ON LOCATION August 13, 2016: Is Your Inciting Incident as Strong as It Could Be?


Your inciting incident scene is absolutely crucial to the success of your screenplay. Everything is riding on it.

  1. The core conflict in your story
  2. The action to follow
  3. The lead character(s) desire line or external goal.
  4. The ‘big hook’ for the audience
  5. An important aspect of the trailer
  6. An inkling of the future stakes.

Get it right. Your story and character depend on it.


Here are three of the most electrifying inciting incidents in all of Cinema.

  1. The Sales Contest from GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

The real estate firm of Premier Properties, in a quest to increase their sales numbers, have brought in a guest speaker and a new “sales contest” to incite results in its salesmen.

This motivation comes in the form of a belligerent and verbally abusive Blake (the best role of Alec Baldwin’s career), who informs everyone about the details of the contest.



  1. The death of Charlie’s father from RAIN MAN

Luxury vehicle importer, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), has just learned of the passing of his father and travels to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the purposes of the will.

He discovers much more than he realized when his inciting incident reveals he has a brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Raymond lives in an assisted-living facility and suffers from autism. He has also been named trustee of his father’s estate.


  1. “No one will hire you!” from TOOTSIE

Actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) has a problem, a BIG problem.

He has acquired a reputation of being one of the most difficult actors to work with on both coasts.

In the pivotal inciting incident scene, Michael’s agent, George Fields), explains the harsh reality to the actor. He can’t set him up for any acting jobs anywhere due to his cantankerous Lindsay Lohan-like demands on set.

The desperate nature of the situation leaves Michael little choice than to explore the only cross-dressing option he can think of. He decides to audition for a female role on a daytime soap opera.

(Just a word about the reveal scene where he finally comes clean. It’s immensely rewarding on many levels. It pays off many of the relationships Michael has formed throughout the film simultaneously).

It produces one of the greatest lines from the movies.

‘I was a better man with you, as a woman… than I ever was with a woman, as a man. You know what I mean?’


If you haven’t seen these movies, rent them, buy them, borrow money if you have to but see them.

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