Writers: How to Tackle an Ambiguous Ending in your Screenplay

Hosted by Karina Wilson

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Tuesday, Nov 30TH 1 - 2:30PM PST
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Karina Wilson

Webinar hosted by: Karina Wilson

Writer & Story Consultant (nearly a decade at IM Global, Netflix Animated Series, Independent Films)

For nearly a decade Karina Wilson was the in house story consultant for IM Global which financed or produced over 30 Hollywood feature films and controlled a library of over 300 films including PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, INSIDIOUS, SINISTER and A HAUNTED HOUSE.   As a story consultant she has helped to shape narratives in every genre, from independent documentaries to Netflix animated series. While at IM Global she worked on many of their titles including SECRET IN THEIR EYES with Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, 13 SINS, and THE CIRCLE with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.   She specializes in genre movies and adaptations (particularly horror and romance) but works in all genres. Being British living in LA she brings a wealth of international experience to her development projects and is currently developing a series of Thrillers for British TV. Karina is considered an expert in the Horror genre and has taught classes at UCLA and her analysis of horror trends through the decades has been featured in the WSJ, on NPR, in medical textbooks and in documentaries alongside luminaries such as Jason Blum, Joe Dante, and Andy Muschietti.   She is also the lead screenplay judge for niche indie horror festival, Shriekfest, and has been picking winners for them since 2007. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Sometimes your story just can't be wrapped up in a neat bow with a perfect Hollywood ending.  As a writer, you may weave a unique narrative and the idea of tying up all your loose ends into a neat resolution just doesn't seem right. Or, if you're a producer or filmmaker you might want to set your project up for a sequel, so you may want to have your characters riding off into the sunset once you get to the end.

If wrapping up your story in perfect fashion doesn't appeal to you, why don’t you consider an Ambiguous Ending?

Ask yourself:

Is there an artful exit from your story that defies predictions and is both thought-provoking and exasperating in equal measure?

Can you work your way towards an ending that people will argue about in the bar immediately afterwards and for months (even years) online?

The Ambiguous Ending is a great storytelling trick to pull off, but it’s not easy. If you mess it up, you’re left with a confusing final reel that audiences are likely to dislike— and they’ll carry their loathing out of the theater with them. This webinar explores the possibilities and guides you past the pitfalls.

The Ambiguous Ending can present major challenges for you as a storyteller:

  • How do you lay a trail of plot breadcrumbs for your audience that seem to lead them in two directions at once?
  • How do you develop characters who are simultaneously engaging while possibly lying through their teeth about the reality of the situation they’re in?
  • How do you set up the rules of your narrative world so that one reality can peel off from another?
  • How much misdirection is OK?

This type of ending requires you as the storyteller to deploy a sophisticated toolkit out of the gate. Luckily, we have a story expert who served as the in-house story consultant for IM Global for nearly a decade and worked on developing films for Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. In this exclusive Stage 32 Next Level webinar Karina Wilson will look at some of the tricks and techniques you can use to create delicious doubt about the ending of your script in everyone but yourself.

 

Praise from Karina's previous Stage 32 webinar:

"Her presentation was well organized, her slides contained the right amount of information to digest and takes notes from. Her delivery was excellent." - Martha C.

"I was so impressed!" - Loretta C.

What You'll Learn

  • Thinking About Ending on a Question Mark
    • What does an ending mean anyway?
    • The pros and cons of leaving your audience hanging
    • Finding the right exit point for your story
  • What Do You Want to Achieve with an Ambiguous Ending?
    • Films that are open texts
    • Playing with the supernatural vs. the real
    • Providing a vehicle for an unreliable narrator
    • Setting up a sequel
  • Making Your Audience Do the Work
    • Meeting and playing with genre expectations
    • Use of symbols
    • Deliberate Misdirection (including MacGuffins and Red Herrings)
    • Inciting the fandom to riot
  • Making Your Characters Do the Work
    • Ending on the horns of a dilemma
    • Saying ‘au revoir’ rather than ‘goodbye’
    • False hope/dramatic irony that leads to a final twist
    • Final reversals
  • The Importance of Feedback
    • Finding your tribe
    • Seeking summaries
    • Resolving conflicting reactions
    • Staying true to your vision
    • Audience omniscience
  • Discussion of Examples
    • Donnie Darko
    • Shutter Island
    • Martha Marcy May Marlene
    • The Graduate
  • Q&A with Karina

About Your Instructor

For nearly a decade Karina Wilson was the in house story consultant for IM Global which financed or produced over 30 Hollywood feature films and controlled a library of over 300 films including PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, INSIDIOUS, SINISTER and A HAUNTED HOUSE.
 
As a story consultant she has helped to shape narratives in every genre, from independent documentaries to Netflix animated series. While at IM Global she worked on many of their titles including SECRET IN THEIR EYES with Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts, 13 SINS, and THE CIRCLE with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.
 
She specializes in genre movies and adaptations (particularly horror and romance) but works in all genres. Being British living in LA she brings a wealth of international experience to her development projects and is currently developing a series of Thrillers for British TV. Karina is considered an expert in the Horror genre and has taught classes at UCLA and her analysis of horror trends through the decades has been featured in the WSJ, on NPR, in medical textbooks and in documentaries alongside luminaries such as Jason Blum, Joe Dante, and Andy Muschietti.
 
She is also the lead screenplay judge for niche indie horror festival, Shriekfest, and has been picking winners for them since 2007.

FAQs

Q: What is the format of a webinar?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Webinars are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the webinar.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the webinar software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The webinar software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live webinar. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer

Q: What if I cannot attend the live webinar?
A: If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the webinar. If you cannot attend a live webinar and purchase an On-Demand webinar, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A.

Q: Will I have access to the webinar afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand webinar, you will have on-demand access to the recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!

Testimonials

Praise from Karina's previous Stage 32 webinar:

 

Karina is engaging, reassuring and inspiring.

- Helen W.

 

Karina is passionate about horror and has a lifetime of great experiences and information!

- Cooke Q.

 

I was so impressed!

- Loretta C. 

 

She was very familiar with the horror genre and showed her experience and expertise in the subject. She was generous with her time, spending an hour and 45 minutes with us. Her presentation was well organized, her slides contained the right amount of information to digest and takes notes from. Her delivery was excellent.

- Martha C.

 

She seemed to be a good choice for this topic as she 1) reads scripts 2) is a horror fan 3) has considered the genre in depth and 4) has considered the unique issue of the horror script ending.

- Jeremy S.

Questions?

If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.

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