Screenwriters would have you believe that they track the Action Line for a story much more rigorously. There any SO many example of how a story should track – from a Basic 3 Act to a 22 point squence and everything in between.
Blake Snyder has summarised the key stages in a useful flow chart in his book ‘Save the Cat’ – and I thought it might be interesting to see how the Action Line for the Michael Clayton screenplay fits into the proforma outline which is available here: http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools
Here goes. Please note – this is ONLY the Action Plot line. No layers. No complexity. Just story moving forward. And the Sheet is based on a screenplay = 110 pages = 110 mins on screen.
THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET: MICHAEL CLAYTON
|Theorypg no.||Stage||Actual pg no.|
|1||Opening Image||1||Kenner, Bach and Ledeen office block – at night.Long corridors. Photocopiers.Voice over from Arthur Eden.|
|5||Theme Stated||5||Karen Crowder crouched in the ladies room trying and failing to prevent a panic attack.Cut to Chinatown casino.|
|12||Catalyst||9-16||Michael Clayton called to help a client. Reveals – he is a miracle worker lawyer. A fixer. And he knows local people.Pg 16. his car explodes-twice. And he is alive.|
|12-25||Debate||17-27||4 days earlier.Zabel and Michael in the restaurant, selling off the assets.Michael at work in his office- fixing, covering up. Muliple projects and issues. There is a possibility of a merger in his firm.|
|25||Break into Two||27-30||Karen Crowder rehearsing for a video interview when she is interrupted.Barry Grisson tells Michael that Arthur Edens has just stripped down naked in a deposition room.|
|30-55||Fun and Games||30-45||Michael talks to Arthur at the police station. Reveal – he is a manic depressive who has not taken his medication.They go to a hotel and Michael meets up with Karen Crowder.Reveal – Arthur was the litigator in a 3 billion dollar class action suit against her company. She needs reassurance. And does not get it.|
|55||Midpoint||46-57||Karen has Arthur’s briefcase and has found the report with the evidence that the company is guilty. She calls Verne. A specialist.Next day she shows the report to Michael’s boss, Marty Bach. They know now that Arthur was turning the case against them.Arthur escapes. Marty tells Michael that he needs to be contained. Out of the picture.|
|55-75||Bad Guys Close In||58-64||Verne’s assistant taking photos inside Arthur’s apartment. Bugging the phone.They listen as Arthur calls one of the farmers who was damaged – Annie. Promises that he will get justice for them.|
|75||All Is Lost||64-78||Michael goes to see Marty at his house and asks him for a loan. Marty tells him that Arthur was making a case against the client instead of for them. He can have the loan IF he sorts out Arthur.Michael finds Arthur and talks to him in the street –he has no legal authority in New York to force him to take the drugs/get help. Arthur realizes that his phones are bugged.Arthur starts reading out the contents of the report down the phone. Knowing they are listening. Verne calls Karen.She asks him to proceed and contain Arthur.|
|75-85||Dark Night of the Soul||78-86||Michael take Henry to a family birthday party for his father. Reveal – his father and brother, Gene, are cops. His other brother, Timmy, is the addict.At the same time, Verne and Iker hit Arhur’s apartment and kill him, making it look like an accident. Michael gets the call in the car coming back from the party.|
|85||Break into Three||86-91||Michael talking to the cops at the precinct. Nothing suspicious.Later in the bar, at impromptu wake, he hears that U/North have settled – they are working on the deal all night.Then he calls Anna to tell the bad news – only she is not at the firm, she has come to New York where Arthur was going to pick her up.|
|85-110||Finale||94-101||Michael realizes that something is badly wrong – nobody knew that Anna was coming to the city. Maybe his phone was tapped after all – not just paranoia.
He persuades his brother to get him access to the apartment. Clear that he has not planned to kill himself.Michael finds receipt for photocopies of the report.Verne tells Karen that Michael also now has the report.
|101-107||Marty pays Michael a bonus of 80k and a 3year contract to forget about Arthur.Michael pays off Zabel for the restaurant.Verne and Iker examine the bomb.|
|107 -116||Back to the opening.Michael in the casino.Karen fighting off the panic – she has just sanctioned another hit.Verne and Iker have to rush planting the car bomb.Verne and Iker track his car, follow him and wait until he stops then blow the car up.|
|110||Final Image||116-126||Karen giving presentation to the board. They have a deal.Michael is waiting for her outside. They battle. He dominates her until she agrees to buy him out. Recording everything.He walks away. Police rush in.Final Image. He is alone in the cab.|
The screenplay contains 2 deleted scenes which were shot and on the DVD. I have not changed the page count.
I must say. I am impressed. This is a Keeper.