‘The Freud Scenario’ – Act I Break
October 20, 2014 9:02 pm
I recently discovered a very good example for an Act I Break that is worth sharing and discussing in a little detail. In the 50s, US director John Huston asked French writer-philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to write a screenplay about the founding father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Sartre’s first draft didn’t fully make it to the big screen, but the screenplay is published for us to enjoy as a piece of literature. ‘The Freud Scenario’ not only tells us an account of the birth of psychoanalysis, but also gives us a very relatable portrait of a human being mastering his own demons before bringing forth his contribution to the science of the psyche.
Sartre’s 380-something-page screenplay is by no means traditional in terms of its generosity with time and space for the characters and events to take shape. But, it certainly hits the right structural notes, which are delivered with meticulous care.
Following an unusually spread-out sequence where ‘The Call to Adventure’ (coined by Joseph Campbell) is established and an agonizing debate over taking on or refusing the challenge has ensued, Freud is faced with the antagonist of the story: Meynert. Meynert, the man who initially condemned Freud for following his inner voice, now prompts him to go ahead with his original plan: treating hysterical patients using hypnosis. Finally at page 138, off Freud goes on his quest to develop the ‘talking cure’.
The scene with Meynert is meaningful to me for several reasons. For one, I like the idea of a hero who gets a good kick in the butt from none other than the antagonist before going on his journey. The fact that the hero is dependent on antagonistic authority/father figures to make his decisions is important for establishing the hero’s pathology, the root from which his desires and ambitions stem in the first place and the reason for his eventual success. Who could be a better person to show one’s weakness -and his hidden strength- if not the bad guy! It is Meynert who obstructs Freud’s path, but it is also him who gives Freud the blessing to get back on it.
The scene also clarifies the goal of the hero: to know oneself. Meynert himself has failed in his lifetime to fight his own demons and is now dying in devastating ignorance. Thus this scene also shows us very clearly what would happen to the hero if he fails in his quest. The stakes are high: a life lived or a life lost.
Another interesting way in which the writer uses this scene is that the Shadow archetype turns into a Mentor archetype and sets up the new ‘bad guy’, which in this case is neurosis – the disease of the mind and the spirit. Meynert, as the Mentor, gives us the rules of the game: Freud has to delve into the muddy corners of his psyche and make a pact with the Devil if he wants to unearth and demolish what keeps him in darkness. This organic shift in archetype energies brings fresh momentum to Act II.
The importance of achieving the hero’s goal, the hero’s and the enemy’s characteristics that will make it a tough ride, the intensity of experience along the path to success and what it would mean to lose this battle are all settled in one stroke. Now we are ready to experience the Journey; we are aware of the stakes; we know the enemy and we have expectations about how the hero must now act. That’s what I call a good Act I Break.
Excerpt from ‘The Freud Scenario’:
Freud pulls his chair up close to Meynert.
MEYNERT Are you still searching for male hysterical patients?
At this reminder of the 1887 lecture and their quarrel, Freud frowns and shakes his head almost imperceptibly as a sign of denial. Meynert understands the sign.
MEYNERT Pity. I could have presented you with a fine specimen.
Freud dumbfounded and mistrustful, guesses beforehand the reply to the question he puts.
Meynert has recovered his bitter, ironical smile. He says with simplicity and almost with pride:
Freud does not reply. He looks at Meynert: on his face astonishment is mingled with a sudden, deep understanding – and, less clearly, with a certain satisfaction.
Meynert continues, with a kind of somber pride:
MEYNERT I knew the symptoms before Charcot; I learned about them the hard way – I had them all.
Still more proudly:
MEYNERT All. No one knew anything.
Freud speaks harshly: his resentment has not abated.
FREUD When you threw me out of your laboratory, you already knew that?
MEYNERT I’d known it for twenty years.
FREUD You called me a buffoon and a charlatan.
MEYNERT You know the story of Noah: a son mustn’t see his father’s nakedness.
He looks at him without tenderness and without regret. In a factual tone of voice:
MEYNERT You were my spiritual son.
