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

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

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Memento/”Remember Sammy Jankis” 

Within Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, this line is repeated by lead character Leonard as he observes a tattoo on his body and tells the initial story to whoever he is talking to on the other end of the phone.

This leads to the core reveal at the end as we continue to learn more and more about who this Sammy Jankis is and what he has to do with Leonard and his situation.

Poltergeist/The Stuffed Clown and the Old Tree

In the opening scenes of this classic film, we are introduced to the Freeling family as they adjust to their new house. Robby, the middle child, clearly has some fear issues with two objects within the house—a stuffed clown and an old tree that looms over his bedroom window. The visuals of each are featured a couple of times, clearly setting up a the tension of what is to come.

And then we have the payoff of each.

Raiders of the Lost Ark/ “Snakes…”

Another one of the best plant and payoff examples in cinematic history. Indy, after escaping a bunch of natives in the opening, jumps into the plane as it flies away. He sees a snake in his lap and is terrified? “I hate  snakes… I hate ’em!”

This leads to that cringing sequence when Indy is forced to deal with thousands in order to get to the Ark and to escape what would be his eventual tomb.

Rain Man/ “You’re the rain man?”

This is an example of a story point—in this case an earlier line of dialogue—acting as a pivotal plant and payoff. We learn that Charlie’s early childhood memory of “The Rain Man” that he brings up early on actually wasn’t just a story.

This payoff begins Charlie’s journey into further connecting with his brother.

The Shawshank Redemption/A Rock Pick and Rita Hayworth

The two main items that Andy asks Red for early on in the film are a rock pick and Rita Hayworth.

Red initially believes that Andy wants the rock pick to escape his cell. He then learns that Andy plans to use it to carve out a chess set from rocks. Later on, we don’t know if Andy’s Rita Hayworth request is literal, figurative, or just a joke as the prisoners watch one of her movies.

Little did we know that these two requests would become the most vital part of Andy’s surprise escape.

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    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

  2. Avatar

    Tom Luca

    September 19, 2017 at 4:10 pm

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

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