Screen Story Success

Since I’ve been talking about executives all week, I figured now would be a fine time to direct you to Screen Story Success, a blog by former studio executive Lindsey Hughes.

Some of her advice is good (“If your story is episodic, your main character better be incredibly compelling”), some, not so much (sorry, Lindsey, genre is descriptive, not prescriptive), but it always gives insight into the way executives think.

Take her review of District 9 (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Because he is so complicit, Wikus has the potential to change dramatically making the story compelling. He does not. He never has a big change of heart, realizing what the government and MKU are doing is wrong. He never examines his role in any of it. Instead, he is out for himself for the whole movie until he has a radical and unsubstantiated shift in the last few minutes.

See, that was the genius of District 9. Rather than have Wikus experience a change of character in the first act, and then have the goal of freeing the aliens for the next 80 minutes, instead his goal is primarily selfish and self-centered. It takes the entire film for him to recognize the humanity (as it were) of the aliens. It’s a radical, non-studio approach to character in a fun, popcorny sci-fi movie.

This is the problem with Robert McKee and Syd Field. As Stephen Gaghan says, their rules make accountants think they know how to tell a story.

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4 Responses

  1. Totally agree about District 9. The most interesting thing about the film was that Christopher and his kid were more sympathetic characters then Wikus. I would not have really cared if Wikus had died, but if Christopher or his kid had died I would have cried like a little girl (and I’m a guy). I actually thought during the movie “if anything happens to that kid, I am going to lose it.” If you really think about it, you almost never get genuine anti-heroes in movies anymore. The characters are usually some combination of quiet bad ass, naive, and/or cocky. But they always have a heart of gold deep down that gets thrust into our face early on. Wikus is clearly something of a self-interested douche during the vast majority of the film, you know, like most people probably would be in that situation. Because of that, I could have believed it if he had just let Christopher die at the end. Made the film more interesting. It amazes me that people want the same tropes trotted out in every single movie they see. How is that entertaining?

  2. Hi Anonymous

    I live in MI and will be working on my first major film later this month. My question is, can I psot on my facebook page about my experiences while working on set?

    Any advise is welcomed.

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