Blake Snyder has written a book titled Save the Cat. It deals with script writing which ties into brief writing, themes and trial structuring. Here are just a few of his thoughts about this which you might consider regarding your next case or trial. By the way, we are still in trial so I have limited time for this blog right now.
- concentrate on writing one sentence. One line because if you can learn how to tell me “what is it?” better, faster, and with more creativity, you’ll keep me interested. If you can’t get to the heart of the story and less than 10 min. no one will listen. In Hollywood it’s called a log line or a one line.
- A perfect log line must include an adjective to describe the hero, an adjective to describe the bad guy and a compelling goal we identify with as human beings. The hero must offer the most conflict, have the longest way to go emotionally and is the most demographically pleasing.
- Try test marketing. Road testing your log line is important. Pitch it to anyone who will stand still even while in line at Starbucks as well as with friends and strangers.
- As producers listen to the pitch for a movie they want to hear a version of “it’s a story about a guy who….” Who is this about?
- once you have the hero, the motivation for the hero to succeed must be a basic one. It must involve a primal urge. A primal urges get our attention. Survival, hunger, sex, protection of loved ones and fear of death. The perfect hero is the one who offers the most conflict in the situation, has the longest emotional journey, and has a primal goal we can all root for. It must be primal of enough to answer the question would a caveman understand? You need to connect with the audience at a basic level. Some examples of primal drives are: the desire to save one’s family – Diehard. The desire to protect one’s home – Home alone. The desire to find a mate – Sleepless in Seattle. The desire to exact revenge – Gladiator. The desire to survive – Titanic.
- The rule of thumb is to stick to the basics no matter what. Tell me a story about a guy who I can identify with. I can learn from. I have a compelling reason to follow. I believe deserves to win and has stakes that are primal and ring true for me. But cast and concept are the starting point of getting any movie made. What’s it about? And who is in it? Are the first two questions any moviegoer asks.
- Somewhere in the first 5 min. of a well structured screenplay someone (usually not the main character) will pose a question or make a statement that is the theme of the movie. This statement is the movies thematic premise.
- the hero has to do something when we meet him so that we like him and want him to win. While you don’t have to have the hero save a cat in every scene or help an old lady across the street to make us love him you must make the audience in sync with your main character and your story. You must takethe time to frame the hero situation in a way that makes us root for him no matter who we is what he does.
We returned from our family cruise and and I am working to prepare for a trial starting Monday in Seattle involving a Florida corporation’s operation of delivery trucks transporting goods purchased from Sears and Best Buy on our public roads. Their breach of trust to the traveling public for providing safe drivers resulted in a rear end collision with our client’s pick up truck. The resulting fire burned him to death leaving a young pregnant wife. Due to the trial I haven’t had time to prepare something so I’m printing a basic trial checklist which I may have shared before. You can revise to fit your own approach to trials.
FAULT -RULES BROKEN
CASE DESCRIPTION: (briefly stated starting with defendant’s betrayal of trust)
A. PREPARE KEY DOCUMENTS
__1. DECIDE WHAT LARGE POSTERS vs SLIDES OR ELMO
__2. MEDICAL BILLS
__3. DAMAGE & LIABILITY PHOTOS
__4. DAMAGE ELEMENTS OUTLINE
__5. BACKGROUND OUTLINE (Family, dates etc)
__6. FAULT & RULES OUTLINE
__7. AERIAL PHOTOS
__8. BODY – INJURY AREA DRAWING
__9. ANNIMATION OR VIDEOS
__10. MEDICAL RECORDS
__11. MEDICAL ILLUSTRATIONS
__12. “STORY BOARD” DRAWING
__13. POSITIVE PRINTS X RAYS
__14. CT, MRI etc PREPARED
__15. HOSPITAL RECORDS
__16. DAY IN LIFE/VIDEO/STILL
__17 WAGE LOSS
__18. ARTICLES OR BOOKS (CX)
__19. KEYNOTE OR POWERPOINT SLIDES
__2. PROJECTOR & SCREEN
__3. LAP TOP & IPADS
__4. PORTABLE PRINTER
__5. PORTABLE PAPER
__6. CORDS & POWER STRIPS
C. TRIAL NOTEBOOKS-IPADS
__1. TRIAL NOTEBOOK COMPLETED – IPAD DOWNLOADED
__2. TESTIMONY NOTEBOOKS HARDSCOPY ALPHABETICAL
__3. RESOURCE NOTEBOOK HARDCOPY NUMERICAL TABS WITH INDEX
__4. JURY NOTEBOOK COMPLETE
__5. SOFTWARE FOR JURY, TRIAL ETC
D. TRIAL PREPARATION
__1. MOTION IN LIMINE FILED/ORDERS (see standard set)
__2. TRIAL BRIEF
__3. JURY INSTRUCTIONS INCLUDING PRELIMINARY
__4. VOIR DIRE PREPARED
__5. OPENING STATEMENT PREPARED WITH EXHIBITS/SLIDES
__6. DIRECT EXAM OUTLINES PLUS EXHIBITS TO BE USED
__7. CROSS EXAM OUTLINES SAME
__8. SUMMATION OUTLINE WITH PLANNED EXHIBITS
E. WITNESS PREPARATION
__1. WITNESS SCHEDULE DETERMINED
a. Advised re dress
b. Seen video about trial
c. Read depostion & interrogatory answers
__3. FACT WITNESSES
a. See above
c. read depos/statements
__4. MEDICAL EXPERTS
a. Seen medical exhibits
b. Seen bills – “reasonable & necessary”
