#ThrowbackThursday- Aardman, Bristol and Me

Throwback Thursday

Something a little different this week…

People often ask me why I moved to the UK and why Bristol in particular.  I will leave the UK answer to my post on the difference between American and UK/European broadcasters.  The answer to the Bristol part is easy.

My good friend Paul Kewley, when newly appointed as a development executive at Aardman Studios, invited me to Bristol to do a series of workshops.  These visits to the city from the US resulted in several consulting assignments on Aardman projects.

I met Paul when I was in the Masters Program in Screenwriting at UCLA and he, a Brit, was a student in the USC Masters program in Producing.

He like a script of mine and we went out pitching a number of projects together.  Over the years we stayed in touch and when we were in a position to recommend each other we did! So thanks Paul for the introduction to Bristol and Aardman

Paul has since become Oscar-nominated as a producer of Shaun the Sheep.  One of Aardman’s iconic characters, first introduced in Nick Park’s Oscar-winning A Close Shave.

Always be kind to school chums as they may someday be in a position to offer you a job! And it’s a good idea to be kind and helpful anyway because that makes you a human being!

The lovely Nick Park, as a result of my work on Aardman projects, wrote one of the two letters I needed to apply for my Tier One Exceptional Talent visa. This allows me to work in the UK without restriction.

Nick is quite simply a genius, although a genuinely humble and shy one. The gentle affection with which he writes his characters, despite their loopy eccentricities shows a depth of understanding of the human condition.  Thanks, Nick for being one of the principle reasons I was allowed my lovely time in Bristol.

Barbara Machin, BAFTA-winning creator of Waking the Dead brought me on board as a consultant for long-running BBC medical series Casualty.  

I’ve since done work on both Casualty and companion show Holby City. The first show is about A & E (or the emergency room in US terms) and the second is set in the hospital.

 The shows were initially shot in Bristol and subsequently moved to Cardiff.  But it was another introduction to Bristol and Barbara was a principal cheerleader and hand-holder during my UK Visa application process.

So thank Barbara for encouraging not to give up my dream of living in the UK.  Initially, I thought for one year, but it’s been almost five and with a recent visa renewal, I am good to stay until 2021 and eligible to apply for “leave to remain” indefinitely. (like a US Green Card).

Wildseed, a talent incubator and production company started by Miles Bulloughs and Jesse Cleary, Aardman alumnus, hired me early on to help young animators improve their storytelling skills.  It was a Bristol vote of confidence shortly after I moved. And subsequently, Scandinavian and UK writers/directors and producers have come to Bristol to work with me.  And it’s very easy to fly anywhere from Bristol airport via Amsterdam or Brussels.

So the final answer is, I knew a lot of people in Bristol (a real social network and not just a virtual one), there were lots of clients here, and it is easy to travel anywhere in the world.  Not to mention Bristol is a wonderful friendly creative city! Voted Best Place to Live in Britain-  CLICK HERE

 

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#MondayMusings – Scandi Noir & Casting

MONDAY MUSINGS

I don’t talk much about casting but it is a part of what I do.  One of my top casting tips is to watch auditions with the sound off.  Ask yourself what is the actor giving off- regardless of the words he or she is saying.  Casting is one of the times when I think the words get in the way. In one of my consulting jobs, I was called in to help figure out why an actor was floundering in his role.

He was a young pop star in the country involved.  He was cast in an extended recurring role.  He was meant to be a “bad boy”, rebel, slightly dangerous love interest for a popular young actress on the show.  They dressed him in ripped jeans, scuffed motorcycle boots, and a cool leather jacket– meant to emulate a young James Dean.  But he wasn’t connecting with the actress or the audience.

I asked the producers to cut together three scenes in which the actor was prominently featured. They could be from anywhere in story.  We watched the scenes with the sound off.  I asked the writers and produces what this actor was giving off.  They chose words like: eager, open, sweet, puppy-dog like.  There wasn’t a dangerous bone in his body.  We changed his Character Type and he became a great success.

