Screenwriting : Writing a script about robberies. by Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Writing a script about robberies.

What's a good motive to rob a bank/store? lol, I know how crazy that sounds but I'm stuck. At first I have an eviction hanging over my guy's head, but to risk your life and others just to save your home, in my opinion, isn't worth it. He's not old enough to have kids, and I had a sick mother who needs her hospital bills paid in another script, so I didn't want to recycle that (but I'm leaning toward it). My brain is stuck. What would motivate your characters (or you) to rob a bank?

Helena Ellison

He's being blackmailed (commit the robbery or we'll kill so-and-so), he's taking orders from voices in his head, he wants to impress peers (if he's very young), it's the only way to get funds for a very important campaign or charity, he needs to get sent to jail to reunite with and get to spend time with his father before he dies of cancer, new baby needs diapers badly, he couldn't make it as a traditional filmmaker so he started to commit crimes while wearing google glasses and found huge success in selling those films underground...

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

I'll blend in peer pressure with something else that involves a time limit. I like the charity idea too. Will think about how that can fit in my story, but I'm still leaning heavily on the hospital thing. Yeah, I didn't explain what my story was about so I see why it appears stale. A guy robbing a bank. Big whoop. I have an entirely different story attached, I just need a reason for him to get money. He's trying to compete in a competition, but the qualifications are held in a different state. He needs money for room and board, but that's definitely not a good enough reason to rob a freaking bank, (well, it's not even a bank) so I gave him two reasons. One much more serious than the other. And his friends are already involved in robberies, it's just that his knowledge and talents would make them much better at it. But I need a serious reason why he needs this money. That's where my creativity is at a stand still.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

@ Lisa - Wouldn't the machine recognize the bills were fake?

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Okay, no, I won't go with the hospital. I'll rack my brain for something original. Thanks for the advise guys.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Maybe like 30 years ago, lol... I was asking for a legitimate reason to rob a store. Getting the money would help my protagonist with his room and board, but it isn't a good enough reason to go our there and commit a crime. So that's why I needed another reason. But I came to some sort of conclusion. Nothing set in stone, but I'm on the right track. Yeah, he could go Omar Little on drug dealers, but I want him to be morally corrupt. Don Cheadle as a cowboy? I don't think I've seen it.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Jean-Pierre, we've only got so much information to work with here, so apologies if what I'm saying isn't applicable to your work, but: Whenever you work out a story element like this, it has to be TIGHT. Your "two reasons" approaches sounds awfully loose to me. You should reconsider. Can I ask, what's this character's PRIMARY story motivation? Is it to get to that competition and win it? If so, that's the only motivation you need. If it's not, that's where you should look for your motivation. Like, for example: PRIMARY STORY MOTIVATION: Win his girl's heart. REASON TO COMMIT ROBBERY: Buy her the ring she always wanted. PRIMARY STORY MOTIVATION: Get out of this dead-end neighborhood. REASON TO COMMIT ROBBERY: Pay for train fare to the Figure Skating Nationals where he's going to win the $50k grand prize and finally make something of himself. PRIMARY STORY MOTIVATION: Prove to his Dad he's not a bum. REASON TO COMMIT ROBBERY: Pay for the surgery of his father's beloved wife of 40 years And if you just can't convince yourself that he'd do something so radical to get the money, make it harder for him. He had the $1k he'd need saved up, but the loansharks that have been after him beat him up and took the money. He tries to get an advance from his boss, but his boss calls him a deadbeat, he punches the boss in the face, and boom, he's out of a job. Tighten the screws on this dude, you know?

Edith Woi

I can quite simple. If this is a short story not sure how much lead in time you have, but it could be as simple as he lost his wallet IF previously you showed a series of misfortunes. Robbing the bank could have been the "straw that broke the camel's back". Plain and simple....so in theory it could be a gazillion reasons!!!!....with build up of course.

