Creative Instructions #4.
So far in the slew of posts about how to be a better storyteller I have given you a few recommendations. Be human, be weak and use pain to fuel your stories. That’s about it in one sentence. Now, I would like to continue to highlight a few more elements(and it may take a few more posts to do it).
I have seen a lot of films in my day and plan on continuing to always learn from what is currently out there. My eyes are always trying to read and see the stories in our present time. As Robert Mckee says: what we see currently is a sign of the best writing of our time. And its true, unless some genius out there is afraid of sharing his creativeNESS with us then we do have what is out there to draw and learn from.
Men are unhappy. Women are unhappy. Humanity seems to not be happy. Depression is more than a disease or a reason for a pathology that requires medicine. But more so in the realm of the desperate lives that are in the hiddenness its clear to me that you have to sort of assume that most people don’t like their lives. If the world was without this contention then there would be no conflict to rest against normal people.
George Clooney is unhappy in Up In The Air and its very clear that he is. He travels around in a plane, always escaping and proud of it. Miserable to him is staying at home where he probably has peace and quiet and has to face himself. He has to face his sense of alone which never goes away.
Characters are unhappy in the beginning and seem to push in 2 hours towards happy and fulfilled. Most people have a gap that they are working through. Men are in love with women that they feel they can’t get or don’t have currently. People have affairs because of the unhappy desperation in their marriages. Its sad but it happens.
In The Company Men, which I like a lot. Three men are entwined in unhappiness when they lose their jobs. Very real to our current economy but more real to the working class man. As they try to face their families and their lack they have to get happy as the story progresses.
We love superhero movies mostly because we feel we need to escape and get rescued from how unfair and oppressive life seems to be. In some cases its injustice and in a lot of cases just vengeance. Thanks the Rock for loving to kill. Even John McClaine seems unhappy which maybe he’s happier when he kills. Which is completly dumb but highly entertained.
I have wondered why TV is chalk full of justice shows. CIA everywhere now or Law And Order or that TNT Leverage show. I don’t really watch must of this but just from observing perhaps we feel we have unjust and unhappy lives. Perhaps we want to be the cops and the crime solvers and run the forensics in our own lives.
There is an unhappy gap that seems to be solved by really doing what you want to do. Now, this is highly obtuse sometimes because some will kill to get what they deserve. Bank robbers and criminals all start out as normal people that grow discontent and disturbed.
The goal in your writing should be to create unhappiness and then create a real ambition to break that but with creativity. Vengeance(as I wrote a few weeks ago) is the default but I think its overdone. For some reason killing never gets old and we always seem to like it but doesn’t mean we should keep repeating that.
Rather, what is most impressive are the stories that relate to human nature the most. Moneyball was a great story and very human. A normal coach that used to be a player and chose to transform the game because he was dealt wrongly. Billy Beane decided to not be unhappy and rather chose to overcome the obstacles. It cost him a lot including losing most of his original scouts and team. But you have to lay it down to really make that sacrifice, that is how to capture conflict.
I want to see humans get happy but not from American fluff or Scarface wealthiness. Its not gang banging or drug dealing success that equals to be the only way to get rich or die trying. I think most of those films get dumb really quickly because its been done so many times. But in Tender Mercies, you see Robert Duvall slowly making progress toward being a better person. Its the slowest turning of acts I have ever seen but it works really well and the pace plays on the space. In other words because it moves so slow it reveals that slow is normal and is how it should be. Now you have limited time in a film but if you can max out on the 120 pages in a script then you are moving toward nuance and success.
Overall, aim to get happy and satisfied in her characters and maybe they never do or don’t but at least try to make it happen. And try to avoid the cliche that one brother was never as good as the other brother and dad is the final say all of the matter (Eagle Eye and Brothers).