Actors will tell you they can play anything.  And that is true.  But if they play a role outside their emotional zone they will bring craft, professionalism, and technical skill to the role.  But we will be able to see them acting.  No audience wants to see acting.  They want to see a character being him or herself.

Casting is one of the things that makes Scandi Noir so compulsively watchable.  The actors look like real people engaged in a professional, criminal, or ordinary pursuits. They have faces you might see on the street in an ordinary Scandanavia town. They don’t have “Hollywood teeth”.

When I was in South Africa I learned Black Sails was shot at Cape Town Studios. That series passed me when it aired,  I decided to catch up.  The pirates were very authentically dressed for the ragtag dangerous life they lived.  They had missing fingers and toes, lost legs, gouged out eyes, and cruel scars– but they all had perfectly even white teeth!

#ThinkpieceThursday – The Power of Love is a Double Edged Sword

Thinkpiece Thursday

 

Power of Love characters fear being useless, unnecessary, unwanted or unappreciated. They believe that if they aren’t hypersensitive to others’ needs they will be rejected and abandoned. They define their own self-worth by how much others need or are dependent on them.  Examples in song are below “As Long as He Needs Me” from the musical and film Oliver and “He Needs Me” from Punch Drunk Love.

These characters believe the way to get love and keep love is to be helpful, useful, loving, kind and, above all, necessary to the other person. They fear that if you don’t put others first you won’t have good relationships. If you don’t have close personal relationships, then life isn’t worth living.

On a paper valentine it says simply, firmly and powerfully “Be Mine.” Possessiveness and passive/aggressive domination are the hallmarks of these characters in their Dark Side. Power of Love characters often lavish their attention and affection on others in order to exercise control, prevail, gain dominance or conquer another’s heart. The example below is “Mother Knows Best” from the movie Tangled.

Here are the three examples in song (lyrics are below):

“As Long As He Needs Me” from the musical and film Oliver as sung by Shirley Bassey.

LYRICS FOR AS LONG AS HE NEEDS ME

As long as he needs me…
Oh, yes, he does need me…
In spite of what you see…
…I’m sure that he needs me.
Who else would love him still
When they’ve been used so ill?
He knows I always will…
As long as he needs me.
I miss him so much when he is gone,
But when he’s near me
I don’t let on…
…The way I feel inside.
The love, I have to hide…
The hell! I’ve gone my pride
As long as he needs me.
He doesn’t say the things he should.
He acts the way he thinks he should.
But all the same,
I’ll play
This game
His way.
As long as he needs me…
I know where I must be.
I’ll cling on steadfastly…
As long as he needs me.
As long as life is long…
I’ll love him right or wrong,
And somehow, I’ll be strong…
As long as he needs me.
If you are lonely
Then you will know…
When someone needs you,
You love them so.
I won’t betray his trust…
Though people say I must.
I’ve got to stay true, just
As long as he needs me.
Another great example of love as need is “He Needs Me” from Punch Drunk Love:

 

LYRICS TO HE NEEDS ME

And all at once I knew
I knew at once
I knew he needed me

Until the day I die I wonder why
I knew he needed me
It could be fantasy oh oh
or maybe it’s because…

He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me!

Da da da da da da da da da da da dum da da da da da da da da da da da

It’s like a dime a dance
I’ll take a chance I will because he needs me
No one ever asked before, before, because they never needed me
“But I do”
But he does!

Maybe it’s because he’s so alone
Maybe it’s because he’s never had a home

He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me!

For once, for once in life I finally felt that someone needed me
And if it turns out real
Then love can turn the wheel

Because…
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me!

