The story premise is the leading force behind what we do in real life. In storytelling, the Premise of the concept that leads the plot and the characters in the story.
The most significant advantage of the story premise is that it helps you understand your story and your main character a lot better- Why is your main character acting the way it is? Why doesn’t it give up? What’s it desires? What’s the source of its obstacles? And Why does he having a hard time overcoming them? Once you’ll answer those questions, you will know the core of your story better.
When looking for a story premise it is essential to understand that you can’t judge a premise by the idea itself. The Premise is ruled by the way the director translate the idea to film. The Premise has to enter the viewer’s mind without him noticing it.
All good premises are built from 3 essential parts:
I will talk about these three things later on in my blog, but for now, you need to know that your Premise will dictate those three elements. Once you find your Premise, your characters are not free anymore. They need to serve that Premise. Everything in the story- the characters, the conflicts, and the actions should arise with the screenwriter’s Premise.
Usually, you should be able to sum your Premise up in 2 or 3 sentences. If you can’t, then it’s probably not accurate enough. Ask yourself what your story tell us that we have to know, what’s the point of this story? At first, you can start by formulating it as a question- for example- “Doe’s love wins it all?”
On the other hand, you have to make sure your Premise is not too obvious. We still want to entertain them.
There is another important element to consider when writing the Premise, and it is the script writer’s point of view. It may sound like a not important thing to deal with, but trust me- it is! First of all, If you don’t have anything you want to say, why do you want to work on this art form? There are many other better ways to make money. But more important, your unique point of view is what can make your movie an original one. In this film directing course online, we talk about delivering your message. I recommend reading the find your own voice article to understand how to find your own point of view.
The theme doesn’t always have to be a very important one about mankind, it depends on your way of seeing the world, but every story has to have one. In my opinion, a movie should never be judged by his Premise, but, by the way, he proves his Premise in the movie.
The Premise is usually the next step after the idea, although sometimes it becomes clearer after writing a few drafts.
Once you find your Premise, I recommend writing it in a small piece of paper and putting it somewhere in front of you while you are writing the story.
In the movie A Clockwork Orange, the story premise is, “Can we define goodness and evil with esthetics?” The answer, according to the movie, is NO. We see it best in this scene:
In this scene, the hooligans are breaking into the old couple’s house, beat the husband, and rape his wife. For me, This is one of the most violent scenes in cinema’s history. Kubrick plays an evil game with us. He wants us to feel ambivalent about this scene.
So how does he do that? With colors!
The scene before has very gray colors. When we get used to the gray, blue, cold, and dead colors, we move on to the next scene. Now, we are in a house with lots of warm lights, and the camera is very stable. We feel good about this scene. We are set to start the ambivalent feeling.
Another good example will be the movie Rumble Fish. This is the most important scene in the film. Can you guess why?
So how does Francis Ford Coppola tells us to pay attention to the scene? First of all, the name of the film is Rumble fish, and Rusty’s brother is talking about rumble fish, but also, this is the only scene with some color in it. In this scene, Rusty James meets his biker brother in front of an aquarium in the local pet store. Rusty asks if everything is alright, and his brother tells him to look at the fish. He explains to Rusty that the two tanks are separated because if they are together, they will fight themselves. The brother tells the officer that the fish belong in the river – “I don’t think they’ll fight if they will be in the river.” and this is the big question of the film- the great story premise, “Will they fight if they are free?”. The film premise is, “Are we, humans, evil by nature, or does society makes us that way?”
Your homework now is to take a look at some of your favorite movies (choose at least 5) and find out what the story Premise is. Not only you need to find it out, but you will also need to prove it through the film. How does the film project this Premise? I really recommend doing this homework, and if you want to send it to me I’ll be glad to read it