The Dark Side of the Rainbow

There’s an odd rumor that the rock group Pink Floyd created their iconic “Dark Side of the Moon” album to synchronize with the actions of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” This supposed synchronization has been dubbed “The Dark Side of the Rainbow.”


If you watch this video and start “The Dark Side of the Moon” album as soon as you see the MGM lion roaring, you’ll find that the music actually coincides with the action of the movie. Of course, if you look at any album playing with any movie, you can probably find anything you want to find.

What’s more important from a screenwriting perspective is to watch the first 45 minutes of “The Wizard of Oz” to see how it sets up the structure. Within the first 15 or so minutes, we\’re introduced to all the main characters who will later appear in Oz as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch. We also see the villain right away and her conflict with Dorothy because she wants to kill Toto. Act I is all about establishing the main characters and setting the story by defining the main conflict, which will be between Dorothy and the Wicked Witch.

After the villain tries to take Toto away and Toto escapes, Dorothy runs away from home to protect Toto. She runs into Professor Marvel, who will later turn into the Wizard of Oz. Professor Marvel convinces Dorothy to go back home, but when she does, a tornado appears and lifts Dorothy into the world of Oz, which represents the transition into Act IIa.

In Act IIa, the hero enters a new world and often meets new friends. In Dorothy’s case, she meets the good witch, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man (along with the Cowardly Lion, although this isn’t shown in the embedded video clip).

Just by studying this bizarre “Dark Side of the Rainbow” video, you can see how the story structure works. Because you can’t hear the actual dialogue but listen to Pink Floyd’s music instead, you’re forced to see how the visual action tells the story while the dialogue (unheard in the video) merely supplements the action.

Watch to see how visuals can tell much of the story using interesting places to capture your attention and showing conflict between characters, even if you can’t hear what they’re saying. Also notice how “The Wizard of Oz” clearly sets up the story. Once you introduce the main characters in Act I, you introduce the secondary characters in Act IIa (such as the good witch) who are often allies of the hero. In “The Wizard of Oz,” Act IIa ends when Dorothy finally gets to her original goal, which was to see the Wizard of Oz, who can help her get back home. Remember, going back home was her original goal defined in Act IIa.

The beginning of Act IIa is where the hero has some type of goal and the end of Act IIa is where the hero reaches a False Victory that doesn’t quite solve everything the hero needs because the villain is still lurking in the background.

In Act IIb, things rapidly fall apart for the hero. In this case, Dorothy has to retrieve the broomstick from the wicked witch and the wicked witch kidnaps Dorothy. Act III is where Dorothy finally confronts and defeats the wicked witch, then confronts the Wizard of Oz before finally going back home.

By just watching the first 45 minutes of “The Dark Side of the Rainbow” video, you can see the beginning story structure of “The Wizard of Oz.” Now watch the first 45 minutes of any good movie and you’ll likely notice the same type of structure where Act I introduces the hero and an initial conflict, Act IIa throws the hero into a new world where he or she meets allies, Act IIb shows things falling apart, and Act III shows the hero confronting the villains to achieve the final goal.

Watch good movies with the sound turned off to understand how to tell a story visually without relying on dialogue to tell your entire story. Dialogue should only complement your story because your characters aren’t reading a story to your audience, but showing a story to your audience.

Since most people already know the story of “The Wizard of Oz,” it’s far easier to study the structure rather than get lost in following the story. Notice that there’s no wasted action or scenes that don’t keep driving the story forward at all times. When you can see how well “The Wizard of Oz” works as a story, you can duplicate those techniques in your own screenplay.

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