Tony Cella

There are plenty of reasons to justify an armed robbery. The main character has run out of money to pay for basic necessities. With a meager eduction, lack of connections and a previous criminal record, he goes looking for a bigger score. The protagonist finds a group seeking a new member--an audition/interview/trial run. Something goes wrong and the police arrive on the scene before the crew escapes, forcing a protracted siege. The real story plays out as he interacts with a bank employee, who comes from a much more affluent background and had more opportunities afforded to him. The scenario opens possibilities for a the main character to gain a respect for his fellow human beings or sink from an amoral criminal to a genuine bad guy. The plot also sets up a broader dialogue about economic disparities, a.l.a. Tsotsi and Attack The Block. Good luck.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Kerry, you cleared everything up for me. I was trying to be too complicated. My two stories connected, but they weren't as air tight as your examples. I just need to keep it simple, but intriguing. Thank you. Edith, it's a feature. Tony, nice story. I liked it. Attack the Block is one of my favorite movies for those exact reasons.

Edith Woi

@Ron- exactly what I said....differently...Lol.

Shari D. Frost

Great advice, Ron!

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Thanks Ron, I'm outlining right now. No, I don't have a crystal clear view on who my protagonist is. I know his goal, but that's about it. What he cares about and how far he'll go to protect/get it is still in development. "What would motivate you to rob a bank?" - Is my core question here. I wanted to hear your answers, which may have set off some light-bulbs as to what kind of mind set to give my character. What would motivate him? I may have gotten lost in my own underdeveloped outline during my responses and I apologize for that. I know you don't know who he is. Neither do I. But through some of these helpful replies, I am slowly figuring it out. Cheers.

Michael L. Burris

Here's a nifty one loosely based on a true event in my small town. A guys wife cheated with one of the bank's loan officers. I actually thought about how to turn my town into a screenplay but I'm not doing feature right now. It's damn good and funny reason to rob a bank I would think. By the way there was no actual bank robbery but that's how my mind works. It may be a more golden idea than I think but again I'm not doing feature right now.

Richard Allis

Maybe not exactly what you're looking for but one theory Jesse James robbed a bank in Northfield, Minnesota because it was partly owned by someone who was on the Union side in Missouri during the Civil War. (That bank robbery was Jesse James' biggest disaster. Short of getting killed. :-) ) Maybe this can give you some kind of idea??

Brian Wareham

The lead character wants out of a crime syndicate and the risky bank heist is his last job.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Jean-Pierre: the man's MOM, who sacrificed to raise her kids alone, put her life savings into a small business (a deli, a beauty salon, a dry cleaners, a florist, etc.) Now Mom's business is in peril - - due to a hurricane / developers who want her out / or a new law that has forced her to upgrade her equipment. The son, her eldest, risks it all to save Mom -- and rob a bank.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

For your next script, I have an inside scoop on a true crime story -- a murder for hire -- that went off script. I went to school w one of the killers. He died in prison. For your next ms, J-P . . . . .

Kristopher Rickards

If you want peer pressure, competition & reason, I'd make it a bank robbing competition that all my peers have entered / been recruited into. It could be organised by the head of criminal network, or (the idea I prefer) by the security firms & interpol as a training / learning exercise, to get ahead of any future plots that happen to be real.

Eric Kinloch

"In Time" starring Justin Timberlake comes to mind

Gordon Milburn

Desperate people do desperate things and desperation is relevant, to the characters life. A millionaire robs a bank to get his money back, drug dealers rob a bank to pay for a habit.

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

All great opinions. @ Linda. I've created something of the that sort, but yours may be better. I'll think it over. And very interesting story about the serial killer. How did he act in school? Just a regular kid? @ Kristopher - Wow, that's a high concept script right there! @ Peter - I literally lol'd. Touche...

