• Anna Martini

Mad Max and Checkov's Gun

This week I'd like to mention a video from the amazing youtuber Lindsey Ellis. She talks about everything entertainment, and in the video "Planting and Payoff" she mentions my favorite movie: "Mad Max: Fury Road".

This movie was directed by George Miller, the same director of the entire franchise, 30 years after "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome". True to the character of Max, we see him thrust into other people's situation, grudgingly going along only because it will help himself, creating a bond, until finally actively suggesting a plan and helping them out.

Checkov's gun is a term used in reference to playwright Anton Checkov's words about how "One must never place a loaded rifle on stage if it isn't going to go off". This is used to refer to elements you introduce in your story, that will have importance later. "When an element is introduced ... it should pay off... and tie in with all the other elements" says Ellis.

One of the elements she talks about is Max's blood. It is presented multiple times, and we are told he's a universal donor, a rare commodity in a world of extremely sick people. He's used as a "blood bag" from the moment he's caught so when, at the end of the movie, Furiosa needs a blood transfusion, we all know what needs to be done.

Ellis reminds us to "Plant elements early and eventually pay them off in a way that doesn't feel obvious or contrived. It needs to make sense and it needs to be organic".

Another awesome example in the movie, that shows not only good planting and payoff but great writing, is the Silver Spray. We know nothing of this world, and some information will need to come through exposition, but not all of it. Good understanding comes from seeing actions and the reactions of people to them. The silver spray is presented in the movie without any verbal explanation. We see a warrior fatally wounded, and all elements of the film: the music, the characters who look at him, make it clear this is something important to pay attention to, and we find out that the "silver mouth spray signifies that a pseudo religious suicide mission is about to take place, the Witness call and response imparting that to these guys this is the most badass thing ever" (Ellis).

Take the movie "Alien", for another example. Ripley is showing how she can operate a loader and, at the climax of the movie, she fights the Alien with it. If that planting hadn't happened, her operating the machine would be considered a Deus Ex Machina, a solution that comes out of nowhere or "from God", since we (the audience) weren't shown the character could do that.

Watch Ellis' full video below, and follow her channel if you like her content. I feel like it's a must for all entertainment enthusiasts, it has great information in a very entertaining way.

#screenwriting #filmmaking #madmaxfuryroad #plantingandpayoff #editing

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