Da da da da da da da da da da da dum

The Dark Side of Power of Love is sung with great effect by Mother Gothel in Tangled:

LYRICS TO MOTHER KNOWS BEST
You want to go outside? Why, Rapunzel!
Look at you, as fragile as a flower
Still a little sapling, just a sprout
You know why we stay up in this tower
I know but
That’s right, to keep you safe and sound, dear
Guess, I always knew this day was coming
Knew that soon you’d want to leave the nest
Soon, but not yet
But
Shh! Trust me, pet
Mother knows best
Mother knows best
Listen to your mother
It’s a scary world out there
Mother knows best
One way or another
Something will go wrong, I swear
Ruffians and thugs, poison ivy, quicksand
Cannibals and snakes, the plague
No! Yes! But
Also large bugs
Men with pointy teeth, and
Stop, no more, you’ll just upset me
Mother’s right here
Mother will protect you
Darling, here’s what I suggest
Skip the drama
Stay with mama
Mother knows best
Got ahead, get trampled by a rhino
Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead!
Me, I’m just your mother, what do I know?
I only bathed, and changed, and nursed you
Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it
Let me die alone here, be my guest!
When it’s too late, you’ll see, just wait
Mother knows best
Mother knows best
Take it from your mumsy
On your own, you won’t survive
Sloppy, underdressed, immature, clumsy
Please, they’ll eat you up alive
Gullible, naive, positively grubby
Ditzy and a bit, well, hmm, vague
Plus, I believe gettin’ kinda chubby
I’m just saying ’cause I love you
Mother understands
Mother’s here to help you
All I have is one request
Rapunzel?
Yes?
Don’t ever ask to leave this tower again
Yes, mother
I love you very much, dear
I love you more
I love you most
Don’t forget it
You’ll regret it
Mother knows best

#ThinkpieceThursday – Coincidence Tanks Top of the Lake: China Girl

Thinkpiece Thursday

Despite strong performances all around, the sequel to Top of the Lake disappoints because of the ridiculous contrived coincidences powering its plot.

## SPOILER ALERT ##

Teenaged Mary, (Alice Englert) is the long lost daughter given up for adoption by Robin (Elizabeth Moss) the cop investigating the “China Girl” murder.  Mary just happens to be sexually and romantically involved with the killer, nicknamed “Puss” (David Dencik).

The brothel Puss helps run, where “China Girl” worked, is also an illegal surrogate “farm”.  It caters to Australians so desperate to have a baby they don’t really check the girls’ backgrounds.

The supervising cop on the investigation just happens to have used one of the brothel girls as a surrogate for the child his mistress wants to have.  He KNOWS his surrogate is a prostitute because he has frequented the place.

His mistress, Miranda (Gwendoline Christie) just happens to be Robin’s partner on the police force investigating the China Girl murder.

This is too much coincidence to sustain credibility.

When is coincidence a good thing?  K.M. Weiland describes it beautifully:

Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

“At some point in almost every story, there is going to be something coincidental that kicks off the plot. What is it that first brings the protagonist and antagonist into opposition? Often, it’s a coincidence:

  • Roger Thornhill accidentally hailing the page boy who is looking for a government agent in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
  • Harvey Cheyne falling into the ocean and being rescued by fisherman Manuel who just happened to be there in Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous.
  • Katniss’s sister Prim just happening to be drawn as a tribute in her first eligible year in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games.

 

  • D’Artagnan just happening to insult Athos, Porthos, and Aramis on his first day in town in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.
  • Flik catching just the end of the circus bugs’ Robin Hood act and believing they’re really warriors in A Bug’s Life.

All of these things just happen. Although there are some causal dominoes leading the protagonists up to a few of these examples, there’s not enough cause in play here to let any of these moments avoid being coincidences.

And yet they still work. Why? Because they only make things harder–and more interesting–for the characters. You’ll also note these major coincidences are pretty much the only major unexplained coincidences in their stories. It’s not on Pixar’s list, but we could add to their above rule:

Only one major coincidence per story: early in the story.”

