Writing a Successful Thriller

Based on the innovative Story-Type Method®, this workshop explores how to develop a successful thriller, either for film or TV. To make the most of the course, the films Gravity (A. Cuaron), Misery (R. Reiner), Falling Down (J. Schumacher), Traffic (S. Soderbergh), and Gone Girl (D. Fincher) should be watched before the workshop.

On the first morning, we’ll discuss how to design each project according to its story-type, and we’ll also explore how managing information is crucial in thrillers, especially to generate identification and suspense.
  • The difference between a thriller, a suspense story, a mystery, a whodunit, a crime/detective story, a chiller: if you’re selling a thriller, make sure you deliver a thriller!
  • The three types of terror: terror, horror and gross out. Which one should we be looking for in a thriller?
  • Horrifying (horror/disgust/violence/gore), Thrilling (terror/fear/suspense/pace), Chilling (scares/atmospheric) or Puzzling (confusion/paranoia/mystery): from visceral to cerebral, where do you set the dial?
  • Different types of thrillers: psychological, sci-fi, action, horror, revenge, mystery, spy, conspiracy, crime, dystopian and eco-thrillers, just a few of the many sub-genres. What do they all have in common?
  • Which story-type is almost always used for thrillers and why?
  • How to make the most of Maslow and get a thrilling M-Factor?
  • Thrillers and budget: everything is possible!
  • High concept and fear: Can you pitch two thrills with one line?
  • Anatomy of a thriller, or how we generate, sustain and escalate the essential elements of a thriller: emotional identification, anxiety and frustration, tension and suspense, pity and fear, hope and anticipation, terror and horror.
  • A good set-up, or how to design a thrilling opening sequence.
  • The Cold Start: a very efficient way to open a thriller.
  • The Teaser Flash-Back: another popular hook, even if it’s becoming a bit of a cliché.
  • The protagonist: Why we have to care about the characters, especially in a thriller; internal obstacle or need to grow/change? What does the protagonist want, and what does the protagonist fear? How does the inner fear make reaching the outer goal more difficult?
  • The antagonist: Why do we need to fear the opposition? How do we avoid cardboard villains and create strong, believable, motivated, thrilling antagonists?
  • Thrillers and craft: McGuffin, Red Herring, Cliffhanger, Plot Twist, Mid-Act Climax and Encore Twist
  • Managing conflict: How do we design a thrilling storyline, and how do we break it up into thrilling scenes and sequences? How do we keep the pace up?
  • Managing information: using dramatic irony to generate suspense; raising the stakes with surprises; making sure mystery doesn’t kill suspense or prevent identification.
  • Designing a thrilling climax: How to avoid an anti-climax or a deus ex machina; how to deliver a satisfying final twist; how to avoid late exposition.

Over the following day and a half, we’ll look at casestudies in different thriller sub-genres. Although most thrillers tend to beplot-led by nature, we’ll see how we can develop character-led or theme-led thrillers,as well as hybrids or exceptions.

Workshop in englischer Sprache in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Creative Europe Desk München und mit freundlicher Unterstützung des FilmFernsehFonds Bayern.

Emmanuel Oberg
Emmanuel Oberg is a screenwriter, author and script consultant with more than twenty years of experience in the Film and TV industry. After selling a first project to Warner Bros as a co-writer, he went on to be commissioned by StudioCanal and Gold Circle before writing solo for Working Title / Universal and Film4.

4. und 5. Juli 2018, 10-18 Uhr

Dozent(en): Emmanuel Oberg

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