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How Do You Script a Movie Like Mad Max: Fury Road? Well, It Turns Out You Don’t.

In this video from his Just Write YouTube channel, Sage Hyden looks at the unique creative process behind Mad Max: Fury Road. “Even though Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best films of all time,” Hyden says, “it’s hard to say that it is well-written. Because the movie wasn’t written. At least, not in the traditional sense. It did not have a screenplay, and if it did have one, that screenplay would probably have been horrible.”

As Hyden explains, screenplays are typically supposed to include only “the most essential elements of the story, while maintaining the pace of the film.” This works well for many films, where the details of the action, costumes, and scenery will later be determined by entire teams of professionals. However, in a film like Mad Max: Fury Road, those physical details often do the work of telling the story, so they can’t be separated out.

In short, a movie like this couldn’t be created in a normal screenplay. “All of the reasons most frequently cited as the reasons Fury Road is good – the detailed worldbuilding, the visceral action, the visual storytelling – are all aspects that would, by the conventions of most screenplays, have been left out or downplayed, things that someone else down the line would figure out. Which is why it makes sense that this movie did not have a script. Instead, it had storyboards. Lots and lots of storyboards.”

“This movie is not a series of conversations interrupted by fist fights,” Hyden summarizes. “It’s fist fights and gun fights and car chases that function as conversations, [as] arguments … Mad Max: Fury Road can’t be called well-written, but it can be called well-told. And it is.”

So why don’t more movies do this, Hyden asks? In part, it’s because it’s an incredibly difficult process that requires a lot of skill and coordination. However, the other reason is more mercenary. As a new installment in an established franchise with a well-known director, Mad Max: Fury Road was allowed to have an unconventional pre-production process. But this would never happen for a new film in an untested franchise; when it comes to pitching films to the studios, storyboards can’t serve as substitutes for scripts. And because studios are married to that one model, they may be missing out on some amazing action-movie franchises.

(Featured image: Warner Bros.)

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