Kristopher Rickards

It's yours for free with the reading of this thread. :D

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Jean-Pierre: In school, because he was husky and handsome, a lot of girls were attracted (at first) -- but they couldn't relate to the books he loved. This was the classmate who weaned me away from Shakespeare and got me onto "Le Morte d'Arthur." Due to his influence, I have my M.A. in Medieval Lit. However, he dropped out of college and went into SCA -- big time. I think I was the only one who realized he was a cross-dresser. All this figures into the murder-for-hire. For 10 yrs he got away with it ---- the murder was blamed on the retarded man next door. Long story and it's not the story I want to write - - but it's a good story with many twists for the right screenwriter. (He died in prison.)

Sallie I. Chaney

The reason most caught robbers say they did it , was because they were tired of being poor and they wanted a better life. From something as simple as moving out of a one bedroom basement illegal apartment to brain surgery and foreclosure of your home and your spouse packing up to leave if you don't do something! When I lived in Sandiego, these guys robbed a bank commandeered a army tank and blocked up Mission Valley streets with gunfire. When all the bullets stopped these guys had homes, some with pools in the back , so much for the poor or sick reason. They just did it cause they could! People often do things just for the rush and the power of knowing they can get away with it. God bless your script and I'm open if you need more ideas. S.india46@yahoo.com

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Jean-Pierre: your protagonist's Mom raised him to be honest, God-fearing. To save his Mom's business, can he go against her teachings in order to rescue her? Will his mother love him more -- or less if he robs a bank for her sake?

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

You guys are really awesome. I love the responses. I might write three bank robbery scripts, lol. If I were to use all the great ideas on this thread, I would be the Martin Scorsese of bank robbery films, lol.

Rich Lane

He just snaps... if he is about to get evicted then he probably has other bills that need to be paid and are past due. income is barely coming in, if any at all, then he notices the random stupid charges the bank hit his account with that put him in the red and as if that is not enough they hit him with over draft fees for every thing that posts afterwards that that tiny deposit would have covered so now that little bit of cash he just deposited not only completely went to the bank in question but he now owes them more money and didn't even get to use that cash for other bills... so he snaps. They want to take from him? he'll show them what's up.

Jane Therese

How about just because-bank CEO's are liars HSBC actually funds terroists - and the NY district attorney or attorney general doesn't want to break them up because of economic instability!! So maybe he's the peter pan of an economicaly depressed neighborhood and he's trying to save the music dept or drama dept - that's all i've got- OR the messed up obama rama health care that's costing us more $$ and giving us less and even those that cant afford have to have it - make it a vicious circle

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

@ Rich - You have no idea HOW many times that used to happen to me! I feel your pain! I swear I'm about to copy and paste all of these replies. Great story Jane.

Jane Therese

what i do jean-pierre, is write the outline in 5 page increments 1-5 are..6-10 are....get to page 80 and then stop that should be your ending. Then go back and fine tune character, then dialogue-you'll get about 155 pages and you can always go back and cut-good luck!! sounds fun-people are pretty fragile now too.

Cherie Grant

A good reason is that the people just don't want to work for a living or they have a troubled childhood that led to leaving school and having no prospects and trying to just make more money or a serious drug habit though the habit might hinder their ability to plan a bank robbery.

Brett Ihaka

Yeah. Write a couple of paragraphs about your character. Give him a life. And that will give you your bank.

Michael L. Burris

Themematically and morally corrupt. He finds out he's terminal after being a good guy and doing all the right things all his life so he decides to complete an immorality list somewhat like a bucket list. I'd do it comical but it doesn't have to be and the title could be "Finally Corrupt". Not only that, his friends could rally around him as he breaks his goody two shoes attitude in life and then they switch roles and find him too corrupt even for them. A string of robberies funds his morally corrupt endeavor. It is fun to flesh out features I just can't put my personal focus upon them right now. I'd do the morally corrupt murder as not killing a person but bringing himself to murder something such as a frog. IDK. It seems fresher than most reasons for a robbery screenplay. Good luck, it's nifty watching this thread just hope nobody comes to all our doors as we conspire to rob a bank. Joking There. LOL!

