Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - English

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Faculty Sponsor Name

Anna Weinstein

Disciplines

Film and Media Studies | Screenwriting

Abstract (300 words maximum)

The murder mystery is a centuries-old story format, and its evolution in film within the recent decades has been an interesting phenom to witness. The best ‘Whodunnits’ always begin with its key element: the screenplay. The 2019 film Knives Out has a screenplay written by the film’s director, Rian Johnson. This was a completely original story with an age-old genre formula, and it wowed audiences through word-of-mouth buzz to make over 300 million in the box office, without the help of any pre-existing IP. In this research presentation, I examine how Zack Snyder's story beats from his screenwriting book Save The Cat fit the structure of Knives Out (2019) and its script. Through the use of this story structure guide, I highlight how Rian Johnson used both the genre itself and tried and true screenwriting techniques to make a known story fresh to present-day film audiences. Rian Johnson created a colorful cast of characters and an empathetic protagonist to play out his narrative, and through the use of rearranging and restructuring these story beats, he preserved the heart of what makes a good ‘Whodunnit’ while wow-ing viewers who already know what to expect.

Project Type

Poster

How will this be presented?

Yes, asynchronously via recorded video upload

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WHODUNNIT: A Screenplay Analysis of Knives Out (2019)

The murder mystery is a centuries-old story format, and its evolution in film within the recent decades has been an interesting phenom to witness. The best ‘Whodunnits’ always begin with its key element: the screenplay. The 2019 film Knives Out has a screenplay written by the film’s director, Rian Johnson. This was a completely original story with an age-old genre formula, and it wowed audiences through word-of-mouth buzz to make over 300 million in the box office, without the help of any pre-existing IP. In this research presentation, I examine how Zack Snyder's story beats from his screenwriting book Save The Cat fit the structure of Knives Out (2019) and its script. Through the use of this story structure guide, I highlight how Rian Johnson used both the genre itself and tried and true screenwriting techniques to make a known story fresh to present-day film audiences. Rian Johnson created a colorful cast of characters and an empathetic protagonist to play out his narrative, and through the use of rearranging and restructuring these story beats, he preserved the heart of what makes a good ‘Whodunnit’ while wow-ing viewers who already know what to expect.

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