That’s a rule to live by.  For another of my blog posts on coincidence click HERE

 

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#TypesTuesday – Batman v Sherlock: Comparing Reason and Truth

Types Tuesday

Batman and Sherlock Holmes are both detectives of sorts but they approach their investigation into crime very differently. Batman is a Power of Truth character.  Holmes is a Power of Reason character. This makes all the difference in how their stories are told.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (my favorite Batman movies) is remarkably consistent in its emotional and psychological characterizations. In the Emotional Toolbox method, rather than looking at genre, the essential emotional force driving the movie is analyzed. Nolan’s trilogy is a series of complex multi-layered Power of Truth stories.

These kinds of stories are driven by secrets, lies, conspiracies, or concealment. In the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, a huge lie is rotting at the heart of Gotham City.

Bruce Wayne/Batman languishes in disgrace, broken and hiding in his cavernous mansion. Harvey Dent, who had become the criminally insane Two Face in the previous film, The Dark Knight, has been put on a pedestal and is revered as a hero. His crimes are concealed and even blamed on Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises and all Power of Truth stories chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. These stories also ask: when does betrayal look like loyalty and when does loyalty look like betrayal? These stories’ twists, turns, treachery, and reversals, changes everything the character believes is true. All the character holds dear is destroyed.  It is a story of emotional devastation.

One of the major betrayals at the heart of the film is Alfred Pennyworth’s omission in telling Bruce Wayne what happened just before Bruce’s great love, Rachel Dawes, died. Alfred argues against Bruce re-emerging as Batman, revealing the truth about Rachel.

Bruce argues that Rachel died believing that the two of them would be together; that was his life beyond the cape. He can’t just move on because she couldn’t move on– she died.

Alfred reluctantly tells Wayne the truth, “What if she had? What if, before she died, she wrote a letter saying she chose Harvey Dent over you? And what if, to spare your pain, I burnt that letter?”

Bruce accuses Alfred of just using Rachel to try to stop him. Alfred is adamant. “I am using the truth, Master Wayne. Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day. I’m sorry.”

In Power of Truth stories, like Nolan’s Batman trilogy, things are never what they seem.  The tangled undergrowth of human duplicity and emotional treachery catches and pulls at every character in the film.

Power of Reason stories are much more straight forward.  The investigation is a puzzle to be solved logically, emotion doesn’t enter into it. Of course, there is deception in these stories, but the lies are exposed by the careful collection of empirical evidence and objective deduction.

Sherlock says:  “Impossible suicides? Four of them? There’s no point sitting at home when there’s finally something fun going on!

Mrs. Hudson: “Look at you, all happy. It’s not decent.”

Sherlock: “Who cares about decent? The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”

Power of Reason characters examine the situation, consult other expert opinions or past experiences, and put their minds to the issue in a thorough and objective fashion.  It’s all a puzzle to be solved or a game to win. The human cost of murder or suicide doesn’t factor into the equation.

These characters cannot abide deviation from their systematic and orderly approach to the world. They tend to discount or ignore emotional or spiritual (or supernatural) elements in a situation or a problem. If they can’t see it, measure it, categorize it or quantify it, they don’t believe in it.

Power of Reason characters don’t believe in getting personally involved or emotionally entangled in any issue. They always try to maintain a sense of cool detachment and personal objectivity. They are good listeners but deflect or avoid any intimate questions about themselves and are extremely private about disclosing anything they consider to be personal. They are excellent problem-solvers and experts on matters technical, scientific or arcane.

Moving from a cold clinical analysis toward a more human evaluation (which takes into consideration emotional connection, caring, and a real valuing of others’ feelings) is their journey toward greatness.

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#TypesTuesday – Zero Dark Thirty and Power of Conscience

Tuesday Types

In Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal and directed by Katherine Bigelow, a young CIA operative called Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, is obsessed with finding and killing Osama Bin Ladin, a terrorist.

She is involved in morally reprehensible torture and criminal violence to track down and have her quarry killed.  She is driven and relentless, so much so that when she is successful she has no idea what to do next. And we have to ask, what does her immoral activity make her? Hero or war criminal?

