I always advocate learning more. Maybe good writing will rescue the movie bidness!
From Chapter 14 of The Screenwriter’s Roadmap: 21 Ways to Jumpstart Your Story: What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen? Push Your Protagonist to the Edge at the Climax. Learn more about the book.
by Neil Landau
The climax is the ultimate test. The protagonist’s facing his/her ultimate fear, and usually requires a final challenge of the character’s growth or change. A deep understanding of the needs, wants and fears that drive the hero allows for the creation of an “ultimate” test, action or crucial symbolic “graduation” that is the best fit for that particular protagonist, genre and film. Choose wisely.
I believe that all movies are, on some level, coming-of-age stories — no matter the age of the protagonist. For it is this test that shows us, the audience, if the hero has, in fact, grown. After the climax, there are usually only one or two scenes of resolution, reaffirming that the hero has really changed, and then the film is over. Sometimes the change is substantial. Sometimes the change is almost imperceptible. What matters most is that we care.
Heighten the climax.
The anticlimactic ending is predictable and lacks dramatic heat. A potent climax will be surprising and even explosive. Some touchstones for an effective climax can include making the protagonist: a) confront the true antagonist; b) overcome character flaws; c) come-of-age (a rite of passage); d) deliver the truth; e) face an ultimate moral dilemma; and f) emerge as a freer and/or truer self (aka catharsis – more on this below).
In Jerry Maguire, Jerry (Tom Cruise) is great at friendship, but terrible at intimacy. In the climax, he puts himself completely out there for love. His audience is a bitter group of divorced women. He tells Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) that she completes him and then waits. He is emotionally naked, raw and vulnerable. Will she love him back?