Film maker Steven Lake writes in with this question...
Ok so im throwing together some short scripts etc etc while being given all kinds of lectures on script/ drama/ creating a narrative, and what I seem to be hearing a lot is that without an antagonist or something to block the “desire” of the protagonist then the film won’t grab an audience. Do you agree with this? (snip)
My answer to Steve
I understand your question and will challenge you to think about this angle and see if it helps...
The antagonist can be the protagonist's own ignorance, prejudice, shame, fear etc. Can our hero overcome his fear of the outside world to win the girl etc etc. The antagonist can also be society or a group or an opinion or a world view.
Viewed this way more stories make sense and fit the model.
HOWEVER - the antagonist / protagonist theory applies to drama and story. A lot of shorts are actually jokes / sketches. Jokes do not generally follow this rule.
In conclusion: Antagonist / protagonist theory is useful if you feel your story isn't going anywhere. It does help with story. It also helps you to focus on the goals of ALL your characters (not just the hero) and the relationships between them. But it doesn't fit 100% - especially in shorts. But that's because shorts are not always about the story. If you plan to grab the audience's attention and make them interested in another way then go for it. Because that's the only true rule in film making - make sure the audience listens.