PLDN Talks – Levon Gharibian – ‘How to write an inciting incident’


Hey guys, I’m Levon Gharibian and I work for Paradise London. I’m one of the senior account managers, but in my spare time, I also write, produce and act in my own films. Now in my film, it’s a short film, so it’s, you’ve got limited time to get a story across. So everything you have to do has to matter.

And it has to be quite concise. So what I tried to do was try to get the thing, the hook and the inciting incident all into the opening scene as a way of trying to get the audience members involved. So let’s just have a quick look and maybe break it down. Maybe subtle things that people might not realize, but when you explain it might think, Oh yeah, actually that’s

That’s a good point. And hopefully, this is useful for some of you guys, and let’s dive in and have a look and break down the scene. So the first thing. It has to be visual. It has to be engaging visually. And what we see in the opening of this scene is the hospital doors break open and the first thing that your eye is drawn to is the blood on the bed.

Automatically that creates questions of why, what’s happened, what’s happened before this, how’s this happened? We really want to use that visual aspect to show that something is seriously wrong here. It’s clearly an emergency. He’s got a lot of people around him. What has happened? 

Visually as well I think it’s the, it’s the shot that you use as well. So we used a lot of POV shots from the character’s perspective. So they’re quite moving quite fast-paced linky shots, and that was all of it. The whole point of that is to try and disorientate the audience to try and get them to feel what the character is feeling, to get them to invest in him.

And ultimately you want, what you want visually is you want the audience to be thinking to themselves. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in that position. And I think if you’ve got audience members asking themselves of saying that to each other, then you’re already off to a great start. The next thing we want to look at is dialogue.

So dialogue is one of those things. It should only be used really to, in four. In my opinion, anyway, I think a lot of people will have different views on that. But with this scene, I think it was really about the visual aspect and the impact of everything that’s going on. But there are things that you need to get across.

So the way we’ve used it is essential to have a nurse or a paramedic. As the doctors looking over, just give some information to give some context to the situation. So in our case, it’s the age of the young boy, the event that’s taken place. So we then know it’s all about knife crime. Which tackles the theme.

And we’ve got that. We then start implementing my inciting incident. Like he’s been stabbed, something’s happened. This is going to affect other people around him. The next thing I think is really important is the pacing. Again, I go back to the fact that with a short film, particularly, you’ve got a limited amount of time, but what we tried to do was.

Start a little bit slower, you know, give the audience a little bit of time to adjust, to react to what’s going on, and eventually sort of settle. But as the scene goes on, you’ll see that everything becomes a lot more frantic and the pace quickens quite dramatically. So initially we come in, we’ve got the distorted sound.

Which I’ll touch on it at another point, but it starts off a little bit calmer, but gradually gets more and more and more frantic. So the cuts are a lot quicker. The pacing is a lot quicker. The wheels are more frantic, the music starts to heighten and get a little bit louder. 

I think that’s something that was really important. I don’t think you have to when you talk about an inciting incident, it doesn’t have to be frantic the whole time. I think you can, you can start off a little bit slower but really build into the scene to create that suspense. 

The next point to touch on is subtle things in scenes that people realize that they don’t realize sometimes and I think that is a key thing. So sometimes you know, when you’ve watched something twice, you think, Oh shit, I missed that the first time around. Oh, disclaimer. I just swore. It’s a really important thing. And what we try to do is, especially with some of the closeup shots, it’s the, it’s the glove with the blood.

It’s the blood on the face. And we probably should say at this point, but there was a disclaimer, the young actor wanted to be covered in blood, so he didn’t leave traumatized by this experience. But it’s those little things, and it’s also not just visually, but also with sound. what we did with the sound was as like we just spoke about the pacing and how everything gets a lot quicker.

The sound gets louder, but you’ll notice the sort of slashing. Sounds sort of cocktail and then they get quicker. And maybe there were a lot more of, It gets a lot quicker and what that’s supposed to emulate is the slashing of a knife. It’s, it’s a subtle thing, but you know, if people pick up on that, then it’s always a great thing when someone comes to you after watching it and says, Oh, I thought that was really cool actually.

So again, it’s just another way to add to the drama of everything going on. I think the main thing that you want to do with inciting incident is, is to leave the audience wanting more. As long as you’re leaving them with those questions, what happens next? What happens to the boy? Like they are then emotionally invested in those characters journey and it’s going to make them watch the rest of your film.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s another hour or another 10 minutes. I think that is probably a key thing and can potentially make corporate films will certainly engage audience members, or even people like in festivals, you know, if they’re engaged in it, they’re an audience member. So I think that’s a really important thing.

I hope that you guys found this helpful!

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