c. Prepared – exhibits & articles
__5. NON MEDICAL EXPERTS
a. Read depositions, reports & interrogatories
b. Reviwed exhibits, illustrations & video
c. Reviewed testimony
__6. NOTICE OF ATTENDANCE?
__7. LAY DAMAGE WITNESSES – selected & prepared
__8. INVESTIGATION OFFICERS – seen reports & exhibits
Here is a rough “flow of consciousness” outline of thoughts about a drug device product case. I find it helpful to outline ideas picked up from focus studies, reading and just thinking about the case which I then narrow down and refine to useable themes, cross examination ideas and trial approaches to trial. Maybe something here will trigger ideas in your case.
- Any risk of serious injury or death is unacceptable if reasonable prevention methods would eliminate or minimize the danger.
- People protection requires eliminating the hazard to safety. If that’s not possible guarding people from the danger. If that’s not possible, warning people about the danger.
- Risk – benefit analysis: (1) How serious is the potential harm (2) What is the likelihood of harm (3) What is the cost of elimination, protection or warning (4) how long will it take (5) how effective would it be and (6) are means available to do so
- The corporation had all the knowledge about the product defect
- The corporation was in the best position to share the knowledge with doctors and hospitals
- The issue is:
(1) What did the corporation know and when did they know it.
(2) What did the corporation reveal and what did they conceal
(3) What did the corporation do to protect patients
(4) Did they do everything they could to prevent it
- This machine had a bug, a flaw it in
- It was like a computer with a virus
- This was preventable, avoidable and inexcusable
- This corporation cut corners
- This corporation had a duty to analyze, investigate and test it’s products
- Doctors, hospitals and patients have a right to expect a corporation will act reasonably to protect patients from harm
- They handled this like the best kept secret in America
- THE SWEPT THE PROBLEM UNDER THE RUG
- COMPANY WAS AFRAID TO LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG THAT IT’S TEST WAS DEFECTIVE
- THEY “PARKED” THE INFORMATION IN THEIR FILES
- LED THE DOCTORS & PATIENTS DOWN THE PRIMROSE PATH
- IT WAS LIKE THE DOCTORS WERE DIALING 9-1-1 AND THE COMPANY KEPT HANGING UP ON THEM
- THIS COMPANY KNEW WHAT PHYSICIANS DIDN’T KNOW
- ONLY THIS LAWSUIT BROUGHT THIS TO THE LIGHT OF DAY
- LACK OF KNOWLEDGE MEANS BAD MEDICAL CHOICES
- Failure of accountability and responsibility
- They want to play the “blame game” and blame others for their carelessness
- They are like a child with frosting all over it’s face claiming they didn’t eat the cake
- THIS CORPORATION SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR VIOLATING THE TRUST PLACED IN THEM BY DOCTORS & PATIENTS
- WHO’S MINDING THE STORE
- SHADING THE TRUTH, HIDING THE BALL & OUTRIGHT LIES
- THIS IS NOTHING BUT A SMOKE SCREEN FOR THEIR OWN ACTS
- COMPANY AFRAID TO LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG THAT THEIR PRODUCT WAS DEFECTIVE
- SHIFT THE BLAME FOR WHAT YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE & ACCOUNTABLE FOR TO ANYONE ELSE
- THEY COVERED UP
- THEY PLAYED RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH THE HEALTH OF PEOPLE
- CORPORATION JUST SHRUGGED THEIR SHOULDERS” & WENT BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL
- WHEN IT CAME TO RESPONSIBLE, SAFE CONDUCT, THIS CORPORATION CUT CORNERS
- WHY NOT SEND A WARNING TO THE TREATING DOCTORS?
- WAS THE REASON WAS TO PROTECT THE PATIENT OR THEIR PROFIT MARGIN?
- COULD THEY HAVE WARNED THE DOCTORS? IF SO, THERE MUST BE A REASON WHY THEY DIDN’T.
- “WHAT IS THE POSSIBILITY THIS COMPANY CONCEALED THE FACTS IN ORDER TO MAKE MONEY?