SCRIPT BREAKDOWN: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

(this article first appeared on

In my blog articles known as the ‘SCRIPT BREAKDOWN’ series, I give a breakdown of a film script as seen through the eyes of a screenwriter (who moonlights as a video script copywriter). By understanding how different physical and emotional plot points play out in movies, I believe screenwriters, and even video script copywriters, can better figure out how to map their own scripts and brand stories. It’s not a formula for storytelling; you can’t just add water and stir, but it can be helpful as a guide.

For greater insight into the building blocks of the Hero’s Journey paradigm, I recommend reading The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

I also recommend watching Winning the Story Wars, a TED Talk by internationally recognized storyteller, author, designer and entrepreneur, Jonah Sachs, the co-founder and creative director of Free Range Media.

If you’d like to leave a comment at the end, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share this post using the buttons below. Cheers!

The Treasure of The Sierra Madre (1948)

Director/ Writer: John Huston (winner of Academy Award for both)



Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) is a down-on-his-luck drifter, playing the lottery and begging for money He meets and befriends another drifter, Curtin (Tim Holt).  The two work on an oil rig job together but get stiffed out of their wages by a crooked boss.

CALL TO ADVENTURE: Dobbs and Curtin meet Howard (Walter Huston) (MENTOR), an old-timer who’s filled with stories about gold prospecting. He ruminates on the way greed for gold can consume a man, but Dobbs swears it would never have that effect on him. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL)

Dobbs and Curtin take revenge on their crooked boss and steal from him the wages he owes them. When Dobbs ALSO wins a small local lottery, he and Curtin now have enough money to finance a gold dig, and with the help of Howard, they head out into the wilds.



On the train ride out to the gold fields, Dobbs, Curtin and Howard come under attack by a gang of Mexican bandits led by ‘Gold Hat’ (Alfonso Bedoya) (OUTER-CIRCLE ANTAGONIST). They beat off the attack, but Gold Hat lives to fight another day.

Dobbs can’t take the hardship of the desert and wants to quit. Despite the moaning and groaning, Howard eventually finds gold for them and they set up a successful gold dig. It’s not long before Dobbs’ insecurities set in. His earlier claim that he would never get ‘gold fever’ is shown to be a lie. He’s the most paranoid of the bunch, causing the otherwise level-headed Curtin to be on guard, too.

MID-POINT: While shopping for supplies in a nearby town, Curtin runs into Cody (Bruce Bennett), a prospector who’s eager for gold news and suspects Curtin knows more than he’s saying. Cody follows Curtin back to his camp and confronts Dobbs and Howard, who must decide whether to kill him or include him in their hunt for gold.

Dobbs, Curtin and Howard decide to kill Cody but are forced to work with him to fend off an attack by Gold Hat and his bandits. The Federales eventually chase off the bandits, but Cody’s been killed in the fight. In his pocket, Curtin finds and reads a letter from Cody’s wife. It talks about how love and family are more important than riches. The thematic message in the letter seems to convince Dobbs to be satisfied with the gold they have, so the threesome pack up and leave the mine behind.

Local Indians beseech them to help save the life of a young boy who is unconscious after nearly drowning in a river. Dobbs, more worried about his gold then Indians, refuses but Howard (MENTOR) agrees to go with them to help, leaving Dobbs and Curtin to take his gold to town for him.

LOWEST POINT: Left with the old man’s gold, Dobbs gold fever returns ten-fold. He wants to steal it and run, but Curtin refuses. Dobbs shoots him and leaves him for dead, taking all the gold for himself. Clearly Dobbs is the INNER-CIRCLE ANTAGONIST, and if things go as the audience expects, he’ll meet a tragic end. But how?

Curtin drags himself to the Indian village, informs Howard of what’s happened and the two of them head out to find Dobbs.


Dobbs is within sight of the town where he can sell the gold and get the riches he wants so badly, but at a watering hole he’s found and killed by Gold Hat and his men. (Bogart is dead?! Whaaat?!)

Gold Hat and his gang steal Dobb’s donkeys, who are carrying piles of animal skins to hide the bags of gold. For some inexplicable reason, Gold Hat empties and discards the bags of gold. It’s a B/W movie, so it’s hard to tell when what’s inside the bags hits the dirt whether it’s gold or sand, but if it’s not gold, where is the gold?

Anyway, they seem more interested in selling the donkeys and animals skins in town, but they’re discovered for the bandits they are and executed swiftly.

CLIMAX: Curtin and Howard arrive, eager for news of what happened to the bags that their donkeys were carrying. They rush off to a spot outside of town where the locals say they saw some bags on the ground, but when they get there, whatever was inside them is gone, swept away by a windstorm, back to the earth from which it came.

DENOUEMENT: At first distraught, Howard and Curtin laugh at the irony After all that effort, paranoia and death they end up with no gold. So what will they do now?

