Hi, Michael Jamin. So today I want to talk about stakes. Many years ago, my partner and I sold three movies with Barry Joseph’s attached. He was a big-shot producer at Columbia Pictures for many years, and then he went back and became a producer and he made Bad Boys and Last Boy Scout and Dis-Enchanted. He was a big shot. We wound up doing three movies with him, two of them we sold. And I remember we turned in a draft for the first one. And at the time we were successful TV writers, we’ve been doing it for like 10 years or whatever. So we kind of knew what we were doing, but we hadn’t made movies yet. We turned in this draft and Barry had his three notes, notes he always gives, which were stakes, pace, and drive. 

So he didn’t think that the stakes for our script were high enough. So what does that mean? Here’s a little thought experiment to show you what the stakes are. So imagine the year is 2020, and the pandemic hasn’t destroyed the world yet. And you are at the mall, you’re in the food court, or you’re waiting for a movie to start. You’re in the food court and you’re sitting at a table. And on either side of you, there’s, there’s two tables and there’s a conversation between 2 smoking hot girls. It can be girls. They could be guys, whatever you want for your thought experiment, but they’re smoking hot. Okay. And over here, you got 2 average people, not smoking hot girls or guys, whatever you want. And so naturally you’re like, you got nothing to do. You’re going to start eavesdropping now, whose conversation you’re going to listen to first? Because they’re smoking hot. So you kind of lean in and hear what they’re talking about. The woman in this one, my experiment, she’s a woman. Okay. And she’s telling her friend, you’re never going to believe what happened to me. I was downstairs. And then all the way across the mall, I see a crowd of people outside the store. And I’m like, what the hell is going on over there? So I go over, walk over to investigate, and it’s a shoe store and they’re going out of business 40% off. Everything’s 40% off. And I’m like, I like shoes 40%, like a good deal. I love a good deal. I’ll go in. And I see a pair of shoes I want, but it’s sold out. And there, out of the corner of my eyes, I see another pair. And it’s 50% off. I pick it up 50%. I’m like, oh my God, I want this one better. So I give it to the clerk. The clerk comes down. It doesn’t fit. So she goes, give me half size up. She goes down. Oh my God, this one, there’s a mistake on it. And now it’s, it’s like 55% off because it’s printed wrong. And I’m like, oh my God. And these ones fit me even better. And then I take it to the counter and the clerk rings me up and she hits the numbers in wrong. And I’m like, oh my, I think you did it wrong. I said, are you sure about this? And she knows what I mean. And so now I got these shoes and at first I was going to save like 30 bucks, but now I wound up saving $180. And then I put it in the box and then I went and now here I am, look at this I a great, I got a great deal on shoes. Okay. That’s kind of boring. But I told the story, right? I did tell a story. Stuff happened.

Now there’s a couple over here. I’m going to pay attention. Very similar plots. Okay. But I’m going to listen to her as to what’s going on here with this average person. She’s telling her friend, she’s saying, so I was downstairs. And then I heard, I saw it, you know, down in the distance was a crowd of people. I’m like, what’s going on over there? I walk over to the crowd and there’s a sale 40% off. Now I’ve been unemployed for six months. I can’t afford to buy anything. And I got my high school reunion coming up, you know, my 10th reunion. And in high school, I was such a freaking loser. You know? And now I got to see these people. I don’t even have a job. I don’t have a life. I got no career. I don’t have a family. And I see these shoes are 40% off. And the thing is when I was in high school, I was poor. People always tease me because I used to wear these ratty shoes with holes in them, call me a shoe girl. And now I’ve got to go to this reunion. And now here’s a chance to have like a decent pair of nice-looking shoes. It’ll just make me feel better. I’m gonna go. So I go inside and I see these shoes. They don’t have what I want, but then the clerk comes back and she finds these other pair that’s even better. And it’s, and it’s less money. And I’m like, oh my God, these shoes. If I can get these shoes, man. And if I show up to my reunion in these shoes, I’ll just feel better about myself. I just won’t feel like a loser.

So which story is better? I want to hear that one. Sorry, maybe you disagree, but I liked this one better. The stakes are higher. This one, the stakes are saving money. She went from saving $30 to a hundred dollars to 150. You can save a thousand dollars. Who cares if it takes her just money? But on this story, the stakes are self-esteem. The stakes are finally feeling good about yourself, not feeling ashamed. Okay. So that’s what the stakes are. How do you put this in your writing? Well, that’s what the class is for. I can’t do everything in a five-minute episode, okay? So if you want to learn more, you sign up for my course. I talk about everything. This is how I talk about analogies and real-world stuff. I don’t talk theory. All right. I just tell you how I would do it and you can copy how I would do it. Or you could kind of put your own spin on it, make it your own. All right. If you want to learn more, click the link. Good luck. Right?

Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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