If progressive non profits knew how to tell stories like Hollywood does, we’d be winning.

Hollywood screenwriters are masters at telling emotionally compelling stories that engage and inspire.

Mark just wrote an incredible step-by-step primer that will walk you through six simple principles that screenwriters use in EVERY movie.

Here’s my follow up: Dissecting the recent Will Smith flick King Richard across each step.

Step One: Identify your protagonist.

The name King Richard says it all. Daughters and tennis badasses Serena and Venus are key characters in this movie, but the protagonist is their father Richard Williams. Full stop.

Step Two: Make your protagonist relatable.

Throughout the movie, Richard is overbearing and stubborn. The screenwriters purposefully help the audience to see past those edges by showing the softer side of Richard early in the movie. He shares flashbacks from his tough childhood growing up in Jim Crowe Louisiana. Neighborhood ruffians beat him up after he protects his older daughter from their unwanted advances. He works long shifts as a night security guard to provide for his family. And he has a dream — which leads us right to step three.

Step Three: Give your character a single must-achieve goal.

Richard has a 78-page plan to ensure Venus and Serena become tennis super stars. He will stop at nothing less.

Step Four: Add a lot of conflict!

Conflict is the MAJORITY of the movie. The screenwriters do not sugar coat all the obstacles standing in the way of Richard getting his goal. And for good reason. Once the conflict is over, the movie is over.

Conflicts can be BIG (like racism). Conflicts can be small (like a tennis court that isn’t well-maintained).

In King Richard, here are just a few conflicts we see:

  • Tennis so white. The entrenched racism in the sport is visible in almost every scene.
  • The well-meaning next door neighbor calls Child Protective Services because she thinks Richard is too hard on his kids.
  • The Williams can’t attract nor afford professional coaches.
  • Richard and his wife Oracene don’t see eye-to-eye.

Step Five: Give the story an ending.

For this movie, the screenwriters chose to end the film after Venus loses to tennis champ Arantxa Sánchez Vicario during her first professional tournament. Despite the loss, Venus shows her skill and tenacity and wins the hearts of fans.

The rest of the story is history.

Step Six: What’s the point of the story?

Telling a story for entertainment’s sake is fine. But powerful stories tend to have themes and morals. King Richard  may tell the story of Venus and Serena’s rise to fame, but the core theme is about putting in hard work in the face of extraordinary adversity and staying humble no matter what.


Once you learn the steps, you’ll be able to identify them in almost EVERY movie you see. Now it’s time to DIY. How can you follow these steps to tell a compelling story for your non profit?