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Screenplay Script: ET (1982) Deconstructed

   By: Kal Bishop

From our deconstruction of hundreds of Hollywood blockbusters....

The Hero's Journey is the template upon which the vast majority of successful stories and Hollywood blockbusters are based upon. In fact, ALL of the Hollywood movies we have deconstructed are based on this template.

Understanding this template is a priority for story or screenwriters.

The Hero's Journey:

a) Attempts to tap into unconscious expectations the audience has regarding what a story is and how it should be told.

b) Gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.

c) Interpreted metaphorically, laterally and symbolically, allows an infinite number of varied stories to be created.

and more...

Sample Movie Deconstructed: ET (1982)

Fade In: Inciting Incident; ET left alone. The antagonism: men searching.

Hero's Status and Inner Challenge: Elliott with his friends; low status; the gofer; nobody pays him any attention.

Call to Adventure: Elliott hears something in the shed; the ball bounces back.

Interdiction: "Nobody go out there!"

Refusal of the Call: "Coyotes are back Mom."

Pulled into the Journey [night, stealth]: Elliott hears something outside; goes out with the torch; see ET who runs.

Consciously agreeing to the Journey: Elliott rides into the Forest on his bike and lays the bait.

Meeting the Supernatural Aid: avoiding Keys in the forest.

Foreshadow of the Journey: ET is in the forest.

Hero in his Ordinary World and Character Development: Elliott having dinner with his family. Resistance against the Journey: no one believes him.

Yearning for the adventure: Elliott looks out of the window.

Fear at the border of the First Threshold: Elliott can't speak as ET approaches.

Journey to the First Threshold: leading ET into the bedroom.

Threshold Guardian: closing the door so as none can hear.

Meeting the Creatures of the First Threshold: sign language between Elliott and ET.

Antagonism: the men with lights find the coloured candy.

Conflict preceding the Inner Cave: Elliott convinces his Mom that he has a temperature; ET is not in the sleeping bag.

Developing Allies Capabilities: Michael learning to drive.

Inner Cave: "do you talk…coke, see, we drink it etc …"

Meeting Enemies: the dog barks at ET.

Foreshadow of the Journey: ET sees the umbrellas; Elliott scared.

Meeting Allies: introducing ET to Michael.

Meeting the Shape Shifter: Gertie runs in.

Antagonism: the men with lights close in on the town.

Physical Separation: ET does telekinesis; the balls rotate like planets in the air.

Foreboding of the Antagonism: Elliott senses something scary, hears the men outside.

Foreshadow of the Transformation: ET reading; making the flowers bloom.

Journey to the World of the Transformation: going to school.

Developing relationship / conflict with Allies: "zero charisma;" paper fights in the bus.

Chameleon on Entering the Transformation: avoiding mom by pretending to be a toy.

Transformation 1 (passive): mirroring feelings, and behaviour: Elliott gets drunk; releasing the frogs; kissing the girl.

Transformation 2 (passive): watching TV and learning to phone home.

Shape Shifter turning: Gertie tries to tell Mom.

Transformation 3 (active): learning to talk.

Meeting the Oracle: ET wants to phone home.

Antagonism: the van passes outside and hears Elliott et al talking.

Overcoming Inner Challenges: Elliott in charge now.

Attachment: ET heals Elliott's finger; Elliott puts his arms around ET.

Preparing to journey to the Sword: ET building a phone.

Foreshadow of the Near Death Experience: the flowers begin to die.

Wolves Clothing: ET dressed as a ghost.

Journey to the Sword: ET makes the bike fly over the moon.

Seizing the Sword: ET dials home.

Foreshadow of the Near Death Experience: Mary waits up for the kids.

Foreshadow of the Atonement: the men arrive at the house when Mary leaves.

Attachment: "we could grow together ET…"

Near Death Experience: ET found near dead in the river; Mary finds ET and Keys et al [space suits] enter the house.

Reward: ET comes back to life; ET is going home.

Refusal: Gertie gives Mary the note; "oh no."

Inner Challenge conquered: where's your mask? Well put it on!

Atonement with the Father: Michael drives off in the car.

Apotheosis: Gertie tells Keys that the space ship is coming.

Ultimate Boon: Synergy: the boys help Elliott and Michael escape.

Magic Flight: pursued by Keys et al; ET and the boys fly through the forest.

Rescue from Without: the ship lands.

Crossing the Return Threshold: saying goodbye to Gertie and Michael.

Master of the Two Worlds: "Come." "Stay." "Ouch." "I'll be right here."

Freedom to Live: ET goes home.

Learn more…

The Complete 188 stage Hero's Journey and other story structure templates can be found at

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Kal Bishop


You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.

Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at

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