Review — Story Break

In my quest to get caught up on all the podcasts I want to listen to (5/9 done!) I’ve been listening to a lot of Story Break, RocketJump’s podcast where three screenwriters try to adapt a famous or unadaptable concept into a TV series or movie. Throughout each one-hour episode they take a concept and flesh out what the narrative of that story should be. Each episode is basically a huge brainstorming session as if they actually had the rights to these properties.

Their second episode is about giving Jar Jar Binks his own movie, and their first rule was that they wanted to make a movie that redeemed the character instead of it being one of those trash movies people pay to see because it will be so bad.

I’ve watched roughly two-thirds of the episodes that have aired so far, and I love the podcast for two reasons. The first is their primary goal—very often, they (seem to) do a really good job and plot out a movie I would love to go watch. Obviously a screenwriter’s vision isn’t necessarily what ends up on the big screen, but you get the idea. Their knowledge of the narrative structure is pretty solid, so it isn’t a question of whether they can forge a good plot, it’s whether or not they can hold true to the original ‘feel’ of the thing they’re drawing from. If they’re making a movie about Monopoly, they aren’t just plugging in the keywords, they’re trying to make something that feels like a live action game of Monopoly. They don’t always knock it out of the park, but the constraint of staying true to the origin is admirable.

The second amazing thing about this podcast is the side effect (intentional or otherwise) of drawing the audience into the brainstorming session by drawing from media and concepts that they are already familiar with. It means that I can have my own ideas spinning around in my head and be ecstatic when they get to the same ideas, or I can be amazed when they come up with this idea or plot thread I hadn’t thought of. It isn’t as though they’re making things up because they’re drawing from established “universes” (if you can call the collective Kellogg’s brand cereals an EU).

I’m really enjoying the podcast because brainstorming and pulling together plots is something I love doing. I won’t get into it here, but it taps into that strange contradiction where I hate outlining my own stories but love plotting in general. Seeing these guys have fun doing it is an inspiration, and it is a good foundation for what outlining plot is. In later episodes they also act out elevator pitches (with sound effects and… acting… and everything).

Overall, it’s a great podcast. It’s a weekly, hour long podcast just like everything else, but they do a great job on an episode-to-episode basis. The one thing that I don’t like, and there probably is no fix for, is that when they fail to come up with a good story I’m really disappointed, and I feel like I’ve wasted that hour of my time. Trouble is, there’s no way to know beforehand if they fail, so you can’t just skip those episodes.

That doesn’t happen a whole lot, though. Maybe four times out of the forty episodes I’ve listened to.

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