First Draft: Best “Plant and Payoff” Scenes Screenwriters Can Learn From

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Die Hard/”Fists with your toes” 

This is more of a subtle example. John McClane is told by a fellow passenger, after noticing that John doesn’t like flying, that he should walk on the carpet barefoot and make fists with his toes—helps with the jet lag.

A small throw away comment leads to a classic scenario and sequence where John, as the building is being attacked by terrorists, must survive with no shoes after taking this advice. Then Hans says, “Shoot the glass” during a firefight (knowing from their previous encounter that John doesn’t have shoes).  John escapes, but he’s terribly wounded as he pulls glass from his bleeding foot.

The Deer Hunter/Russian Roulette

We have the iconic and horrifying Russian Roulette scene within the Vietnam War storyline.

They essentially beat the game and prevail, escaping the prison camp.

But in the end of the film, after Michael finally finds his lost friend Nick that never returned from the war after they were separated after their escape, we see the true impact that was foreshadowed—with a more fatal and heart-wrenching result.

Finding Nemo/Walk to School

Marlan and his son Nemo, while on the way to Nemo’s first day of school, discuss sharks and the age of sea turtles.

Marlan, while later on a quest to find his son, eventually encounters and later befriends a shark and sea turtle, and he also later learns how old sea turtles can live to be.

These are just two examples of the plants you can find embedded in that walk to school sequence. What else do you see?

Jaws/Air Tanks

Brody, Quint, and Hooper are off to sea, ready to hunt down a great white shark that has been terrorizing a vacation island. Quint watches with a smile as Hooper loads his high tech equipment, which includes scuba diving air tanks.

Along their voyage, Brody pulls a wrong knot, sending the air tanks tumbling as Hooper scolds him, followed by a warning of how dangerous those tanks really are—they could explode.

This leads to one of the greatest cinematic payoffs we’ve seen on the big screen.

Jurassic Park/Grant’s Bad Luck with Technology

In the beginning of the film, and peppered throughout, we see Dr. Grant’s apparent bad luck with anything related to electronics, computers, technology, etc.

https://youtu.be/wC2fgUHRe9M

This leads to all of the events that happen on that island, with the power going down, the security system on the fritz, etc.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom Luca

    September 19, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Oh you know? I didn’t know there was five pages! Love them all!

  2. Tom Luca

    September 19, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Love this! Great choices of films to use as examples. Especially Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Thank You for sharing Ken and MovieMaker Magazine

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