Bigelow explains in an interview:

“I think what’s so interesting and so poignant for Jessica, myself, for all of us, is this idea that this woman (Maya) has spent the last ten years exclusively in the pursuit of one man and yes, at the end of the day, she triumphed, but it’s not a victory because finally, at the end of the day, you’re left with much larger questions like, where does she go from here? Where do we go from here? Now what?” Chastain adds, “I find that to end the film on that question is far more interesting than providing an answer.”

Power of Conscience characters wrestle with how far they should go in seeking justice or in standing up against evil or wrongdoing.  The question is: what is the higher duty and what exactly is required of them in response. In their Dark Side, these characters believe the ends justify the means (evil behavior for a good or moral purpose).  Maya is involved in terrible activities, but she does get her man. Can she live with herself?  Or is she willing to do even worse things for the next right cause?

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#TypesTuesday – James Bond: From Power of Excitement to Power of Reason

Types Tuesday

Bond.  James Bond.

Paul Haggis changed the course of 007 with his reboot of Casino Royale.  I had the great pleasure of working with him on Quantum of Solace as a consultant.  That film followed up our work together on In the Valley of Elah. 

Casino Royale effectively updated, renewed and refreshed the James Bond character for new audiences. The Bourne franchise suddenly made Bond seem old fashioned. So a complete reboot was in order.

The classic James Bond, like Indiana Jones, and the more comedic Austin Powers, was written and played as a Power of Excitement character. Stories driven by the Power of Excitement are about getting out of traps and escaping from entangling situations.  They are thrill rides.

Power of Excitement characters refuse to be confined, corralled, or domesticated.  They flee adult responsibilities and commitments.  Peter Pan is a classic Power of Excitement character.  So are the protagonists played by Hugh Grant in his early movies.  These characters are incredibly charming but basically are kids.  Their mantra is, “I don’t want to grow up.  I don’t want to settle down.”

Mimi Avins, in The Los Angles Times, hits the nail on the head when she writes:  “There has always been something adolescent about 007. Sure, Britain’s best-known secret agent occasionally bears the fate of the free world on his deltoids. What he hasn’t shouldered, as he’s whizzed from one adventure to another over the last 44 years, is the ordinary responsibilities and commitments of a modern adult male. He’s an eternal lad, with a teenager’s contempt for authority and the ring-a-ding-ding Rat Packer’s attitude toward women that real men outgrow about the time they realize Maxim isn’t seriously meant to be a guide to life.”

Charming Power of Excitement characters’ devil-may-care “I just want to play around and play the field” behavior can be rakish and “bad boy” charming when a character is young.  But, after a certain age, it grows tiresome can verge on the pathetic.  That’s why, in his later movies, About a Boy and Brigitte Jones’ Diary, for example, Hugh Grant plays this character type’s darker side.  Power of Excitement characters and actors playing the boyish scamp or charming playboy have a definite expiration date.

The incredibly valuable Bond franchise was facing a difficult dilemma in remaking Casino Royale.  The perennially adolescent Power of Excitement Bond had been around for a long time and might not seem as appealing to the current, more cynical, movie-going audience.  An expiration date was looming.  These are darker and less innocent times than when the Bond movies debuted with such flash and fun in the psychedelic 1960’s.

So how does 007 evolve and grow up?  What kind of character is the new “more adult” Bond?  The producers’ and screenwriters’ answer was to transition the character from a Power of Excitement character to a Power of Reason character.

Power of Reason stories are about alienation vs. connection.  They are about order vs. chaos. These characters are distant, sarcastic and can be perceived as cold.  It’s not that these characters don’t feel things— the trouble is, they feel things too deeply.  To avoid being overwhelmed by their emotions Power of Reason characters shut down and withdraw into themselves.  Bond’s reaction after Vesper’s death.

