The Macguffin is by nature one of the most over used and misunderstood devices in scripting history. It performs as both Vehicle and Destination. Don’t mistake a Macguffin for something resembling a Magcuffin.
Definition of MACGUFFIN: an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance
Now when a definition uses a word like “Usually” it really means. Just in case you disagree. because lets face it. Macguffin is a word used to define something motivating in a script we find a poor excuse for a plot device. Not because it is, but because we decided it was.
Now keep in mind that something important is essential to a story. Something that with out, would cause the logic of a script to, essentially implode. So some “Macguffins” are actually things that are actually important plot devices that for one reason or another failed to live up to the expectations of the viewer/reader. Others are actually pointless motivator that fill in for the lack of a creative enough mind to come up with something more substantial.
Regardless of how you view, define, or recognize a Macguffin, it is an art form for which few have been able to escape the criticisms associated with creating one. It’s important to note, however that a Macguffin, though in and of it’s self may be unimportant, the motivation it gives can be defining. So keeping this in mind I have decided to write a scene defining a Macguffin, in order to try my hand at the mostly under-appreciated art form. As a bonus (Mostly just to me) I am also going to be using a script idea I have for a full movie as the basis of this piece.
Int Day – Ruin pre-dating any known civilization by 1,500 yrs. Location: California Southern Dessert.
Stone construction with grey metal brackets instead of morter holding the bricks in place.
Light fills the large room (50×80′) though no view of the sky can be seen. Shafts of light stream in from openings in the stone walls and ceiling. Stone Columns (Square) of single stone construction scattered through the room for structural integrity.
The room is full of dust but nothing else is in it other then a 4h’x2.5w’x1d’) alter off-centered in the room. center to the side walls, but 60% of the way back from the entrance. The alter is too covered in dust to make it out as anything but a smaller stone pillar. Piles of dust like mini dunes fill the corners and mark the bottoms of the walls surrounding the room.
Pierce – Male early 30s wearing dessert exploring gear.
Samantha (Sam) – Female Late 20s Wearing a tank top and dessert colored pants.
Travis (Tboe) – Male mid teens wearing a T-shirt and long shorts.
Rachael (Raz) – Female late 40s wearing a light blouse, and mid length shorts.
Scene starts off inside the Room facing what seems like just another dust covered wall. The sound of shoveling can be heard from the other side of the wall the camera is facing.
Then a shovel head pokes through the wall and sand starts to pour into the room from the destabilized dune, which guarded the door way.
Foot steps running away can be heard and some mostly unintelligible voices heading in the direction of the room.
Voice heard still out of eye shot behind the still significant pile of sand in the doorway.
Tboe: And I was digging like you said, and this happened.
Peirce: Let me see kid, stand aside
We finally see a hand poke through and start to push away the sand from the doorway, enough to finally get inside. Peirces’ head pops in through the opening.
Camera changes now to beside the wall looking towards the doorway as Peirces head ducks back in.
Peirce: Lady’s first
Sam: What a gentleman
Sam squeezes in through the opening. As she slips down the small dune she digs the rest of the sand away from the door way to give the others enough space to crawl in more comfortably.
Peirce: You need a hand there?
Raz: No I got it, I’m a 100 yrs old or anything, give me a break
peirce: Sorry I was just trying to be a nice guy, see why I never do that?
Raz: Oh hush you
Raz slides inside landing comfortably onto her feet. Followed swiftly by Peirce then Travis.
Peirce: Who’s the crazy one now?
Sam: Still you
Peirce: Yeah crazy like a fox
Tboe: I thought you said treasure beyond imagination?
Peirce: Kid if you can’t see the treasure here then I have no hope for you
Sam: He means the history
Tboe: I can’t spend history
Sam: I know but still I mean think about it we were here first
Tboe: Yeah see how many billions that got Neil Armstrong
Raz: Quiet you two, there are ghosts here and I don’t think they wish to be disturbed
Peirce: Well Mrs Thresta, I didn’t peg you as the sentimental type
Raz: You’ll think sentimental when the ghost of the pharoes comes for you
Peirce: Yeah tell it to my wealthy grand children
Tboe: So there is treasure here
Sam: Why do I ever try
Raz: I don’t see any more doors out of this chamber
Peirce: Must have been a treasury at one point. This much space, nothing of any real importance here. but a hell of a time finding it. I’d say this place was plundered a long time ago.