Freud, in the same tone of voice, with an additional touch of sadness:
FREUD Yes. And you cursed me. You ruined my life. I was a scientist, not a doctor. Medicine disgusts me: I don’t like torturing people on the pretext that they’re ill. (A pause.) For six years I’ve carried out no research. I torture neurotic people I can’t cure.
Meynert laughs feebly.
MEYNERT Electrotherapy, baths and massage?
FREUD Massage, baths, electrotherapy.
Meynert laughs a little louder.
MEYNERT One might just as well put a poultice on a wooden leg.
Harshly, with sparkling eyes:
MEYNERT It’s quite useless.
FREUD I know. And yet I prescribe nothing else.
Meynert, with a still more ironical smile:
MEYNERT At all events, it can’t do any harm.
FREUD Not even that. (A pause.) Who would you call the charlatan? The young man who sincerely believed in the virtues of hypnotism or the man of today, who prescribes a treatment he doesn’t believe in?
Meynert has closed his eyes and does not reply. Freud looks at him with growing anxiety. After a moment, he rises noiselessly to his feet and is about to go over to the patient. Meynert hears him and speaks without opening his eyes.
MEYNERT Sit down. I’m not asleep, I’m gathering my thoughts. I’m very weak. I have to talk to you. Don’t interrupt me.
He speaks at first with his eyes closed; in a moment, he will open them.
MEYNERT Sufferers from neurosis form a fraternity. They rarely know each other, yet they recognize each other. At first sight. Just one rule: silence. Normal people, that’s who our enemies are. I’ve kept the secret… All my life – even from myself; I’ve refused to know myself; I’ve refused to know myself.
He opens his eyes and looks intently at Freud.
MEYNERT You belong to the fraternity, Freud. Or very nearly… I hated you, because you wanted to betray… I was wrong. (A pause.) My life has been nothing but play-acting. I’ve wasted my time hiding the truth. I was keeping quiet. Result: I’m dying with pride, but in ignorance.
MEYNERT A disciple of knowledge must know, mustn’t he? I don’t know who I am. It’s not I who has lived my life: it’s an Other.
He once more closes his eyes. Freud seems overwhelmed. He leans forward and timidly lays his hand upon the sick man’s pale hand, which is lying on the arm of his chair. Meynert reopens his eyes. He looks exhausted. But for the first time since the beginning of the film, he looks at Freud almost with affection. In a quicker, weaker voice:
MEYNERT Break the silence. Betray us. Find the secret. Expose it to the light of day, even if it means revealing your own. It’s necessary to dig deep down. Into the mud.
At these last words, Freud withdraws his hand and recoils somewhat.
MEYNERT Didn’t you know that?
FREUD (slowly) Into the mud? Yes, I know.
MEYNERT Does that frighten you?
FREUD Yes. I… I’m not an angel.
MEYNERT So much the better. Angels don’t understand men.
Freud’s face has altered: he is still somber but his eyes are shining.
FREUD What if I weren’t capable…
MEYNERT If you’re not, no one will be.
A silence. He raises his voice slightly.
MEYNERT For six years you’ve been champing at the bit… Now charge: it’s in your character. Retreat before nothing. If your strength fails you, make a pact with the Devil.
More quietly, but with burning conviction:
MEYNERT It would be splendid to risk Hell so that everyone could live under the light of the Heaven.
He has half raised himself, his pillow slips down behind him. Freud rises and repositions the pillow. Meynert lets himself sink back.
MEYNERT For my part, I lost – through lack of courage. Your turn to play. Farewell.
He is breathing through his mouth. Very slight rattle. Weary, painful expression. His eyes are open and staring. He repeats very softly, as if to himself:
Freud looks at him for a moment, impassively. Meynert no longer seems aware of his presence. Freud stretches out his hand timidly. Touches the dying man’s pale hand with his fingertips, turns on his heel and leaves noiselessly.
Farewell to Two Beautiful Souls
August 16, 2014 8:51 am
Following Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death earlier this year, Robin Williams’s sudden departure this week caused great grief among his millions of fans around the world. Both Hoffman and Williams were immensely talented actors who suffered from depression and addiction. They eventually surrendered to the destructive forces that had apparently tainted their much celebrated lives.
