The secret of The Forrest Gump Formula.

Sometimes I think the success of a movie should be measured not in awards and box office grosses, but in the number of memorable quotes that become pop culture cliches.

If that were really how it was done, then Forrest “Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates” Gump would be the biggest smash of all time.

“Run, Forrest, run,” “Stupid is as stupid does,” and even The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company are just a few of the phrases that could be part of a Jeopardy category dedicated to the iconic film.

As if those quotes weren’t enough . . .  to top it all off, Gump also won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1994 (Happy 20th Anniversary, Gump!).

Some people, however, think FG was one of the weakest Best Picture winners of all time, especially since it best out Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

But win it did.  And I personally think it deserved it and then some.

You all know that I love looking at the blueprints of big time successes in the entertainment industry in order for us to learn how movies and shows were put together.  By examining how properties stand the test of time, we can look to build ours in a similar fashion, and hopefully get a head start on the competition.

That’s why I recommend that every writer and producer read this book, because it is the best formula for script writing I’ve ever seen.

So what was the secret of Forrest’s success?  What was its magic forumla?

There was none.

In fact, Tom Hanks once said, “Forrest Gump breaks every rule of moviemaking.”

As this NY Post article about the movie’s anniversary states . . .

It had no bad guy, was not structured in the typical three-act format and didn’t see the main character undergo dramatic change. The movie simply followed the adventures of a simpleton who somehow ended up lucking his way through history.

This movie and its mammoth success is a great reminder that as much as we should study the formulas of the greats that have come before us, just because your show doesn’t follow the “rules” doesn’t mean it can’t break through.

To paraphrase another quotable movie, “First rule of writing a show . . . there are no rules.”  (That’s Fight Club, by the way.)

One of the first things I hear from a lot of consult clients is, “I wrote this show to only have XX cast members because I know it’s unproduceable otherwise,” or, “I can only have one location in my play in order for it to be cheap enough,” or, “I’m looking to produce a show so I’m looking through old movie catalogs, because it has to be based on a movie to be marketable, right?”

Wrong.  Wrong, and dead wrong.

Why sure, there are recommendations on how to construct a show to work best in our economically driven world, but that’s not what you should think about when writing your show.

Just write the best show you can . . . because if it’s a great show, then it doesn’t matter what rules it breaks.  In fact, your goal shouldn’t be to follow the rules . . . your goal should be to make new ones.

And as Forrest would say, “That’s all have I have to say about that.”


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