Power of Reason characters are experts in their field. They are stubborn, tough, and opinionated and always believe they know best.  They are loners and prefer to work alone.  These characters buck authority because they believe they are best left to their own expert devices.

These characteristics lead Bond to clash with M over and over in Casino Royale.  This new Bond is more resolute and less cavalier than the previous Power of Excitement Bonds.  Earlier 007s had a devil-may-care attitude of rebellion against “adult” constraints and authority. The new Bond simply believes he knows best and should be left to it.

Daniel Craig was an inspired choice to play the new Bond.  Despite early carping and criticism by fans, his character type is ideally suited to this Power of Reason 007.  Writing about some of his early stage work a reviewer noted that Craig “contains his violence like an unexploded mine.”  There is a cool and controlled quality to Craig’s previous roles in Layer Cake and Munich.  His expertize and ability to disengage and get the job done, despite the internal and/or moral cost.

Another excellent example of a Power of Reason story and character is Luc Besson’s wonderful film, The Professional, starring Jean Reno as Leon, a hit man.  Leon meets a little girl under crisis circumstances and learns to love— with tragic, but heroic, consequences.

Television Power of Reason examples include Dr. Gregory House on House and the comedic detective series Monk.  Even though all these characters are individually very distinctive, they each share the same emotional and motivational core.

When transitioning a character the question is how to recast the same behavior with a compelling new motivation.  Consistency, authenticity and character type is key. Previous 007s killed as sport and barely rumpled their tuxedos.  They were flip, flash, and fun:  the eternal “lad.”  This new adult Bond doesn’t avoid obligations and responsibilities.  He executes them, both literally and figuratively, with chilling and brutal expertize.  This is a Bond who is bloodied but unbowed.  He has scars on his soul.  And he doesn’t really give a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred.  He has darker, more adult concerns.

The good news is that Daniel Craig as 007 is back in 2019!  I hope he is put to work fighting Neo-Nazis and alt-right terrorists!

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Destructive Lovers

Thinkpiece Thursday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There are two possible endings to every love story, either the characters are together at the conclusion or they are apart. If characters are to stay together they must work through their differences and, basically, grow up and grow together. When a love story ends tragically either one character can’t grow up or some greater internal force keeps them apart, like honor or duty.

Recent examples of each end are, Barry Jenkins’ 2016 best picture-winner Moonlight, and Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme D’or-winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Spoilers follow for both films. 

In Moonlight, central character Chiron (Ashton Sanders), discovers his sexuality and his love for friend Kevin (Jaden Piner). They are torn apart by Kevin’s brutal betrayal until their reconciliation after more than a decade.

In Blue Is The Warmest Colour, central character Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) has some awkward sexual experiences with men before realizing that enigmatic Emma (Lea Seydoux) is the one for her. But two fall out forever over Adèle’s impulsive affair.

Moonlight is a Power of Love story, and Blue is the Warmest Colour is a Power of Idealism story. In a Power of Love story, the couple ends up together. In a Power of Idealism story, they are separated lovers who are haunted by loss and longing.

In Moonlight, Chiron is a shy alienated Power of Reason character and Kevin is a charming eager to please Power of Ambition character. Kevin’s desperate desire to fit in explodes in violence toward Chiron as Kevin tries to fit into a toxic culture of the thuggish gang masculinity. Only drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), a kindly Power of Love character provides the understanding and nurture that Chiron needs in his social isolation. 

Chiron and Kevin are reunited after years apart. A more mature and humbled Kevin discovers Chiron has protected himself with the outward toughness of a thug. Kevin has found contentment as a fry cook who supports his son.  Kevin’s honesty and tenderness give Chiron what he needs- love, not lust. Their relationship shows both men hope for real happiness.

In Blue is the Warmest Colour, both Adèle and Emma are Power of Idealism characters. They are intense, passionate, and gifted. Emma is a bold vibrant painter and Adele is a talented writer, too afraid to show her work and risk possible rejection.

