View Full Version : Story

02-19-2006, 04:39 PM
I just finished reading the thread about the prat falls of first time directors. It had a ton of great information. However, one thing that seemed to be lacking was an emphasis on the writing. Many, if not most, first time directors are also the author of their script. I'm not sure how apt the comparison is, but it's like the singer/songwriter. One is the natural outgrowth of the other.

Now, over time I have found that many individuals within the cinematic community have a great passion for the technical side, yet they have a lack of knowledge and heart for truely great stories. IMHO, this is the great problem with American cinema today. We are, quite frankly, making derivative fecal matter. "Swingers was a movie about friends and relationships, I can do that!" And so we get "Just Friends" or whatever. I watch somewhere around 250 movies a year. I went to a first run theater less then a dozen times last over that same period. Why? Because as technically proficient as the films have been, the stories are the same. (See, "Cheaper by the dozen 2", "Yours, Mine and Ours", "Electra", so on and so forth ad nausium).

One of the reasons that I eschewed film school was because I quickly realized that no one really cared about the story as much as the "cool" techniques that they could use. When you combine the two, great (see Eternal Sunshine as an example) things happen. However, when someone technical decides they want to direct a film, but does not take the same time to develop their story in the same way that they did to develop thier technical skills, beware. While it's great to have a new incarnation of Ed Wood in Ewe "Toilet" Boll (House of the dead is a favorite) it seems that we have a bunch of folks who were weaned on pulp without understanding the fiction. We tell stories for a reason. We want to evoke certain reactions from our audience, but if you don't have a story to support the visuals, there is little point. I find it sad that so few aspiring filmmakers are as thoughtful with their story.

By contrast, one of the reasons why films produced in Asia are doing so well is because they have really stuck to the importance of story. "Oldboy" is rather Shakespearian. Meanwhile, here in America we're just rehashing and remaking (and poorly) films that were great abroad (Oldboy is set to be remade with Justin Lin at the healm).

To reference another Charlie Kaufman film, if you haven't studied story at all the book "Story" by Robert McKee is great. Also read Plato's symposium.

Just my two cents.

02-19-2006, 06:44 PM
That is an excellent book and should be read more than once. Another good one is "The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler, or read "The Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell which is what it's based off of.

02-19-2006, 06:48 PM
That is an excellent book and should be read more than once. Another good one is "The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler, or read "The Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell which is what it's based off of.
And Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces"

02-19-2006, 06:58 PM
Ah, that's the one I meant. Nice catch.

02-20-2006, 12:45 AM
The Writer's Journey, The Hero's Journey and Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters. The trinity of screenwriting in my mind.

03-01-2006, 10:55 PM
The Art of Dramatic Writing, Lajos Egri
Linda Seger has some good books
Also would recommend reading poetry.
Great post, homie. Agree and agree.


03-03-2006, 06:09 AM
I'd not only indicate you the books already mentioned, but also do little exercises for yourself, see stuff that happen around you, then write, say, a little scene about the breakfast you had with your family for example.

Sounds stupid, but you'll be practicing the ability to transform your perceptions of the event in question in images that other people can see and relate to. You'll instinctively begin to realize what sounds and images are key to make that scene work for the audience, and what definitely doesnt work.
You can invent your own exercises.

All you really need to make a good script is translate in a way other people that read it will understand and see in their heads what the movie is like, the feel of it, in a good script they "see the sights, hear the sounds and even smell the smells" so to say, because people who read it will be immersed in it.

And to make a good story, well that's subjective, but you'll have to read a lot, good or bad books, whatever, every one of them have potentially something good in them.
Remember, every poet is a thief!
So, when writing your own stories,you can also steal from other stories you like, just make it work for your story, and im not talking about plagiarism, but rather taking some idea you like and have it as a starting point to trigger your own creativity.

Again, like in gym, exercising is key. Try writing a one-minute piece and have it be creative and interesting while telling a complete story in just one page. It's very hard, but it'll make your brainmeats spin in a different way, which is good.

Matthew B. Moore
03-06-2006, 06:43 AM
Sing this from the top of the mountain! Story is KING! I'd have more to say on this but Aloysha33 nailed it. Thanks for giving me something good to read this morning.

EJ Pennypacker
03-06-2006, 07:20 AM
Those interested in becoming a better writer should not only read those books that are mentioned, but those located in the Section - Screenwriting FAQ lock thread, but also write a decent ammount of scripts (maybe 5+) and do the one things that most people don't do... actually read screenplays (which you can find lots of sites to download them in the Screenwriting FAQ section).

If this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is.