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Date: 8/20/03

Subject: Plot Structure

Plot Structure:
The Believers


The subject of the film, "The Believers"
(, is a group of wealthy New York City couples who perform human sacrifices as part of black magic rituals.

The focus of the story is the investigation of Dr. Cal Jamison (Martin Sheen), a psychiatrist, into whether Police Officer Tom Lopez (Jimmy Smits) is responsible for killing several young children in these sacrifices.

The investigative angle of the story involves answering the question of why these children were killed.

Cal helps answer this question by deciphering the meaning of these ritualistic killings and by speaking with members of a privately-owned drug rehabilitation organization that helps children.

He discovers that Officer Lopez helped coach children for the organization, and that some of these children were the victims of the killings he's investigating.

Cal also discovers that the killings involved the use of black magic.

Being that Officer Lopez practiced Santeria ( ), a religious form of magic used for good purposes, Cal finds that Lopez couldn't have been the person who killed the children.

Instead, it turns out that Robert Calder, a wealthy businessman, is the murderer.

He acts as chairman of the drug rehabilitation organization that Lopez innocently assisted, and Robert has convinced a group of New York City couples to offer their children as human sacrifices in black magic rituals for the obtaining of wealth and power.

Kate (Elizabeth Wilson) and Dennis Maslow (Lee Richardson), the parents of Cal Jamison's deceased wife, took part in the rituals and sacrificed their own son in similar rituals years earlier in order to obtain wealth and power.

In a horrific plot twist, Dennis drugs Cal and tries to get him to kill his son, Chris Jamison, in a ritual to empower the members of the rehabilitation organization.

Cal saves his son, Chris, by stabbing Dennis and Robert Calder to death.

A few months later, we find that Cal has bought a farm in a country setting.

He has also married his New York City landlord, Jessica Hallowell (Helen Shaver), and, together with Chris, they are now a family.

But all is not well. Cal finds an altar of sacrificed animals in the barn that is part of his farm.

Jessica tells him, "I did it for us. To protect us."

She has been hypnotized into believing in the very rituals that endangered Cal and Chris. She has become one of the believers.

The plot structure of "The Believers" utilizes the investigative questions that are asked by reporters: Who? What? When? Where? And Why?

The protagonist, Dr. Cal Jamison, must answer these questions in regard to the ritualistic killing of the young children in New York City.

He must find out who killed the children, what the killings mean, when they were done, where they were done, and why they were done.

To verify whether Officer Tom Lopez is the killer, Cal seeks out information about who had the most to gain from killing the children, what the religious significance of the killings was, when the killings took place, the meaning of the locations where the killings were done, and the reason why anyone would kill children.

Cal discovers that Robert Calder had the most to gain from the killings. Robert obtained power through them because the children were sacrifices to the gods.

The religious significance of the killings was that they were part of the evil of black magic.

The killings took place just before the rise to wealth and power of the couples who provided their children for them.

The killings were also done in locations containing structures that could be used as religious altars for sacrifices.

The reason they were done was so that people like Robert Calder would not have to worry about how to achieve success. He sacrificed his own son, Peter, by stabbing him to death. As a result, he became a successful business tycoon.

Screenwriters can study "The Believers" as an example of how best to use investigative reporting techniques to tell a story in the most dramatic way possible.

To use these techniques:

1. Decide upon a noun-like subject for your story: a person, place, or thing. In "The Believers," the subject is the group of New York City couples, the believers.

2. Focus upon a main conflict or crime related to your subject. In "The Believers," the main conflict and crime is the murder of a young child, next to whom Police Officer Tom Lopez was found unconscious.

3. Decide upon a main investigative angle that will help you dramatize this main conflict or crime. In "The Believers," the angle comes in the form of a question: Why were several children killed in human sacrifices in New York City?

4. To clarify and expand upon this angle, answer the question of who, what, when, and where the main conflict or crime from your story occurred.

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