I was much too sad to write about Philip Seymour Hoffman. When I watched ‘The Master’ I had sensed that beneath his enormous talent a dark sorrow was brewing. When I found out about his death, I had the sensation that he slipped through my fingers, as if I was holding him just above the water by having acknowledged his pain.
Robin Williams’s apparent suicide is perceived as another thing entirely. There seems to be a lot of negativity around Williams’s passing, simply because he intended to take his own life. The media is ruminating about all that was going for him and how selfish it was of him to take his own life. What is it about people that makes them think the more you have the better your life must be? Isn’t it much more likely to suffocate because of all that you do have?
Depression must be even darker and uglier if the sufferer is perceived as undeserving of that suffering. Imagine suffering from a disease that you don’t even have a right to have. Imagine everyone around you dismissing your debilitating state of mind. Imagine you can’t even be at home with your own pain.
I don’t see much difference in how death came to both these actors. More important question is, surely, why they welcomed it in the way that they did. Both Hoffman and Williams’s passing should bring into question why such fortunate and supremely gifted people lived so close to the edge. Why were they so unhappy? And why do we react with bitterness and criticism to such loss?
Robin Williams was a beautiful soul, as was Philip Seymour Hoffman. While I don’t mean to compare their lives and deaths, I salute them both together as two heroes who lost the same battle. I don’t know the particulars of their depression, but I appreciate their suffering. Their gifts are irreplaceable. Our loss is great.
10 Fundamental Lessons from Great Filmmakers
July 25, 2014 7:26 am
Here is a list of 10 invaluable lessons from famous filmmakers. I compiled some of my favorite quotes from the article, 100 Famous Directors’ Rules of Filmmaking. Enjoy!
1. My personal favorite! A screenplay should already be a movie in the reader’s imagination. This is the work…
Quentin Tarantino: “When I’m writing, it’s about the page. It’s not about the movie. It’s not about cinema. It’s about the literature of me putting my pen to paper and writing a good page and making it work completely as a document unto itself. That’s my first artistic contribution. If I do my job right, by the end of the script, I should be having the thought, ‘You know, if I were to just publish this now and not make it . . . ,’ I’m done.”
2. Make it universal, make it life…
Oscar Micheaux: “We want to see our lives dramatized on the screen as we are living it, the same as other people, the world over.”
Sarah Polley: “It’s been really important to me to create moments where there’s a breath or moments where there’s a laugh or moments where there’s real life that’s allowed to seep in through the cracks of whatever melodrama is happening, because that’s what does happen in life.”
3. It’s all about the emotions…
Ang Lee: “…the ideas don’t translate in a movie. It has to have emotions. So that’s different from the book quite a bit. So it has to be an emotional journey. . . . To me, I think that to me, it’s a visualization of feelings.”
4. The passion, the passion!
Gregg Araki: “It has to be something you’re so passionate about you are willing to die to make it…”
5. Keep your focus on what it is you are writing about…
Francis Ford Coppola: “When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word.”
6. No need to force a plot, just create real characters, put yourself in their shoes and live through them…
Andrea Arnold: “When your characters are really living they tell you what they do.”
7. What to avoid at all costs…
Frank Capra: “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.”
8. The only way for the hero (and the picture) to shine…
Alfred Hitchcock: “The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.”
9. The all-important ‘be you’ advice…
Wes Anderson: “They say, ‘Well, I see a lot here that you did before, and it’s connected to this other movie you did,’ and . . . that almost seems like something I don’t quite choose. It chooses me.”
Abbas Kiarostami: “I never reflect or convey that which I have not experienced myself.”
Diablo Cody: “Don’t ever agonize about the hordes of other writers who are ostensibly your competition. No one is capable of doing what you do.”
10. Daily exercise of coming back to the centre…
Stanley Kubrick: “Is it meaningful? Is it believable? Is it interesting? Those are the questions that have to be answered several hundred times a day.”
See full article here.
