questionmarkI have read countless things about what makes a screenplay sell, however, when I look at a film like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I can’t help but wonder how a screenplay like this sold.

All I’ve heard from the experts is that you need character arcs and all that jazz but I just don’t see that in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He wakes up and gets back in bed the same person, right?

Obviously it’s a great film, an instant classic but it just seems to defy everything a “great screenplay” should have by today’s standards. Any thoughts?

— Nick
Rhode Island

answer iconYou could spend a semester studying what makes Ferris Bueller such a classic, but the character arc thing is easily answered:

Ferris doesn’t change. Cameron does. Cameron is the reluctant protagonist, literally dragged along by Ferris. By the end of the story, Cameron has changed a little, with plans to stand up to his father. Arcs don’t have to be epic.

As I’ve said before, the main character doesn’t have to protagonate. Yes, in most movies, your hero is the protagonist and it’s all cut and dried. But it’s not the only way a story can work.

If you’re ever confused, refer to Michael Goldenberg’s advice: The protagonist is the character that suffers the most.

In this case, that’s Cameron.