Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Lessons from Step Up 3D

This weekend while we were supposed to be ravaged by Hurricane Tropical Storm A Lot of Wind Irene, I spent more time hammering out my latest WIP. I got tired of watching bad 90s television for background noise and decided I would see what entertainment On Demand had for me.

Don't judge
The first two movies in the Step Up franchise are among my guilty pleasures: awesome dance sequences, decent enough plots, and predictable love stories totally rock my world*.

Step Up 3 (as my On Demand called it) is part of a series of loosely-linked movies. It's also one of the first dance films using 3D technology, the first (as far as I can tell) is StreetDance 3D, released a few months prior. Today I'll focus on both aspects and how this applies to writing.

Whose story you're telling might change. You start your current WIP talking about Hunky Henry and his love of metal sporks, but somewhere in your drafting process you find out that Ginormous Jennifer is involved with both the Italian and Russian mafias, so you chase that plot bunny instead. When this happens, it's important that you go back to the start of your novel and revise accordingly, because we probably won't care about Hunky Henry in the long run.
Example a la Step Up 3: The movie starts with us seeing Moose (a secondary character from Step Up 2) starting NYU as an electrical engineer major. Moose has promised his father to stop dancing hence the major choice. Then Moose meets Luke and Luke's dance crew. When this meeting occurs, the storyline shifts to something that is more interesting which is Luke and his crew's story. Throughout the movie we see Moose, but not enough to warrant him being one of the first characters we see in scene.

Consistency matters. Writing a novel takes a long time, a series even longer. No matter which way you roll, there are certain things you have to remember. Did your antagonist have two minions or three? Did your heroine fail that make-or-break math exam? These small details help enhance your story.

Example a la Step Up 3: Moose and Camille are best friends and have been for years. According to Wikipedia, Camille is the adoptive sister of the main character from the original movie. She was never at MSA and all subtext in the movie hints that Moose's family is relatively well off. What I want to know is how these two met and became best friends because I seriously doubt that they ever went to the same school.

Write the story you want to write. You have a solid YA contemporary about a girl who lives on a llama farm. The llama farm is in danger of closing due to PETA hating on all things animal. The problem is these types of stories aren't hot right now so what if you make the story about a mergirl who is being raised by llama farmers? And that PETA threat is no longer about closing down the farm, but rescuing her?

Example a la Step Up 3: I watched the non-3D version of this movie, so all the effects that were created to see with the 3D glasses fell flat (literally). Every dance number had at least three moves where a member of the dance crew lunged head-on into the camera, designed to pop out at the viewer if they are wearing glasses. In non-3D land this detracted from the initial dance concept. It ruined the original vision.
Further Example a la Step Up 3: This is basically to support the above example. I present to you: THE TRAILER.

Have you learned any writing tips from movies lately? Is there a movie I should review? Do tell!

* Confession: if the movie involves dancing, I love it by default.
______ hit of the day: Lord of Hate by Death Angel


  1. Thank goodness Irene left most of you unscathed. I was getting worried about my east coast buds! I'm hating the 3-D trend in movies. It ruins so many of them because they're shot specifically for it instead of for plot and content. There is a good lesson there!

  2. Lots of wind Irene is right! Not complaining though.

    Here's what I find myself doing since I read Save the Cat - I analyze movies for their Midpoint, All is Lost, Catalyst, Break into Three, and B Story. These are the moments that seem to pop out to me in a good, engaging one.

    Sadly, the dancer in me has yet to see any of the Step Up movies. I want to see them just to watch Twitch and Joshua again from SYTYCD.

    Have a great week!

  3. Bleah 3d has stayed cliche and gimmicky in my opinion. I wish studios would stop wasting money on said CG and go back to normal focus on I don't know plot? Last few movies I've seen have been duds.

  4. Even in 3D I didn't think it was very good. The first two are guilty pleasures of mine as well :)

  5. Awesome review, I'm suddenly inspired to write about merpeople and llamas. Huh.


  6. You can learn so much from crappy sequels. I learned everything I know about writing from Live Free or Die Hard (although that was a kickass movie). I'm in your contemporary/mainstream group from the Platform-Building Campaign. Nice to meet you!
    -Miranda -- nice to meet another Chicagoan!

  7. As I told Alicia the other day, I actually watched the first thiry minutes of 'Step Up Two the Streets.' I hope she's proud of me, because I only watched because I knew she liked them LOL I really enjoyed the first dance number, but once cheesy plot and characters became involved, I lost interest.

    I also hate it when movies start off with one character and then the film takes a weird turn and isn't even about that person anymore, or the audience is lied to about who the star is. Dare I even mention D3: the Mighty Ducks. "starring" Emilio Estevez.

  8. nice post.. I just saw Adam Sevani this past Friday in a club Called LIV in miami beach florida.. He jumped up on stage with Chadd Smith and did a few dances! Check the video --->


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