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Speaking about that "robbery," J-P --- I got the source codes. I left the tool box under that big oak tree. Turn off your cellphone and the GPS tracking on your car and meet me in the parking lot by the bakery. We're out to get some DOUGH!!!

Michael L. Burris

To: Kathryn and Linda Dough!! Oh goodie, we making doughnuts or having a pizza party. With that cop Kathryn listening in we better stick to doughnuts.LOL! I gotta get back to work tomorrow. It was fun though. I actually had some idle time today and tonight. I got two of my teeth pulled today and needed some comic relief. I'm not doing any of my own sitcom until tomorrow. Peace out for a while all.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

@ Michael: yes, that sharp-eyed Kathryn is onto my schemes! Darn. That was my long awaited opp to be a MOLL! :-D

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Kathryn, the password for this caper is CRONUTS. Shhhh. (Cronuts have New Yorkers lining up for a 2-hour wait - - http://www.grubstreet.com/2013/05/dominique-ansel-cronut.html - )

Brad Harrod

I didn't go through all the comments here, so sorry if this is a repeat, but instead of looking for more motivation to rob a bank, why not build on what you already have? You have an eviction hanging over the guy's head, add in some sentimental reason he needs the place. The home was pass to him by his ailing father or something. Then start looking at why he's robbing this specific bank or store. Maybe add a reason why he picks that place. They did something to him. Or he knows something about them. Just a thought.

Jane Therese

okay so something friggin' wonderful just happened today that you may be able to use Jean-pierre, remember when i said that HSBC funded terorists which they do, i had a home equity loan out and that were shady from the beginning and although i was paying, i stopped paying when employees of the company said they were shady and my loan needed to be restructured. I am so not saying this as a booya to them, more like karma, my loan was forgiven!! out of the blue soooo maybe something along those lines- you don't have to rob the bank, the bank robbed YOU and then you find out who they are funding and make a stand against them!! yes so much better-these banks use our money to fund who they want and all along we think they are some joe schmo nothings, turns out they are the illuminati, or they fund al-quaeda or maybe isis!!!

Thomas Smith

A double charge leaving the robber's family on the street, leaving the robber to seek revenge... hopefully that could do it...

Steven Fussell

It doesn't have take sense to you it just has to make sense to your character (and be understood by the audience.) I ask my students "what is your character's problem?" And they say something like 'they don't have any money" and I reply that that isn't a problem unless it is a problem for the character, many people don't care about not having money. Your situation is the same. You need to think about what is ultra important to your character and why, and then you will have a reason for them to rob the bank. The other way you can look at it is to think about all the risks and rewards and come up with ways of dialling the risks down and the rewards up. For example he might think of a way to rob the bank without anyone getting hurt, or realise that on a particular day there is extra money being stored at the bank. Anyway, good luck resign your script!

Edith Woi

@Jane...I would CERTAINLY consider robbing a bank in that situation! Totally plausible..great idea :-)

Chris Herden

to pay for a sex-change op

Owen Mowatt

How about he robs a bank to pay for screenwriting lessons?? There`s a tragic irony in there somewhere. :)

William Martell

It's their job.

Tim Lane

He's about to lose it all because he can't sell his screenplay. He can't sell his screenplay because he keeps getting notes that his bank robbery scene is stupid and would never work. He not only wants to prove them wrong but wants enough money to produce it himself. Catch 22. If successful he can't use that script. If caught he has years to work on his screenplays.

Denzil Meyers

It can also be the "least" amount of motivation. Maybe its a stupid reason, something he should know better about. The reason has to be real to him, even if the audience thinks its not a good reason to rob a bank. Why s/he robs reveals character. If its not a very good reason, or if /she turns to bank robbery when other more sensible ways to get money are present, then we learn something and may care about that character more. Happy explorations!

Steve Krause

Homeless couple - either get away with it & have boat load of cash or get caught & get 3 square meals a day & a warm place to sleep. Win-win.