The Brains of a Hero – A Checklist
May 31, 2014 1:40 pm
I recently read an article called ‘The Brains of Successful vs. Unsuccessful People Actually Look Very Different’ on PolicyMic.com. The successful types are said to have growth mindsets while the unsuccessful suffer from fixed mindsets. As I was contemplating how my own mindset is dangerously close to the fixed mindset, if not smack in the middle of its murky sphere, I also saw a brilliant outline of what a hero’s mindset must, must, MUST be like in order for her and her story to succeed. The diagram above provides an excellent checklist to make sure your hero and her story succeeds!
Here’s the idea: ‘For fixed mindsets, intelligence is static. This leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless or worse, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. All this confirms a deterministic view of the world. For growth mindsets, intelligence can be developed. This leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result they reach ever-higher levels of achievement. All this gives them a greater sense of free will.’
Think about all the great heroes you love. Which mindset do they share common characteristics with? Sometimes a growth-oriented hero may be failing at one or more of the traits of the growth mindset. But isn’t that usually the area of weakness where the hero’s inner conflict lies?
You might say, but how about stories about people with fixed mindsets? Don’t their stories deserve to be told? Yes, they do, but only when the hero begins to see she must change and willingly or unwillingly goes through the journey of a growth mindset. A story about a fixed mindset getting a kick in the butt from life to adopt a growth mindset in order to overcome whatever hurdle life threw at her is a very common storyline.
No matter how big or small, every hero should be (or become) a force to be reckoned with. So we can find lessons and inspiration in their stories and do the same.
Read the full article here.
Sweetness of Entanglement
April 30, 2014 1:57 pm
“… the story of time’s arrow begins with the quantum mechanical idea that, deep down, nature is inherently uncertain.”
I read a very interesting article on quantum physics at Wired.com today. I believe it can be applied to the nature of stories and help explain our minds’ tendency and need to create and enjoy them.
Nature is inherently uncertain! What a beautiful statement! It has a ring of truth, acceptance, surrender and freedom. This sounds like a point that urgently asks to be further explored and its connections to the minute details of our lives thoroughly studied.
When I think about this statement in relation to storytelling, I feel more comfortable with the fact that stories too are inherently uncertain, just as their creators and audiences are. For one thing, they reflect an uncertain image of life. Secondly, they generate even more uncertainty as soon as they meet an audience. As many uncertainties as there are audiences.
It also explains why human beings and the characters they create and love are constantly striving for certainty and equilibrium. In fact, isn’t striving for certainty at the heart of all human conflict?
And now we know why! The article suggests that the moment a particle interacts with another (which, as I understand, happens as soon as the particle originates) it can no longer be described by its own ‘pure state.’ Professor Seth Lloyd who realized the relationship between quantum uncertainty and human uncertainty found that “When particles become increasingly entangled with one another, the information that originally described them would shift to describe the system of entangled particles as a whole. It was as though the particles gradually lost their individual autonomy and became pawns of the collective state. Eventually, the correlations contained all the information, and the individual particles contained none. At that point, Lloyd discovered, particles arrived at a state of equilibrium, and their states stopped changing…”
Bear with me as I try to make sense of this with my very basic level of comprehension. Is this how the story goes: We leave our ‘pure state’ of certainty as soon as we begin our lives and immediately turn into uncertain beings. By way of getting inevitably entangled with everyone and everything else in the universe and therefore becoming even more uncertain, we eventually reach a point of saturation with our entangledness. At this point we have sufficiently emptied ourselves out and become one with the collective ‘system’ that we stop changing/striving and finally become equilibriated, balanced, satisfied and happy?
Let’s try to apply it to the mythological structure of stories. A is confused, but doesn’t know it. A meets B. A gets even more confused and now knows it. B gets more confused too. Together A and B become more and more confused together until they have to change so so so much that A and B individually and collectively achieve a state of steadiness in a different and –in the case of stories– better way.
Lloyd says, “The universe as a whole is in a pure state. But individual pieces of it, because they are entangled with the rest of the universe, are in mixtures.” By living the story of our lives and all the little stories we generate and consume within it, we also become mixtures and eventually, hopefully, go back to that ‘pure state’.
