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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Meaning of Life vs. Feeling Alive

We are endlessly directed to identify a characters' purpose, what his need is, his lack, his desire. You may have been asked the question "why does this story happen to this person?" (I hate that question).

The answer - "because I fucking thought of it."

Okay, the answer in the meeting - "his background makes him the only person who can survive it, yet his own inner turmoil may block his own ability - and he may not survive."

But all of that is also very mindful, a very intellectual excersize. Of course, it has to be. In many ways we build a swiss clock when we construct a screenplay and the craft is crucial.

But a mind only excersize sometimes is light on emotion. And when you feel this happening a good trick is to think not so much about what is 'meaningful to the life' to the character, but what they do to 'feel alive'.

Do they race cars? Sing? Shoot drugs? Shoot a gun? Heal an animal? Heal a person? Ski? Sex? Win at gambling? Extreme sports? If you construct the scene with this element, you may be telling yourself more about your character than 10 pages of any character dosier you may assemble as an intellectual excersize.

Sometimes what they do to feel alive may fold into their secret or a secret life, which is particularly interesting, and creates added complications for your hero. Maybe they don't feel alive - and that's an issue right there. They use to, and now they're dead inside. What shakes them out of it?

We all want to feel alive. We all go to different lengths and extremes to feel it. When do you feel alive? What do you have to do to get there?

Make sure your character is alive in your story, and figure out what they need to feel it - and what that implies about what's lacking everywhere else.


Anonymous Chris Soth said...

I love your answer to the question -- and will steal it for the next meeting. My secret one would be: "because THIS is the person this story will be the hardest on!".


Tuesday, July 04, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Thanks Chris! Yes, yours is right too, of course. why is it hardest? because it will force them to grow the most.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

It is a natural human tendency to look for "meaning" or "purpose" in random events. However, it is by no means obvious that "life" is the sort of thing that has a "meaning".

Tuesday, July 25, 2006  

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