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Old 04-14-2010, 06:13 PM   #1
dog678
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Default Character dilemma... any thoughts?

I'll try to make this short without needing the detail. It's crucial I figure this out because the theme and tone of the movie can depend on it.

I have a character, mid 40's, ugly, pathetic and everything wrong with a man. He has a sex addiction where his masturbation has become such a problem that he gets caught masturbating on the job. He gets fired for this, but my question is, for a character about redeeming quality and finding things in life he enjoys that aren't strictly sexual, does it make sense to mention he gets fired for masturbation, or another reason and the masturbation tied into the decision of him firing?

Sorry if it's confusing without knowing the whole story, but the main character has a love interest that takes him away from the need to keep his addiction going. I'm just worried that down the line, his history of sex addiction will turn the story into something it's not and his character losing any sort of human quality. It IS in some ways about his sex addiction, but in your opinion, can his sex addiction being cured turn into a feel-good romantic drama? Would all his good decisions to stay away from his addiction overshadow all the good that he wants to do?

Hopefully you understand my question a bit better. I'm just trying to field the question so as not to confuse the theme and humility of the story.
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Old 04-14-2010, 07:14 PM   #2
NikeeGoddess
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

Quote:
I have a character, mid 40's, ugly, pathetic and everything wrong with a man.
woody allen could probably help you out with this. but, he would just say it's his favorite hobby and there's nothing wrong with it. are you willing to go down the road with the truth behind the addiction? it probably has nothing to do with sex. but maybe you already know all you need to know.

Quote:
does it make sense to mention he gets fired for masturbation
he should get fired for the masturbation but convince his boss to write up a different reason so the stigma doesn't follow him... but the boss will only do it if he signs up for sex disorder treatment.

maybe this is where he finds his love interest. if she had her own sex problems then maybe they could find a happy medium.
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Old 04-14-2010, 07:43 PM   #3
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

Sex Addiction is not about physical pleasure.

It's not about being unable to control sexual urges like Pedophilia, and other conditions. SA is trying to fill an emotional need that is absent e.g. real intimacy; feeling wanted; loved; accepted; validated; etc.

Study Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer, David Duchovny and other real life cases of Sex Addiction. It's not about "feeling good" physically. It's about the unsatisfying need to feel loved on a deep psychological level.

Like other addictions, the men and women who suffer from Sexual Addiction try and hide it until they hit Rock Bottom, being found out. This is why your scenario of him being caught masturbating at work isn't even remotely logical, or "funny" as a setup for Sexual Addiction.

Most SA arrange discreet liaisons, but eventually people start putting two-and-two together, or the other (wo)man rats the cheating spouse to their family out of jealously when he/she won't leave the family, etc.

Now, considering all of this, this sounds like it will make pretty easy romantic drama/comedy because it's a very easy arc... But this is why I would try and avoid it and think of something else, IMO.

It is too easy and you should be thinking of more creative and challenging ways to create the romantic conflict / drama.

The reason is all your protagonist, the SA, has to do is just learn to have sex for the "right reasons" and this is pretty boring since there is no change in terms of the physical act, just the mental attitude... An internal change we can't really see all things considered. Romcoms and Romdrams are about internal struggles, but they also manifest those struggles into physical actions like all movies do. Having a sex addict as your main character will make this harder because the thing he is afflicted with is rooted in a physical action. Hence, it isn't much of a stretch trying to show that he has changed externally since his external actions are what got him in trouble in the first place.

If you are dead set on using SA as your main character's flaw... Then you are going to have to handle it in a very humorous and heart-felt way where the real issues of why he is a SA are explored, the psychological reasons, instead of him being just portrayed as a typical horn dog, womanizing male.
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Old 04-14-2010, 07:48 PM   #4
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

And a lot of times the people with sex addiction were molested or had really horrible experiences with sex as kids. It's actually kind of depressing for those who really have it.

Your dude could just be a slutty guy who claims to have sex addiction hoping it will get him out of trouble.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

dramatic irony. his boss accidentally catches him masturbating on the job; they are both are embarrassed. a couple days later he's fired for something stupid like forgetting to stock the cabinet with post-it notes. it let's the audience participate in what's happening; ie, the characters and the audience know the firing is a sham; but, superficial perceptions have to maintained for the sake of professionalism.

just my thoughts.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

I love the thoughts guys, especially WritersBlock, but do know this is not a comedy, so some of the suggestions are too unrealistic in what I'm trying to portray here.

