One of my biggest weaknesses in writing has been focusing in on how a scene actually functions. In so many ways a scene should be a microcosm of the three act structure, of an entire film. So for this analysis of Selma, I’ve tried to go through each scene, show it’s length, and detail the SETUP, REVERSAL and PAYOFF of each.
#1 - Stairwell - (2)
SETUP: Kids in the stairwell of church
REVERSAL: Room EXPLODES PAYOFF: Children are killed
#2 Grand Hotel - (2)
SETUP: King corrects his dress - frustrated that he’s away from the cause
REVERSAL: Coretta eases his concern - “not a crime to be away. PAYOFF: they dream about perfect ‘phone-less’ house together
#3 Oslo University - (1)
SETUP: Intro to King’s award
REVERSAL: (not sure if this is a reversal) King acknowledges the murder of the children in Church. PAYOFF: We shall overcome
#4 Small Courthouse Lobby - (2)
SETUP: Annie Lee Cooper fills out voting enrolment form
REVERSAL: Registrar tests her - looks like it’s going her way. “Name 67 judges”. She can’t.
PAYOFF: Registrar DENIES enrolment.
#5 Washington DC - (1)
SETUP: King and advisors trying to identify negotiation points - poverty program.
REVERSAL: Attack the surveillance issue.
PAYOFF: King wants to stay focused on vote. “Maybe won’t need to go full-scale”
#6 White House - (4.5)
SETUP: Johnson wants the Civil rights issues solved - for King to do what he wants!
REVERSAL: King arrives. Johnson flatters him - he’s very delicate in his language. Wants King not Malcolm X to run the show.
REVERSAL: King brings up Voting Rights.
REVERSAL: Johnson tries to make it a focus of poverty eradication
REVERSAL: Cannot wait! Murder of thousands, inc. church. Whites are protected by whites.
REVERSAL: Literacy question for blacks in Alabama - not in cursive writing.
REVERSAL: Johnson understands, but it’s not a priority just yet... PAYOFF: Having left, King declares “Selma it is”
#7 U.S. Highway - (1)
SETUP: King travelling with entourage - “Big Speech doc?”
REVERSAL: Need to see what’s what. PAYOFF: They enter Selma.
#8 Edmund Pettus Bridge - (0.25)
SETUP: The Edmund Pettus Bridge
REVERSAL: Why’d they give Pettus a bridge? PAYOFF: “Decent looking place to die”