Gerald Hanks Filmography

Monday, January 3, 2022

Screenwriting with the VOTE Method: National Champion$

With the college football bowl season winding down and the CFP National Championship on the horizon, the new film National Champion$ examines the issues surrounding the "student-athlete" model and how it impacts the big-money world of college football.

NOTE: The purpose of this review does not involve evaluating the story, direction, or performances in the film.

Instead, the purpose involves illustrating how a screenplay by Adam Mervis (21 Bridges, The Last Days of Capitalism) could apply the VOTE Method as a tool for character development.

This post contains some MILD SPOILERS for the film.



LeMarcus James (Stephan James) must choose between playing in the college football national championship game or fighting for the rights of his fellow players.

Victory: What does he want?

LeMarcus wants to lead a player boycott of the College Football Championship Game to protest their unfair working conditions.

Obstacles: What stands between him and his Victory?

  • He could lose his final opportunity to win a national championship.
  • He risks his status as the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, which could net him millions of dollars.
  • The billion-dollar machinery of the NCAA and their member conferences come down on him.
  • A ruthless private investigator threatens to reveal dirt about his past.

Tactics: What actions does he take to overcome the Obstacles and gain his Victory?

  • He gives speeches to win over his teammates and his opponents.
  • He goes to the media and illustrates the inequities between the rich coaches and the poor players.
  • He hides from his coaches and moves to different hotels.
  • He confronts the investigator and his coach over their hypocrisy.

Emotion: What emotional need drives him to pursue his Victory?

LeMarcus needs to find a way to support Emmett Sunday, his best friend and teammate, who suffered a life-changing injury and will never make the pros.


LeMarcus's teammate and best friend Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig) faces the end of his football career without any hopes of making it into the NFL.

Victory: What does he want?

Emmett wants to support his family after his college football career ends.

Obstacles: What stands between him and his Victory?

  • His numerous injuries prevent him from starting an NFL career.
  • His time spent in games and practices prevented him from getting a quality education.
  • His stand with LeMarcus could get him blacklisted for any future football jobs.

Tactics: What actions does he take to overcome the Obstacles and gain his Victory?

  • He supports LeMarcus in his efforts to improve the standing of college football players.
  • He helps LeMarcus develop his media strategies.
  • He hides LeMarcus's movements from their coaches.

Emotion: What emotional need drives him to pursue his Victory?

He needs to make a difference for the players who will come after him and experience the same hardships.



Missouri Wolves head coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons) has the opportunity to win his first National Championship – but only if his star QB shows up for the game.

Victory: What does he want?

Coach Lazor wants to find his star player and win the National Championship game.

Obstacles: What stands between him and his Victory?

  • LeMarcus keeps changing his location.
  • Several players join LeMarcus's strike.
  • His wife leaves him for a professor.
  • College football executives breathe down his neck to get LeMarcus on the field.

Tactics: What actions does he take to overcome the Obstacles and gain his Victory?

  • He sends his coaches on a manhunt to find his QB.
  • He gives an inspirational speech to his remaining players.
  • He gives a press conference to address LeMarcus's terms.

Emotion: What emotional need drives him to pursue his Victory?

He needs to win the championship to justify the long hours spent coaching and the loss of his marriage.


Private investigator Katherine Poe (Uzo Aduba) works with the NCAA as a "fixer" to solve issues that the white male establishment wants to keep out of the public eye.

Victory: What does she want?

Katherine wants to find LeMarcus and save her job with the NCAA.

Obstacles: What stands between her and her Victory?

  • LeMarcus's public statements interfere with her subtle approach.
  • His frequent movements send her on a wild goose chase.
  • Her bosses underestimate her capabilities.

Tactics: What actions does she take to overcome the Obstacles and gain her Victory?

  • She exposes LeMarcus's drunken actions at a college party that led to a COVID outbreak on campus.
  • She threatens to expose his part in a bar fight that led to a man's death.
  • She tries to find his half-brother, who could expose more secrets about LeMarcus's past.

Emotion: What emotional need drives her to pursue the Victory?

She needs to prevent the threat that LeMarcus's strike presents to the non-revenue college sports that allowed her to get an education.

National Champion$ is now available on Prime Video, Google Play, the iTunes store, and most major on-demand platforms. 


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