Day Two at eQuinoxe

View from Outside the Advisor's Meeting Room

View from Outside the Advisor's Meeting Room

Today we had our first advisors’ meeting.  The scripts selected for the workshop are submitted from a variety of international writers.  Austria, Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Canada, Hungary and Norway are all represented by projects here.

In discussing the work to be done on the scripts, the advisors kept going back to the basics.  No matter how accomplished the writer is, it is always necessary to go back to fundaments when a script isn’t working well.  Primarily we discussed issues of want, need and price.  Here is what I mean by those terms.

The Want
The character immediately identifies something he or she desires or wants. The character begins to put all of his or effort into obtaining some very particular concrete, and often, selfish or self-centered goal.
This goal is something real, graspable and very tangible. It is something the character can obtain or acheive physically: seduce the woman, sell the stock, solve the crime, win the tournament, reveal the mystery, get the promotion etc. It is NOT an abstract or amorphous general desire.
The Character’s Want is:
– A clear simple ego-driven goal.
– A physical embodiment of the character’s selfish or self-centered objective.
– An objective or object that is real, concrete and graspable.
– An objective or object that must eventually be surrendered along with the character’s Strongest Traits.
The want is always an actual “thing.” It is something specific that could be obtained with a bit of concerted effort. For example: a new car, money to pay the rent, a girlfriend, the prize trophy, etc.
The character’s Want is NOT an abstract concept. For example: be a better person, be a better parent, become more tolerant, become more forgiving, be more honest, trustworthy or responsible.
The Character’s Need is:
– Some deeper human longing (to be a better father, to appropriately separate from family, to love more generously, to act with integrity, etc.)
– A true longing the character isn’t aware of, ignores, denies or tries to suppress
– At the heart of the character’s truest, highest most authentic self
– Something that must be embraced instead of obtaining the want
The Need is a more abstract intangible set of internal qualities.  It is is a deeper for what is good, true and authentically right for the character as an individual of quality and worth.
The Price the Character Must Pay is is the terrible personal cost of obtaining the Want and abandoning the Need. OR The terrible personal cost of abandoning the ego-driven goal or Want and embracing the Need. If the character chooses the Want he or she inevitably surrenders to the fear and falls to the Dark Side. The story ends in tragedy. If the character embraces the Need, he or she finds completion. This may or may not be a happy ending but it is one of emotional satisfaction and wholeness. Which price is the character willing to pay? The character must ultimately pay one price or the other. The more expensive the price is for your character the more compelling and urgent your story will be for your audience.
The Comedic Turnaround
When a character surrenders the Want and embraces the Need sometimes the Want turns around to meet the character. This happens often enough in life that we believe it in a film. For example: A young couple has a solid marriage, good jobs and a comfortable home. They plan to start a family. They try and try but nothing, no personal method or medical procedure, works.
What they Want is a biological child. Finally, they embrace what they Need: to be parents to a child who needs them. They adopt a beautiful baby and are deliriously happy. What happens one year later?
Answer: The wife gets pregnant. The Want has turned around to meet them. Warning: This doesn’t always happen. It is only an occasional surprise. Surrendering the Want and embracing the Need can’t be used as a clever tactic or cynical strategy or it will feel false. The character must be truly willing and feel fully satisfied to abandon the Want and walk away from the table. The comedic turnaround is only possible by completely embracing the Need. This turnaround is always a totally unexpected reversal for the character.

The Want

In the story the character should immediately identify something he or she desires or wants. The character begins to put all of his or her effort into obtaining some very particular concrete, and often, selfish or self-centered goal.

This goal must be something real, graspable and very tangible. It is something the character can obtain or acheive physically: for example, seduce the woman, sell the stock, solve the crime, win the tournament, reveal the mystery, get the promotion etc. The Want is NOT an abstract or amorphous general desire.

The want is always an actual “thing.” It is something specific that could be obtained with a bit of concerted effort.

Snowy Alpine Walk

Snowy Alpine Walk

The Character’s Need is:

– Some deeper human longing (to be a better father, to appropriately separate from family, to love more generously, to act with integrity, to grow up and assume responsibility etc.)

– A true longing the character isn’t aware of, ignores, denies or tries to suppress

– At the heart of the character’s truest, highest most authentic self

– Something that must be embraced instead of obtaining the Want

The Need is a more abstract intangible set of internal qualities.  It is is a deeper desire for what is good, true and authentically right for the character as an individual of quality, dignity and worth.

The Price

The Price is the terrible personal cost of obtaining the Want and abandoning the Need. OR The terrible personal cost of abandoning the ego-driven goal or Want and embracing the Need.

If the character chooses the Want he or she inevitably surrenders to the fear and falls to the Dark Side. The story ends in tragedy. If the character embraces the Need, he or she finds personal completion. This may or may not be a happy ending but it is one of emotional satisfaction and wholeness.

Which price is the character willing to pay? The character must ultimately pay one price or the other. The more expensive the price is for the character the more compelling and urgent your story will be for the audience.

When a script isn’t working well, isn’t as compelling a read as it should be or has some kind of emotional disconnect in the story, the problem is usually the lack of a clear, urgent and well-developed Want, Need or Price.

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