From the best episode of the podcast Scriptnotes, I keep coming back to this nugget from Craig Mazin about the “low point” that often comes at the end of the second act of a screenplay:
The low point isn’t always, “Oh boo-hoo me.” For me, the low point is the character has lost his way. The character is separated from the confidence that they had in the beginning of the movie that this is the way the world is and this is who I should be. They have not yet, however, gotten to a place that they will eventually get to where they have a reformulation of, “This is the way the world is and this is how I think I should be.”
But I want to get to this topic of theme […] That sense of, Rian’s movies certainly, and I think the movies that I’m proudest of that I’ve worked on, there’s this kind of fractal quality to it. They’re thematically whole enough that you could take any one scene from them and cut it out and like put it in nice fertile soil and it would grow into a shape of that movie.
Like genetically it’s all part of one consistent thing. And that’s a thing I definitely find in your films is that they’re all of one piece and there’s a central idea, a central thematic idea that is whole. And I find it very hard to start writing until I kind of know what that is. If I don’t have some touchstone to go back to, like this is what the movie feels like, this is what the movie is, it’s very hard to do that.
— John August, transcribed from Scriptnotes podcast 115