“As a storyteller, you are a servant of your story, not the master. You must do what it requires, not what you want to do. You must remove your ego from it. Art is not to show people who you are; it is to show people who they are.” Brian Mcdonald
Good artist copy, great artist steal – Pablo Picasso
This has been very popular post in the filmmaking community. Every so often, I update this article to provide you the best possible information to get you started in this thriller sub-genre. Perhaps you googled How To Write Contained Thrillers because you are certain that it’s the most affordable and creative way to make a movie. And you’re probably right. It’s thrilling, challenging, and it requires very little resources. Writing contained thrillers is thinking INSIDE THE BOX. Rather than outside. Because all writers and producers know that thinking outside that box can be expensive.
So what is a Contained Thriller?
It’s a Thriller film sub-genre. In most cases, a low-budget production that takes place in one location. This location is typically the location where the main character(s) is contained or constricted. Either the film sets up a plot of this character trying to escape this location for X reasons, or X reasons has this character stuck in this location until the problem is solved. Locations may vary from room, car, plane, house, apartment, elevator, courtroom and more giving the character and the audience a no-way-out-claustrophobic-tick-tock-tension feel.
So, that’s what contained thrillers are. A thriller movie set in one major location, where the characters of the story are contained or confined. If you want to look for films that are contained thrillers, trying searching for one location films or movies.
Here are some:
- Rear Window
- 12 Angry Men
- Panic Room
And this list goes on.
It’s arguable if a one location film is a contained thriller or not. But that’s not the point. I guess this term embodies the idea of making a drama, action, thriller, or mystery film can be done in one location.
It’s not easy. For one, you have to understand and know the important story elements that goes behind a thriller. You know, the stuff like the use time/pacing, cliff hangers, red herrings, conflicted heroes, believable villains, the use plot points to drive the story forward, suspense, mystery, mcguffins, crucibles, emotion, tension, twist, surprises, and this list goes on too. I definitely recommend buying Writing A Killer Thriller to get the ball rolling with that.
I’ve taken it upon myself to collect as many contained thriller films and scripts for my personal study. I’ve stumbled upon a handful of interviews and articles that goes in topics like the use of claustrophobia, intensifying pressure, escalating risk/stakes, creating ticking-clocks scene, manipulating fear and etc.
I recommend you visit the links below. Spend some time listening to the interviews. Reading the articles, forums, and comments. Over all, watch the movies.
- The Contained Thriller Category from The Thriller Filmmaker Google + Community
- How to Write a Single Location Script
- Anatomy of a Contained Thriller
- 10 Things To Learn From The Greatest Contained Action Thriller Of All Time
- Writing The Contained Thriller with Chris Sparling (Buried)
- Where to Mine Ideas for Your Contained Thriller
- 10 Screenwriting Tips You Can Learn From Misery
- How To Write A Contained Thriller
- How I write a Script
- Buried analysis and Chris Sparking
- Manage Time and Characters in a Contained Thriller
- Greg Russo Tips on Writing a Contained Thriller
- Interview with Chris Sparling (Buried)
- Paranormal Activity, Oren Poli, and Contained Thrillers by Film Escape
- Greg Russo on Down by Script Shadow