After curing the drowned boy earlier, Howard’s now revered as a healer by the local Indians and has been invited to live with them. Howard encourages Curtin to go find Cody’s wife and bring her news of her husband. Maybe she can give him work on the fruit farms she owns. Since owning a fruit farm has been a long-time dream of Curtin’s, he likes that idea.

With the thematic message that love and family is far more important than the destructive power of greed, Curtin and Howard wave their goodbyes and go their separate ways.


Do you need help turning your brand story into some great video script copywriting? Contact copywriter Phil Parker for a free chat at

Script writer Phil Parker hired again!

Job complete. Client thrilled. Hired again! That’s the kind of news I love to hear!

Recently, the award-winning filmmakers at Tent Pictures Productions contracted me to write a comprehensive treatment/ outline for their animated feature film, ‘A Street Cat Named Anbar’. With only minimal character outlines and a basic concept to go by, I set about creating a compelling adventure, sprinkled with both comedy and drama. Think ‘Lady and the Tramp’ meets ‘The Pink Panther’.

My client was thrilled with the results:

“The story is perfectly constructed, with compelling characterizations and appealing plot. My story would NEVER have happened without the assistance of Phil. I am very grateful to work with him, and still continue to do so. Thank you for running such a fine business. Great work!” – Fadel AlMheiri, Director (TPP)

I’m very pleased to announce that TPP has hired me again to write a comprehensive treatment/ outline; this time for a road-trip comedy/ drama feature film. Work begins soon, and I can’t wait! I live and breathe for great storytelling.

If you, or someone you know, need the help of a passionate and in-demand screenwriter, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to working with you!

For more information about me, please visit


“My story ‘Kindred’ is now a unique, fun, powerful, meaningful and kick-arse screenplay because Phil challenges your story to be the most potent it can be. He really knows structure and how to write with economy, flair and versatility. Your script will be in great hands!” Josh Bryer, Creative Director

“Directors and production companies from around the world are hiring Phil! And rightly so. His ability to turn a good idea into a great screenplay is a talent anyone would want for their project.” – Karel Segers (Founder,

How to Use Content Marketing as a Sales Tool in Your Business

7 simple ways advisers can engage new clients with content through online and social.

Advisers now more than ever need to reach out and communicate with their clients and potential clients through channels such as social media, blogs, e-letters, newsletters, videos, podcasts and via their websites.

Content = getting to know you

Why? Well firstly because the consumer landscape has changed. Marketing research shows that customers are turned off by direct attempts to sell to them. What they appreciate more is reading or engaging through content that gives them information they are looking for before they make a buying decision. If that content is delivered to them from you, then they get to know and trust you and your company, and are more likely to do business with you.

Or to put it another way; “Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world you are one”. Robert Rose, The Content Marketing Institute.

Sharing is caring

Delivering empowering, educational and compelling content through your comms will place you as an expert – as someone who’s across what’s current and who cares about sharing knowledge with their customer base.

But given most advisers are not trained writers and don’t have a huge amount of time to create content – here are seven tips to help you deliver content that will perform as a sales tool.

  1. Tell great stories: Your clients are busy so grab their attention quickly. Give them headlines that make them sit up and take notice. Got a success story from a client? Don’t be afraid to ask for personal endorsements. That helps build your brand. Using real life case studies are great ways of showing what you can achieve for a client.
  2. Cover hot topics: Write about subjects that are current and that you know people are talking about. It may be SMSF’s or BitCoin. Try searching Google Trends or news sites for ideas. Remember, you don’t just have to write about what you sell. Go wider with your topics. General finance or money stories are of interest to most people.
  3. Add value: Show your clients you are a great resource for information. People like and appreciate free content that is informative and useful. It builds trust and they might share it, which is free advertising! If you’re stuck for ideas, try using to gather links to stories around certain keywords.
  4. Find your voice: Stay true to yourself when you create content. People want to read/ see/ hear what you have to say. It helps create a more human, emotional connection. Don’t be afraid to give personal opinions.
  5. Know your customers: The best content matches what your clients are looking for. Would they appreciate you sharing the occasional cat video from Youtube? Pictures from your company’s charity fun run? Or just common sense advice? Whatever it is, use language and content they will connect with and understand. And remember it’s okay to use humor now and then. Whitepapers tend not to go viral!
  6. Keep it short: Don’t overwhelm your clients with too much information at one time. Attention spans and spare time are getting shorter so keep it simple. Choose one topic, one message. It will have more impact and it means you don’t use up all your subject matter at once.
  7. Use third party content: You don’t have to write everything yourself. Has someone else written a brief article, analysis or blog related to your area of expertise? Showing a willingness to point to other experts demonstrates your own greater understanding and awareness of the field you are in.

If you need more help in figuring out what ‘content marketing’ is all about, there is a great free e-book with short and simple examples at this website-

And if it still feels too overwhelming that’s ok, you can always hire a content marketing agency to take care of it all for you.

(Originally written for and published by BT Financial, Australia, in November 2014)