Along the way, it sure feels good to know that uncertainty and certainty are natural and common in all of humanity, nature and the universe. Perhaps this is the reason why we tell stories and why we love stories. To entertain our uncertainties, to try to make sense of the inherent qualities in all of us, to move toward certainty…
Not surprisingly I am not certain about any of this. Have a read of the full article and send me your thoughts. Here’s the link: http://www.wired.com/2014/04/quantum-theory-flow-time/
Screenwriters’ Central Dilemma, Universal Pursuit of Happiness and the Source of Salieri’s Tragedy
March 20, 2014 10:23 am
‘To be a screenwriter is to deal with an ongoing tug of war between breathtaking megalomania and insecurity so deep it takes years of therapy just to be able to say “I’m a writer” out loud.’ – Blake Snyder
In Blake Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’, you get a strong sense of what a writing life is or should be like. But the screenwriter’s dilemma he mentions above truly reveals what it feels like to be a writer, regardless of whether you are an established or a beginning one. In fact, it makes you wonder, without this very conflict would one be compelled to write in the first place.
Stephen Cope in ‘The Great Work of Your Life’ names the problem of doubt as the central affliction to realizing one’s dharma, aka true calling, sacred duty, vocation. Unless you live and work aligned with your dharma, there is only self-destruction. Only when you find, name, celebrate and nourish your path, your Gift, your dharma, Cope says, you will be truly happy and fulfilled in your life.
And guess what, ‘[Dharma] is only born out of our wrestling matches with doubt, with conflict, and with despair.’ As it turns out, all the torment involved in writing or simply having a desire to write is for a reason. And that reason is at the heart of humanity’s eternal pursuit of happiness. This makes it all a bit more bearable, doesn’t it?
As I wrestle with the particulars of my own dharma, I realized a few weeks ago why I consider Milos Forman’s ‘Amadeus’ one of my favourite movies of all time. Because, to me, ‘Amadeus’ is about dharma and how life can be a long soul destroying suffering if you are not living your dharma.
You may remember Salieri’s meaningful outcry, paralyzed by doubt: ‘All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing… and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn’t want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?’ The ingenious screenplay by Peter Shaffer gives us the answer: because music was never meant to be Salieri’s dharma. It’s only his confusion that’s causing him all this agony.
Salieri’s true passion and dharma is hidden in the story. Do you remember those few short moments in the movie where Salieri talks about desserts? The most touching and dramatic thing about ‘Amadeus’ is Salieri’s passion for dessert! He is not only a man with a sweet tooth, he knows dessert and in a sense lives for it! These are the only moments in the movie where Salieri lights up and shines with joy and delight. Salieri’s character, as written by Shaffer, is a poignant portrait of dharma, or I should say, dharma-gone-wrong.
There is so much doubt and despair in store especially for people following artistic vocations. But, if writing is in ‘the subtle interior blueprint of your soul,’ then, Cope quotes Krishna’s lesson to Arjuna from the ancient story on dharma – Bhagavad Gita: ‘It is better to fail at your own dharma than to succeed at the dharma of someone else.’
I wish for all of us courage and perseverance in ‘looking more and more deeply into our doubts’ as a way to get to the certitude we need to take a leap of faith into our personal and unique dharma.
Frances Ha’s Shining Moment
February 6, 2014 2:04 pm
Noah Baumbach’s ‘Frances Ha’ is a wonderful modern tale about an artist trying to make it in the real world. Even more brilliant than Greta Gerwig’s heart-warming perfomance are the revealing choices the writers (Baumbach and Gerwig) made to create the character Frances.
Ever since watching the movie, there is a question that keeps popping up in my head: Why does Frances not tell Sophie she’s in Paris? You must have seen the movie. Frances often speaks untruthfully to impress people or to feel temporarily better about herself. When she is in Paris and receives a much-desired call from Sophie, she has a golden opportunity to feel important, busy, adventuresome, enviable… especially in the eyes of Sophie, who is about to break their bond by moving away with her boyfriend. It’s the one time Frances really is doing something ‘cool’, but passes on the chance to use it to her advantage.
