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Learn To Be A Screenwriter / Fight Club – Beats

Fight Club Beat Sheet Screenplay How To

Screenplay by Jim Ohls
Based on the novel by Chuck Palahnuik
Directed by David Fincher
Running time: 137 minutes
Year: 1999

Fight Club Beat Sheet Basic Story Map

THE PROTAGONIST

The narrator, 30s, is a recall coordinator for a large automobile company. He suffers from dissociative identity disorder. He’s also an insomniac and a materialist.

NARRATOR’S GOALS / ARC

STORY GOALS: To cure his insomnia / To fight / To investigate Project Mayhem / To stop Tyler

EMOTIONAL GOAL: To feel alive

ARC: Narrator goes from a man unable to live life, to a man who puts himself inches from death to feel alive again.

THEMES

The closer you are to death, the more you feel alive / Consumerism / Emasculation / Nihilism

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ACT SUMMARIES

ACT I

After being denied sleeping pills for insomnia, Narrator attends a support group for testicular cancer. Though he doesn’t have cancer, he feels alive being close to people who have came close to death. When he comes home from a business trip and finds his condo and all his possessions destroyed, Narrator calls a charismatic soap salesmen named Tyler Durden. The two men talk over a few beers at Lou’s Tavern. Their evening ends with a strange request when Tyler asks Narrator to hit him. The two men fight and strangely enough, enjoy it.

ACT II

Narrator moves in to Tyler’s run-down home. The fights at Lou’s Tavern gain devoted followers and they officially start “Fight Club.” Tyler begins a sexual relationship with Narrator’s nemesis, Marla Singer. Later, he forces Narrator to endure a chemical burn. Narrator digs deep and finds a way to control the pain.

ACT III

Narrator extorts his boss for his salary and benefits and becomes able to devote all his time and money to Fight Club. This allows Tyler to turn his home into a boot camp for Project Mayhem. After a high-rise apartment fire catches the attention of the police commissioner, Project Mayhem members successfully intimidate him and have all investigations related to their activities suspended.

ACT IV

Tyler disappears and a massive project begins at his house, but the members will not let Narrator in on the plan. When his good friend Bob is killed carrying out one of Tyler’s missions, Narrator flies across the country to track down Tyler and discovers Project Mayhem has spread across the United States. During a phone call with Marla, she calls him Tyler. After they hang up, Tyler appears in the hotel room and confirms that they are the same person.

ACT V

Narrator flies back home and finds a large bomb-making operation at Tyler’s house. He goes to the police, but discovers the detectives are in on Project Mayhem. He manages to escape the police and disarms one of ten bombs before Tyler subdues him. On the top floor of a skyscraper, Narrator realizes the power of Tyler is all in his mind. He then shoots himself in the mouth and kills Tyler. Project Mayhem members bring Marla up and Narrator, blood gushing from his jaw, demands they leave them alone. Narrator assures Marla everything’s fine, his only excuse being that she met him at “really strange time.” A romantic moment, they hold hands and watch the demolition of Project Mayhem’s target buildings unfold in front of them.

FULL BEAT SHEET & SEQUENCES

ACT I

Sequence I: Seeking relief from insomnia, Narrator visits a doctor, but is denied sleeping pills. After Narrator begs, insisting he’s truly suffering, the doctor recommends he witness real pain at testicular cancer support group. Narrator attends the group and breaks down: The closer he is to death, the more he feels alive.

3 – OPENING IMAGES: On an abandoned floor of a skyscraper, TYLER DURDEN has a gun in the mouth of our NARRATOR .

NARRATOR (V.O.)
We have front row seats for this theater of mass destruction. The demolitions committee of Project Mayhem wrapped the foundation columns of a dozen buildings with blasting gelatin. In two minutes, primary charges will blow base charges and a few square blocks will be reduced to smoldering ruble. I know this because Tyler knows this.

(beat)

And suddenly I realize that all of this — the gun, the bombs, the revolution — has got something to do with a girl named Marla Singer.

Note: The bulk of Fight Club is told in flashback. The audience catches up with the opening scene 130 minutes into the film.

4 – FLASHBACK: Narrator attends a support group for testicular cancer. He hugs a former steroid abuser, a testicular cancer survivor with “bitch tits” named BOB.

5 – FLASHBACK: Narrator backs up: He’s had insomnia for too long. At work, he just goes through the motions…

NARRATOR (V.O.)
With insomnia, nothing’s real. Everything’s far away. Everything’s a copy, of a copy, of a copy. When deep space exploration ramps up it will be the corporations that name everything.

7 – Narrator goes to a doctor and requests pills for his insomnia, but the doctor refuses.

NARRATOR
Hey, come on. I’m in pain.

DOCTOR
You wanna see pain? Swing by First Methodist Tuesday nights. See the guys with testicular cancer. That’s pain.

8 – Narrator attends a support group for testicular cancer.

10 – INCITING INCIDENT: Assigned a partner, Narrator listens to Bob’s sob story. Bob turns to him, insisting it’s okay for him to cry, too. Bob embraces Narrator between his large tits, and Narrator begins to cry.

NARRATOR (V.O.)
And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.

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