts distance between the audience and the story
Rule No. 1: Use it only if its critical and organic to the overall narrative.

INCEPTION GROUP EXERCISES


In the script INCEPTION, some scenes are non-linear, which means
they do not follow the narrative chronologically. Identify three of
these scenes/set of scenes and discuss their importance to the story.
In good thrillers, the audience is given anchors, triggers or
bookmarks that help to keep the story straight. Identify one anchor,
trigger and bookmark, each, in INCEPTION and explain how they
impact the main story?
Identify three sci-fi characteristics in INCEPTION and discuss how
they fit the genre.