Setups and Payoffs: Apollo 13

This movie sets ’em up and pays ’em off. Rapidly.

It goes:

00:00 Setup ——– Payoff (time of payoff moment) [time elapsed since setup moment]

Also: Act # break (time of act break) [length of act]


I love the shape that this one has. So angular. It’s amazing the different shapes the setups and payoffs charts have when you compare one to the other. Contagion is much more curvy and back the future looks very balanced, whereas Back to the Future has one setup right after another marching right up to the first act break and a few sprinkled thereafter.

I was surprised at how many there were in this one. Before I select a movie for this process, I try to think of one or two setups and payoffs to get me started. For this one the “thumb covers moon”, “thumb covers earth” reversal sprang to mind. I had no idea that there was the: “Jim says he’s retiring because he has 1. a good ship 2. the best crew and 3. going to walk on the moon — Jim retires even though 1. his ship broke 2. the crew got split up and 3. he never got to walk on the moon.” That’s the real heart of the story. Everything works to frame those three things. That’s good story telling!

‘Til next time. Also, what are some movies you think have a lot of good setups and payoffs? I’m looking for ideas.