Emma is devoted to Adèle.  Adele is the great love of her life and muse for her glorious early paintings. She believes Adèle is perfect.   Adele is unwilling to accept Emma’s adoration and be satisfied. Adèle fears Emma will ultimately reject her.  She has an affair when Emma is preoccupied with helping a friend.   When Emma discovers Adele’s betrayal they have an explosive screaming break up.

Years later they meet and a reconciliation is possible. But Emma has completed her emotional journey.  She has grown up and finds contentment and peace in an ordinary domestic life.  This grounds her creative growth and helps her mature as an artist.

Adele cannot move past her torment over her lost “great love’ with Emma.  She is adrift in loss and longing and wants Emma back, or to have an affair at the very least.  Emma refuses.  She cherishes her family. Even though Adele is still her passionate “great love” Emma walks away from her. Adele simply cannot move on.

Power of Idealism stories always end with separated lovers.  Other examples are Bridges of Madison County, Casablanca, or Gone with the Wind.

Power of Love stories always end with the lovers together.  Examples are every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.

Character is structure. Will your couple live happily ever after despite their differences? Or will the lovers part ways, remembering always that “great love” that got away?

 

 

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Characters Have To Come First

Thinkpiece Thursday

This week I am busy in Copenhagen so I offer an excellent essay by Patrick H Willems.  His video discusses the character problems in the latest batch of DC films.

This essay was released before Wonder Woman, which has come some way to fixing what Willems talks about. With Justice League right around the corner, audiences will be anticipating Wonder Woman’s return.  There is lots of work to be done in the franchise to make the two returning characters and two brand-new characters add and not detract from the sequel.

My own take on Batman: The Dark Knight Rises can be found HERE

#WritingAdviceWednesday – Breaking The Mold : When Harry Met Sally

Writing Advice Wednesday

I like the video below, another excellent video essay from Lessons From The Screenplay, but my opinion differs somewhat. I am not a fan of genre.  Genre is useful for consumers and Netflix lists but not useful for writers.  Genre most often describes style, tone, and setting.  Instead, I find it more useful to look at a film’s emotional playing field.

Each of the Nine Character Types books contains a precise set of tools to create one specific kind of character’s emotional playing field and establish his or her driving force in a story. A character’s emotional playing field defines the internal framework (structure) of the story. It is the range of action and behavior (from predatory to spiritually enlightened) that instantaneously establishes a particular type of character to an audience. A character’s driving force is the combination of actions and reactions that propel the character through the story.

For example, Chinatown and Apocalypse Now would never be put on the same genre list.  But emotionally they are the same film.  In the beginning, the protagonist searches for the truth about one simple thing (Who killed Hollis Mulray. Where is Colonel Kurtz?)  Over the course of the story the protagonist finds out the truth about a much larger thing. (The corruption in the water system in Los Angeles. The moral quagmire and craziness of the war in Viet Nam.)  In the end, the protagonist finds out the truth about himself. (Not asking for help– not trusting his colleagues– results in disaster.  I could easily become the monster who was Kurtz.)

The Buddy Movie has all the same elements of a typical Romantic Comedy (without the sex).  The buddies are thrown together.  They don’t like each other. By being forced together they learn from each other.  In the end, in the highest act of love between buddies, they are willing to take a bullet for each other.

The best thing about this post is how what we think of a romantic comedy is turned on its head in in When Harry Met Sally. Also, it’s a wonderful excuse to revisit this enchanting film. Go and watch it tonight, especially if you’ve never seen it!

If you’re on Pinterest, why not follow my Pinterest board full of useful writing advice? It will be updated weekly, so you can keep track if you ever need an excellent video essay, or some relevant advice to whatever problems you are facing. You can always drop me a line at etbhelp@gmail.com with the subject “Ask Laurie” and I will do my best to answer it. I might even include it in an upcoming edition of Writing Advice Wednesday!

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