Rosa Lafantastica

Wow, Jean-Pierre, you tricked a dozen people into writing a screen play for you right here on the comments page! Ha ha! Well, I just want to add that my favorite bank robbery movie is "JCVD", which stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as something close to himself, who wants to rob a bank in Belgium. VERY creative script, and JCVD does a great job showing the aging action star who has a messed-up personal life.

Michael Eddy

Agree with Ardua above. You seriously are stuck on a motivation for your character to rob a bank? And you come on this site to ask others what it should be? Clearly, you're not ready to write this particular story. I'm not inclined to do your work for you - but in the most simplistic terms - to quote the legendary bank robber Jimmy Valentine - he robbed banks because "...that's where the money is".

Tim Lane

Ardua, if you think coming up with an idea equals writing a screenplay then I got a million screenplays.

Tim Lane

Pb, aren't those banks called Stallions and wouldn't it require someone out standing in their field?

Jean-Pierre Chapoteau

Stealing horse sperm is a clever twist, lol.

Tony Mcgrady

I know a few bank robbers from back In the day before drug dealing was a safer bet. Need at first then greed, all routes lead back to having money, lots of easy money, and a rush.

Tim Lane

Thanks for the edification, Pb, I suspected as much but couldn't resist. That does set up the possibility for a lot of twists. Do they swap 'currency' so no one is aware? Is this a heist by contract or do they go to the black market. If discovered, would DNA and no paperwork prove a horse was 'stolen? Interesting ... interesting, indeed.

Steven Fussell

I see what you did there, Jean-Pierre.

Tim Lane

You got to lead with that then cut to a shot of all the conspirators smoking.

Jane Therese

hahahahaha okay so like all the producers, associates, executives who get credits, we should get credits when this baby gets made Jean-Pierre, we'll set a new trend. ACTUALLY let's ALL do this, that would be fun!! start a chain. Start with the beginning that would be you Jean-Pierre find out why the heck this guy wants to rob a bank. What is going on in his life to make him to it. THEN let's all take a position and write this!!! I am sooooo serious!!

Jane Therese

oh please I'm in! Pick who you want in this fun little idea and lets go for it! HSBC, Stallion sperm, getting high a clutch VW bus, oh my god i am sooo having fun with this!!

Michael L. Burris

Yeah but the twisted little scientist that they steal it for (Dr. Evil meets Leslie Nielson) wants to combine whales of Hollywood sperm with sperm whales sperm to see if they can greater dominate the ocean and increase their population just so they can kill more whales get their ambergriss for parfume and keep Hollywood smelling beautiful with essence of Pitt and Clooney. Think about ladies..... essence of Pitt and Clooney, essence of Pitt and Clooney, essence of Pitt and Clooney.

Ruby Kleinschmidt

His first love -- boyhood crush has a child who is terminally ill. He found out this child wants to go to Disney World (or insert own vacation idea here) before the child dies and the mother can't afford it. So he plans a bank robbery so he can secretly give the money to the family via a fundraiser or charity such as Make A Wish. He doesn't want the mother to know the money is from him. This way he is doing a bad thing for a good reason. You can set up a lot of conflict in your story and decide if he gets caught before or after he donates the money or at all.

Marilyn Du Toit

My friend at work when I worked in a bank, stole money because her father had lost his job and urgently needed a operation. She got basically house arrest, she got sentenced but the sentence was reduced. She did not steal for herself but to help someone and that kindoff helped her case.

Steve Krause

That's where great stories come from. The abyss...

Martin Sumner

Banks are always the most favourite to watch, followed closely by trains. Me, I would rob the Royal family. Was never done!.

Dan Mehew

What if you went with the sick mum in hospital, but instead of robbing a bank because he can't afford the treatment, he holds the doctors, etc. at gunpoint and forces them to treat his mother.

Michael Eddy

Dan - no good. Too close to an old Denzel Washington. He takes a doctor and operating room hostage to force them to operate on his son.

