After his prizefighter abandons him, an oldfashioned trainer takes on a stubborn woman to train her for a championship challenge.

Nir Shelter Singularity Asked on July 26, 2018 in Examples.
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5 Review(s)

First, thank you for posting a logline for the movie, Nir Shelter.  Come to think about it, there’s a lot to think about in this film.  But I gotta respectfully disagree on what constitutes the inciting incident in this film.   Because:

1]  If the male boxer leaves Frankie, but Maggie doesn’t approach Frankie and asked to be trained, there’s no plot  The inciting incident is an event that MUST occur to , well , incite, kick off the plot.  If it doesn’t occur, there’s no plot.  The script could just as well have been written without the male fighter dumping Frankie.  It could have established Frankie as a washed up manager with no talent wanting to train under him.  Whatever his status quo would be, as long as Maggie asks to be trained there’s a plot.

2] The SOP is for the inciting incident to occur within the 1st half of the 1st Act — by the 15th page. I’ve got a copy of the script, too, and on page 5 Maggie approaches Frankie, asks to be trained.  That’s early — the usual plot point for the inciting incident is around page 15 — but no violation of the SOP.   For the inciting incident to occur on Page 27 is.

3] The male fighter dumping Frankie is what I call (for lack of a better phrase)  a push off the fence beat — an event that compels a character to get off the fence and commit to the course of action that sets the plot in play.  The inciting incident is described as a “Call to Adventure”.   And the SOP is for the protagonist to initially refuse, resist that call.  Rather than action, there is inaction — the protagonist hems and haws, comes up  excuses not to act, to sit on the fence. It’s the phase of the 1st Act Blake Snyder calls  “Debate and Decision”.

Up until page 27, Frankie has rebuffed Maggie’s “Call to Adventure”.  His handy excuse is that he’s already training a promising male fighter — why waste time on a woman?  After the male fighter dumps him, he has no excuse, no options.  And Maggie no longer has a competitor for Frankie’s time.

>> don’t you think it would be best to describe the inciting incident of the main character (Frankie) and the action of the protagonist (Maggie) as part of the same story?

Hmm.  As we know, the standard procedure is for the logline to be framed from the pov of one character, the designated protagonist.  I have elected to frame the plot from Maggie’s pov.

But it’s complicated.  Let me put it this way:  That Frankie is played by one of the most popular and enduring actors of our generation can distort our perception such that we think that Frankie must be the singular protagonist because Clint Eastwood plays 2nd fiddle to no one, right?  But what if the role had been played with a 2nd tier actor, someone usually cast in supporting roles?  I venture  the default perception would be that Hilary Swank’s character is and must be the protagonist.

Let me toss  another movie into the mix for contrast:  “Working Girl” (1988).  Clearly, the protagonist is Tess played by Melanie Griffith.  But who leads off the credit scroll?  Harrison Ford (who doesn’t appear on screen until the beginning of the 2nd Act)  and Sigourney Weaver — both “A” list actors.  Melanie Griffith comes 3rd because she was, at best, only a “B” list actor.

No matter.  The script is written before it is cast.  And in the “Working Girl” script (and movie), Tess unambiguously owns the story.  She is the prime mover of the inciting incident and she’s in the driver’s seat of the plot from FADE IN: to FADE OUT:.  She yields it to no one.

And it was Melanie Griffith who got nominated — and won — the Oscar for Best Actress, not her “A” list co-stars.

So who is in the driver’s seat of “Million Dollar Baby”?    I would say that initially Maggie is because she is the prime mover of the inciting incident in the 1st Act.  But unless Frankie eventually agrees to train her, there’s no plot.  So I suppose one could say he takes the driver’s seat when he finally agrees to train her.

So for the plot to begin to happen (let alone play out) requires the actions and decisions of 2 characters, not one.

And Frankie is certainly in the driver’s seat in the 3rd Act after Maggie is paralyzed.  Only  he can make the hard choice that brings the plot to it’s pathetic denouement. (And we all know that  in the 3rd Act, the driver’s seat is assigned to the singular protagonist — that’s his showcase moment to finally succeed, or ultimately fail.)

Finally, fwiw,  both Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Actor in the same film.  What does that say about how the pros in the movie business perceived  their roles?

Anyway , it seems to me that this is a rare film where two characters rotate taking control of the wheel — the spec script and final film are rare instances of a dual protagonist plot, one that works.

Again, thanks for posting a logline on this film.  It offers a lot to think about.

dpg Singularity Reviewed on July 27, 2018.

Agreed and think, I will.

However… Your logic can work both ways – until she asks to be trained there’s no plot but at the same time until the boxer leaves Frankie there’s no plot either. Like you quoted from the film/script, Frankie doesn’t need to “waste” his time on a woman seeing as he’s training a contender already. He wouldn’t have agreed to train Maggie if the male fighter wouldn’t have left him.

Frankie goes on a hero’s journey (his inner journey) to learn to accept women as equals when he agrees to train her. At the same time, Maggie goes on an outer journey (with no internal change) to get her shot at the title.

Frankie is the main character and Maggie is the protagonist. It’s a dual character plot that splits the two principal roles, remarkably well, between two separate characters.

The call to adventure is often positioned soon after the inciting incident, but in this case, it’s actually first made before the inciting incident as the adventure for Frankie is that of inner change, not external goals. The call to adventure is Maggie asking for him to train her and it’s repeated several times until he does.

One way or another, this is a rare beast and worthy of praise. I don’t see a good logline working for this film without both characters in it.

on July 28, 2018.
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It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film but does’t he eventually agree to train her because she keeps badgering him and eventually, with some persuasion from Morgan Freeman (who’s been giving her pointers on the side), he gives in? Not sure how that works as an inciting incident though… 

He has no interest in training her because she’s a woman. Without specifying that his prizefighter is male I think an important aspect of the story is lost.

I agree that Clint Eastwood’s the main character although a case could be made for a dual protagonist given how intertwined their stories are.

Tricky one!

mikepedley85 Overlord Reviewed on July 26, 2018.
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Millio Dollar Baby from 2004, trying to figure out who is the main character in this film.

Nir Shelter Singularity Reviewed on July 26, 2018.
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That’s a very good point.

I wonder how a dual protagonist logline would work in this case.

Just a quick try:
After losing his male prizefighter, a stubborn woman convinces an old fashioned trainer to collaborate towards a championship challenge.

Nir Shelter Singularity Reviewed on July 26, 2018.

I like that! I think “male” suggest there’s a gender aspect and the “old fashioned” kinda clarifies it.

Like “collaborate” too. Suggests more than just a trainer/fighter relationship.

on July 26, 2018.
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