Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The Zone is all that is pure subjectivity.  The Zone is composed entirely of subjectivity.  Subjectivity extends into space right up to the edge of perception and thought, but it does not extend beyond perception into the Non-Zone.  Subjectivity has its own type of relationship with space and time.  Subjectivity is the part of the human experience that exists as happening right now to one's self.  The Zone is the "inside" part of this realm of pure subjectivity.  For practical purposes, the Zone is pure subjectivity itself, and pure subjectivity is the Zone itself.
Another way to get at this is to use the two words,  "I am."  On one level these words are quite simple, and they can be easily used without really appreciating the implication they clearly contain.  If one repeats these words silently and meditates on both of them for even the shortest time, his mind will be turned so that it is pointed directly at what we are talking about--subjectivity.  Since subjectivity is not an object that can be viewed or imagined directly, it will never be visualized directly.  This peculiar phenomenon--the nature of one's own subjectivity and the intimate knowledge that one has that it exists--is the very beginning of the mystical experience, which is the foundation of the major religions. Having a clear understanding of that to which the word "subjectivity" refers is essential and the first step toward understanding the Zone.

Some people encounter a block when it comes to meditation and the phrase, "I am."  This is quite common among regimented people, highly educated people, and people who are pathetically lost in the Non-Zone.  These people struggle to capture a meaningful life. Usually they have no belief in any of the types of truths that emanate from the Zone.  On the other hand, many of these people serve out their lives usefully to society as a kind of personal and meaningless sacrifice from the beginning to the end.  The bottom line is that those two little words, "I am," carry more meaning and more truth in them than all the other words in the language.    

The Zone is the subjectivity inside you - the SCREENWRITER.  Though it cannot be made into an object and studied in that way, the nature of the Zone and its mysterious substance, subjectivity, can be known to some extent and that knowledge, when it is personal to oneself is more powerful, more meaningful, and more truthful than any knowledge that will ever come from the Non-Zone "thinking" encouraged by many of the so-called screenwriting gurus.  Those who cannot understand or see the underlying truth to these statements are living their lives in a kind of continual worship of sticks and stones.

 The Zone then is "within," and it is within you.  In the final analysis, it is more "you" than everything else put together. 

Finally, any knowledge of the Zone can only be assumed from direct, intimate experience of the Zone itself; no real knowledge of the Zone can be had from information about the Zone that comes from the Non-Zone. This predicament puts the present situation into a quandary because writing and reading require the continual intersection with the Non-Zone by both the writers and his/her audience/reader.  Direct and intimate experience by the person himself is only way of entering and BEING IN the Zone.  Thus, the writer must become the audience (the one that is addressed) and the one that also addresses the writer (the writer's tribe or tribes).  
The Non-Zone and the Zone are adjacent to each other.  On one side is the world and our physical bodies (what Martin Buber refers to as the "it"); on the other, pure subjectivity (what Buber implies by the "Thou").  A curtain of perceptions is the boundary between the two.  On one side of the boundary is objectivity, on the other subjectivity.  The experience of human existence includes the experience of the Non-Zone of objectivity, and it includes the experience of the Zone of subjectivity.  

A relationship exists between the Zone and the Non-Zone.  The relationship is important, and it has many features, not the least of which is conflict. 



Monday, April 29, 2013


Picasso once said that there was nothing that he did as a painter that a child of four couldn’t do with 30 years experience. The salient point is that the artist - despite the years of experience - retains a ‘child-likeness’, a quality that accompanies self-forgetfulness. The restoration of this quality requires an openness that is possible only as one steps outside of the assumed needs and prejudices that otherwise bolster and empower the public persona. The journey that every artist makes, whether they are a musician, or a painter, an actor or a writer, or even a baker or a shoemaker, involves “getting out of the way” - a doing without DOING, a thinking, without THINKING. One thinks like showers coming down from sky; like the waves rolling on the ocean; like the stars illuminating the nightly heavens. Indeed s/he is the showers, the ocean, the stars.

Friday, April 12, 2013


 In dramatic stories, the characters ARE characters because they are striving for something, because they are fighting for something. In response to a problem or an opportunity or a frustrated desire, or a fear or anxiety, they ACT. There is a sense of urgency involved. The characters MUST act, and they must do so now, not tomorrow or next week, because if they wait the problem promises to get a whole lot worse; and the consequences of not acting or failing in one’s quest involve other threats and risks that invariably make the stakes very high. This is the essence of the dramatic grammar of every dramatic story, a grammar that outlines and describes in general terms the nature of every dramatic story, whether it be a Greek tragedy or the latest Tarantino film.

When one looks at dramatic stories in this way one can easily deduce that at the heart of every dramatic story is a POWER STRUGGLE. Characters with opposing goals or contradictory agendas compete against one another. This throws them into conflict, and the story advances with each action that each character employs in order to dominate and win. Sounds rather brutal, doesn’t it? Sounds like an action/adventure film. But in fact the form applies to every type of story there is, if the story is dramatic. It applies to comedy and to documentary, to romance and horror, and even TVCs.

If you are writing a dramatic screenplay you have to be able to identify the central power struggle at the core of the narrative. Who is waging it and why? What do the different sides want? What is at stake? What happens if one side or the other loses? The dynamic motion of EVERY dramatic story is a movement of characters in which a character - through action - moves from being a VICTIM to a VICTOR (the happy ending), or vice versa - from a VICTOR to a VICTIM (Chinatown, for example). If your character doesn’t change from being one to the other, and if the evidence for why they have changed isn’t clear and present, then the screenplay will fail.

Read enough? Understand? For more about this, see THE FIVE QUESTIONS at

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Most screenplays I read have the most awful character descriptions. They’re either something like “MOLLY - a blue-eyed blonde, attired in jeans and a light woolen jumper with red shoes and a sunhat”, or “FRED (mid-40s) an insurance-selling husband and father, slightly overweight but kind and bookish who still retains a youthful glow and an interest in living”. This sort of stuff is insipid. Don’t indulge in it! It tells the reader absolutely nothing of any dramatic import about the character. When writing brief, character descriptions it is better to focus of some aspect of the character that makes them unique, that captures an essence that makes the character THIS character. Look for a significant peculiarity or attitude that separates them from the mob, and grants the reader of the screenplay access to their inner life, as Kasdan does in Body Heat when he describes the Mickey Rourke character: “TEDDY LAURSEN, rock’n roll arsonist” or Flannery O’Connor, who described one of her characters as “the sort of woman that looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”