These are the moments in movies that make characters ‘real’ characters. I can’t be sure why the writers decided to have Frances leave out that information. But the more I elaborate on it in my mind, the more I think it’s the best decision in the movie.
For one thing, Frances is a good-hearted person, who naively assumes everyone feels the same way as her. If Frances was in Sophie’s situation in that scene, she would have been hurt to hear Sophie enjoying herself in Paris when they could be together. So she lovingly protects Sophie from feeling bad. Secondly, Frances knows the whole Paris idea was stupid and at that moment hates herself for being there in the first place. Her characteristic insecurity about her crazy impulsive behavior stops her. And lastly, by not sharing such a major information as being in Paris, she is consistent in the randomness of her approach to self-portrayal.
The moment Frances makes the decision to keep her whereabouts to herself isn’t marked in the film. It’s not even a decision, it’s just what organically happens in that one little dialogue over the phone. But it is one of those key moments that invites the audience to really feel the character’s perspective in life, visit her emotional world and be a guest in her psyche.
This hidden moment in the screenplay is, I believe, one of the reasons why a lot of people, regardless of their age, gender, life experiences and personalities are able to empathize with such a particular character as Frances. Simply because she is ‘real’, and therefore embodies all of humanity in all her ‘uniqueness’. It is certainly why I liked her, understood her and felt myself in her shoes.
I congratulate the writers on this detail, among many others that give Frances her charm. I would have loved to be in the room when they discussed how Frances-in-Paris would cope with Sophie’s invitation to come to her party in New York. It must have been a victorious discovery into the character’s soul and the writers must have smiled with satisfaction, thinking ‘of course she wouldn’t tell Sophie she’s in Paris, because…’
Steiner on Storytelling
January 21, 2014 5:37 am
‘The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner’ is a two-part documentary on the life and work of Austrian visionary philosopher and ‘spiritual scientist’ Rudolf Steiner. Although Steiner’s work does not extend to storytelling in much detail, stories are integral to his philosophy.
Rudolf Steiner made invaluable contributions to a variety of fields from education to agriculture, philosophy to arts, medicine to religion. We can apply and benefit from Steiner’s many ideas and practices in whichever area of life we turn to. Storytelling is no exception!
As an example, Steiner’s method on biodynamic agriculture can teach us about the structure and flow of stories. Biodynamic farming recognizes the interrelatedness of all farming tasks, forever continuing in a cyclical cause-and-effect relationship. Similarly, a well-told story should organically fuse the equally important elements of storytelling to create a functioning and abundant structure.
Each scene, sequence and act should progressively compose an overarching plot, through which the protagonist works his way and eventually harvests a new equilibrium – a brand new fertile soil on which a new seed/journey can be planted/launched.
May be one day we will be blessed with a theory on the nature of stories and storytelling, based on Steiner’s anthroposophy. There we may find a fresh, straightforward, dynamic, encouraging and compassionate answer to: how to create a convincing protagonist who embarks on an original quest that merges out of a true dilemma, which is moving towards resolution through an indestructable story structure. Until then, most of us will continue to struggle through the meticulous and cold complexity of Robert McKee’s ‘STORY’.
More Life-Supporting Illusions for the New Year!
December 31, 2013 7:46 am
Magic of Story was only born 10 days ago, but is already on its way into a brand new year. I am sure 2014 has a lot of gifts in store for all of us. I would like to add my contribution to the season of new year’s gifts and resolutions.
I recommend reading two books that I believe compliment each other wonderfully and would be a fantastic read for all storytellers and storylovers, writers and readers, students and enthusiasts of mythology, psychology, spirituality, history…….. This duo may be the eye-opening inspiration you’re looking for in 2014!
First is one of my inspirations for creating Magic of Story: Joseph Campbell’s ‘Myths to Live By’. Campbell talks about symbolic forms that support their civilizations. He says, in the absence of these symbolic forms we have uncertainty and disequilibrium; what we need is life-supporting illusions, without which ‘there is nothing secure to hold on to, no moral law, nothing firm.’
Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Dream of the Ridiculous Man’ perfectly represents Campbell’s notion of life-supporting illusions, where a dream -a perfect little story in itself- literally supports the life of its protagonist by giving him what we all want: a vision and a quest. This little story is not only a textbook demonstration of story structure and archetypes, but also proves Campbell’s idea that life withers in the absence of stories.
I wish for more of these artfully told life-supporting illusions for the new year.
The new year’s gift that I received this year is this website. Magic of Story is the fruit of the work of a few people, whom I’d like to thank here: David Dalla Venezia for giving me permission to feature his paintings, which, to me, beautifully represent the inner workings of the birth of stories; Layton Creative for the intuitively simple and sophisticated logo design; Sprinkler’s Nathan Shanahan for the web design and development and for his incredible patience in responding to my endless doubts and questions; Sprinkler’s Mary Cameron for her insightful editing; Can, Erol and Deniz for writing the first testimonials and my friends and family who contributed with their feedback and support.
Thank you all for your help and encouragement to realize this dream of mine. I hope 2014 will bring magic to all your endeavors.
The Magic of the War Within
December 19, 2013 2:00 am
“We know that the wildest and most moving dramas are played not in the theatre but in the hearts of ordinary men and women who pass by without exciting attention, and who betray to the world nothing of the conflicts that rage within them except possibly by a nervous breakdown…
…What is so difficult for the layman to grasp is the fact that in most cases the patients themselves have no suspicion whatever of the internecine war raging in their unconscious. If we remember that there are many people who understand nothing at all about themselves, we shall be less surprised at the realization that there are also people who are utterly unaware of their actual conflicts.” – C. G. Jung
One of the most intriguing problems I have come across in reading screenplays is when the writer reveals the conflict of his story at the very end. Most of the screenplay would be filled with what we think to be conflicts in our daily lives, but none that has the power to shake our beings to our core. We come to a crossroads in our work or love life, we are torn between what would seem to an outsider two equally mundane choices… Frankly, who cares! Life is tough, we all face difficult choices every day. There is a reason why we call most of day-to-day life ‘ordinary’. Interestingly though, I don’t believe any of the protagonists of these ‘ordinary’ lives are themselves ordinary. So, there must be something else in there somewhere.
Reading other people’s stories sometimes makes me think: the writer of this ‘ordinary’ construct of imagination, meaning the true protagonist of his story, is buried under layers and layers of dull events and his heart is waiting impatiently to rear its head through the tiniest crack between the lines. Sometimes this glimpse of light is manifested in one sentence in a piece of dialogue, sometimes it is the author’s description of a look the character gives at a significant moment in the story, sometimes it is merely the wardrobe the writer has chosen for his character…
Often enough, any writer who is genuinely and passionately interested in creating a character and delivering a story through that character –but hasn’t quite mastered the skills to tell the story their heart truly desires to tell– has what you might call a Freudian slip somewhere in the story. Sadly, this may have nothing to do with the story told, but gives me the hope that the writer has something non-ordinary to tell!
When I catch a glimpse of these little cracks in a story, I am so inspired to say ‘but this, this is what you are really trying to tell, so why not tell me that story.’ Everyone who is drawn to telling stories has a deep down knowledge of how to tell them. But only if it is the story, they will succeed.
Why do these cracks or slips often appear toward the end of screenplays, typically in the very final scene? Perhaps the ‘true’ story has such an impact in the writer’s heart that it is easy to assume this force-of-nature-moment-in-disguise will only find its worth in the all-important finale. Or, may be that if the writer begins his ‘true’ story where he has finished his ‘ordinary’ story, he may be uncovering the roots of his Freudian slip. And who wants that?
I personally want that –in theory– for my own stories, but the practice keeps me at bay. It is certainly scary waters for most of us to dive into and takes a lot more than one may think to not drown in it. I do believe in this hidden gem in everyone who sits down to write and feel very strongly that only the writers who dig down deep enough will move across the threshold from being ‘ordinary’ writers to ‘true’ storytellers.
In creating ‘Magic of Story’ my aim is to help uncover these hidden gems and bring out the real stories, real characters, real moments with insight and inspiration. Here’s to the ‘internecine war raging in our unconscious’! May it shine through and light our way.