Thursday, January 16, 2014



It's STILL the characters, stupid

A dramatic problem (suffering) is always about someone rather than something. Someone - some character - is acting to undermine or threaten the safety of another character or group of characters, or a character is threatened by a force of nature or super-nature. The problem is only ever definable in terms of who is experiencing it and where it may lead them. You can’t make drama out of a job, or a sack of money, or a property, not unless it is related to the well-being, safety, comfort or otherwise of characters. Problems must be personal if they are to be dramatic problems. The solutions, as well, are not ideas, or treaties, but persons - characters who hunt down the clues, who supply the needs, who fight the fight.

Some times I wonder if the prevalence of passive characters in so many of the screenplays I have read is due in part to something more dramatic than laziness or lack of talent. Perhaps the presence of such characters is an expression of some kind of misguided strategy for explaining oneself into the hearts and minds of one’s readers. On one level, they might indicate that the writer simply hasn’t done the work, but on another level, perhaps the passive character is symptomatic of some raw, ill-managed fear, the unwitting embodiment of some personal neurosis that vicariously seeks to avoid failure by avoiding being anything at all. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


The sooner a writer realizes that s/he is not in control the better. A writer's job is not to rule like some grand puppeteer pulling the strings of the characters, but to free them, and in so doing, to liberate him/herself from the tyranny of proprietorship. As the writer relinquishes control, s/he begins to see that the written story's fundamental purpose is to inspire vision, and bring about the birth of the story that is directed, which in its way inspires the illumination of the edit and sound design, thus bringing about the incarnation of the story that is eventually transformed into the audience's experience of it. Understanding the inherent generosity of this process is crucial to grasping the most important insight of all - namely that there is nothing to own, that the art of the invisible - i.e.: screen storytelling - is about getting out of the way.