Diego Lopes Silveira

Most of it has already been done... thats a hard one. Are de talking about a realistic scenario? What if your guy had a gigantic amount of debt from a bank from absurd taxes ans fees, that he feels like stealing is just getting his money back? But he had to be a little crazy to think that haha

Walter Andrew Carmona

You are dying. You have 3 months, no more. You gotta live it up but you're broke. Rob a bank, split for the Europe and live it up till you get caught or die. End of discussion.

Jane Therese

Not Crazy, justified. He takes it from the CEO's personal account like, "Fun with Dick and Jane" - Go after JP Morgan and Chase/EMC then the Presidential administration for Fraud, but make it fun like the movie, "Dick". loving the toner attitude and VW bush with the tick. So put some irony into and the audoence will feel vilified. :)

Jane Therese

hahahahaha love your response Walter!!

Robin Burcell

Car was impounded by cops and he needs cash to pay impound fees so he can have transportation to where he needs to go for this competition. As long as the motivation for him to have to get to this location is strong enough, then he might be desperate enough to rob to get car out of hock. But I think it would have to be one of those end of the rope type day or week where everything that could go wrong financially does. Job lost, rent due, dog needs to go to vet (save the cat!) someone else needs money and he loaned it to them for desperate situation and they fail to pay back, etc., etc. He needs to go from the frying pan to the fire to make it believable.

Peter Elliott

Thelma and Louise began with the idea: Two women rob a store (Source: American Screenwriters--great book you can pick up for a buck plus shipping on amazon).

Walter Andrew Carmona

Been there done that You almost always get caught. I would expand on that but it would take creating a script.

Walter Andrew Carmona

Jane! Its genius to have him do it out of the blue like that! I love it. You must be a writer.

Chris Herden

Love Jane's idea...

Jane Hathaway

I believe that when we get blocked in writing about a character, we have overtaken the character instead of letting the character develop themselves. Yes--- they develop themselves, we only put them on paper. Your character, no matter who they are, will speak for themselves. They will come into your head at the oddest moments, such as when you are busy doing chores or at work. You will only get snippets from them each time, but this allows you to build up something about them, even if it is only a small piece. Real buildings are built one small brick at a time. If I'm not getting something in my head about a character or a part of a story, I go for a drive. This seems to open up my mind to random ideas. Much of my character development has come about while I am cleaning, because I am not thinking too hard about my writing. Step away from the writing table, but don't fill your head by watching a movie or listening to music, or you won't have room for the person, scene or plot to emerge.

Michael L. Burris

And you Jane are a very like-minded lady who I would love to take that ride with. Usually I ramble my idea's to those not so like-minded that think I'm schitzo. People tell me I live in a fantasy world too and I tell them that's just because I create them.

Walter Andrew Carmona

Yes, Jane, (my sister's name also), I go skiing or clean. Some times I'll go to a bar (not to drink cuz I don't imbibe, but because my friends own one), and sit in the back and watch all the goings on and interactions among the goers. Then...something pops into my neuron and receptor functions and I'm off to the paper again.

Marilyn Du Toit

Michael I was told that exact same thing...I just said so whats wrong with living in a fantasy world especially when you can control the characters.

Cheris Mooney

Having worked with many at risk youth, I can assure you they often don't need very much motivation to commit a crime. If it is something that they have become desensitized to, robbing a bank can become as routine as going to the store is for you. Most juveniles that fall into trouble commit crimes of opportunity. So if the opportunity presents itself, they will act first and think later... Later being after they've been caught. And even then, their thoughts may only be "What could I have done better so that I wouldn't get caught." Hope this helps, and good luck!

Peter VM

Adrenaline junky is a great motivation. Just the thrill of actually doing it.

Diana Murdock

Singularly nothing to me would make me go that way but make a downward domino effect and it might push me over the edge. Throw in a partner who nags, shredding my self esteem to nothing, the depressing effect of drinking too much and I could see that as a viable thing to do. Like WTH..why not. Or I'll show them I'm good for something. Or maybe life is so bad maybe the character sees prison as a relief from problems.

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