Tboe: I thought you said nobody knew about it, because it’s not supposed to exists.
Peirce: Kid our ancestors were still figuring out that you can sow seed and harvest them the next year when this place was built. How it got here and who built it, I have no idea.
Raz: It’s possible an early off shoot of the Anasazi did this. Maybe a pre-civilization to the ones farther east?
Sam: Should I document it?
Peirce: No, not yet, I don’t want any proof this place exists yet. We” save that for the end of the week when we make the announcement.
Raz: This place is going to raise a lot of questions.
Tboe: Like whats the going rate on dust?
Sam: Be serious
Tboe: You think I wasn’t?
Peirce: We need to check out that alter down there before we go back up. Tboe, you’ll come back down and finish clearing out the doorway and put up some more bracing so we don’t have a cave in sealing this place back up. That’ll be it for today, tomorrow we’ll start documenting it with written description, then Sam you’ll take pictures after we get this place all cleaned up a couple of days from now. Sound good?
All three nod affirmative
Raz: Maybe we should leave the alter alone for now
Tboe: No way if there is even a single gold piece left here I want to find it.
Peirce: The kids right, although not for the same reasons.
Sam: I hope you all took your hay fever meds
The quartet make they way over to the alter. Upon closer inspection the dust seems to have settled on a woven cloth of some sorts covering the entire alter.
Tboe quickly grips the cloth and pulls it off the alter
Peirce: Whoa Whoa Kid hold on
Sam: What the
Dust starts to settle and the can see that this is no ordinary pillar. On the front of the alter there seems to be window box of some sorts. Rectangular in size and Approximately 1wx2t’.
Raz: It looks like something used to go in here
Sam: Maybe it is in there, just turned to dust after all this time?
Tboe: Cheated again
Peirce: Maybe, is this all there is to this?
Raz: What do you mean?
Peirce walks around the alter slowly and stops behind it. Crouches down and looks closer at the small pillar
Peirce: See here
The remaining trio crowed around to see
Sam: You know I just realized this place is really well lit for being underground with no sky facing openings.
Tboe: Bed Bath and Beyond time and space
Peirce: See here, they appear to be hinges
Raz: I’ll be damned
Tboe walks back to the front and as the three others watch with trepidation at his impulsivness, he slowly reaches over giving them all the “See I’m being careful” look as he slowly pushes up and the top of the alter. The lip lifts up and locks in an upright position. Tboe looks again disappointed
Tboe: Just what I needed to find in the middle of the dessert. Rocks.
The rest make their way back over to look into the opening. Camera gets a POV shot as Peirce rounds the corner and looks into the alter. A small space containing shaped stone works stands before him. They each reach in and pull out the pieces of stone.
Tboe: Ancient Alphabet soup
Sam: These do resemble letters somewhat
Raz: These are pretty basic geometric shapes I doubt they have anything to do with modern alphabets.
Peirce: Interesting none the less.
Sam holds hers up to the light to see if she cam make out any more defining details and it slips from her grip.
Sam: Oh crap
The rest hold their breath as it hits the hard stone floor. The object stays intact.
Peirce crouches down and grabs the shape from the floor. He notices the floor right below where the shape fell. Close up of the floor below and a small but noticable ship out of the floor stone. Peirce looks at the object no disserable damage to the object
Peirce: Interesting. Ok gang there are a few of these things in there. Grab them all up and bring them topside. This might be the only memorabilia we get from this particular dig. Of course we’ll check any hidden pathways tomorrow.
The crew gather up the several stone pieces and head out of the room. Camera angled along the wall with the exit so as to see the wall and where the exit is but not beyond. Camera stays in position as each memb er of the party depart the room and disappear out of sight.
Tboe: treasure my ass (off screen)