The Phrase That ‘South Park’ Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone Think Ruins Every Movie Script
If perfect is the enemy of good, “and then” is the enemy of a good story — at least according to Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Recently resurfaced footage from MTVU’s Stand In, which featured celebrities surprising unwitting college students with lectures based on their craft (sort of a proto MasterClass), shows the South Park creators “standing in” to share what merits good storytelling in their humble opinions.
Most writers, no matter the form, often find themselves developing some form of outline. In the case of screenwriting, most outlines are composed of beats, which are basic shifts in narrative. During the episode, Parker explained to NYU Tisch students that “if we can take the beats of your outline, and the words ‘and then’ (are) between those beats, you’re fucked basically. You got something pretty boring.”
Instead, Parker urged students and writers alike to opt for words like “therefore” and “but,” which Stone said “gives you the causation between each beat to make a story.” While Parker insinuated that it was an issue plaguing primarily new writers, Stone chimed in that he saw Hollywood movies that suffered from the same monotonous cycle where “this happens and then this happens and then this happens” and found himself wondering “what the fuck am I watching this movie for?”
He didn’t clarify, though, (and then) what happened next.