This is a story in the vein of Leaving Las Vegas meets Adaptation. It's bizarre and out there, but has a heart. So the question is pretty much the same, if a main character's addiction is sex, and we see the change and feel it internally and see it externally half way through the story, can this character go on to find happiness with another human being that isn't rooted in fill the void that makes him so sexual?

My biggest fear is that in the end, the story turns out to confuse people, almost like the question of how an audience can root for a heartless murderer? It's almost impossible without some human quality that's likeable or relatable, like in Tony Soprano's case.

So if he's addicted to sex and comes to a realization about it, can the audience forgive his odd behavior and believe the main character can truly redeem himself through the eyes of someone else?
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Old 04-14-2010, 09:10 PM   #7
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

did you ever see kevin bacon in the woodsman? check it out. he's a released child molester living next to an elementary school. he still suffers from his problem but, they do a good job showing us how he redeems himself.
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Old 04-14-2010, 09:36 PM   #8
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dog678 View Post
I love the thoughts guys, especially WritersBlock, but do know this is not a comedy, so some of the suggestions are too unrealistic in what I'm trying to portray here.

This is a story in the vein of Leaving Las Vegas meets Adaptation. It's bizarre and out there, but has a heart. So the question is pretty much the same, if a main character's addiction is sex, and we see the change and feel it internally and see it externally half way through the story, can this character go on to find happiness with another human being that isn't rooted in fill the void that makes him so sexual?

My biggest fear is that in the end, the story turns out to confuse people, almost like the question of how an audience can root for a heartless murderer? It's almost impossible without some human quality that's likeable or relatable, like in Tony Soprano's case.

So if he's addicted to sex and comes to a realization about it, can the audience forgive his odd behavior and believe the main character can truly redeem himself through the eyes of someone else?
In my opinion, your dilemma isn't whether or not the audience will root for him, or not.

If you write him as being truly remorseful and making a genuine effort to change (better himself) audiences will get on board by default. He can even fail like in "Leaving Las Vegas", but the fact he makes the effort is what people like to see and why we universally root for the underdog.

(It also just happens to be one of the cornerstones of good drama and conflict: Nothing should be easy and the world is against your protagonists efforts to achieve his/her goal).

Thinking like a professional screenwriter, what I think you might be asking is, is this enough of an arc that is compelling versus pat, or run-of-the-mill?

I can't answer this because this will depend on your execution.

This is the other extreme on the spectrum where the audience can see the possible outcome (happy ending -- Even if it doesn't end happily ever after) a mile away. Telegraphing your ending, or the perception of a specific ending can be as detrimental to a screenplay as not delivering an expected ending just to be "different".

However, I believe the opportunity exists for you to do something very unusual with this genre (romantic drama) and that is reverse the normal goal of these films: To get the two leads together.

Due to your main character's condition, he needs to find out what true "love" is... But he can't get physical with the love interest at all because this is his addiction.

It's your screenplay, but I would consider ending it with the possibility of him getting better... Learning what real love and intimacy is... But not being fully "cured" and living happily ever after.

Recovery from any addiction is an on-going struggle 24/7, 365 days a year for the rest of the (former) addict's life. And 97% of those treated relapse and have to re-enter rehabilitation a few times before they recover... If they recover at all.

So, you should consider all of these realities for not just an accurate portrayal of addiction and recovery, but how they will fit into your story since you said it is not a comedy.

Since you are going to write it as a serious drama, you need to do the research into this particular addiction and then draw the inherent drama and conflict out of the process of treatment and recovery. This is why this is going to be an execution-heavy script IMO because it is not a mainstream subject once you get into it... Even though we see it splashed all over the news with the likes of Tiger Woods and company.

You need to go beyond the headlines and see what this particular addiction and treatment entail and then, like I said, construct your story around the inherent conflict(s) and drama that come out of these different phases. The fact he fails... Maybe has sex with a hooker in a moment of weakness... Will give him depth, be more realistic and also be the defining moment the love interest has to make her own choice whether or not to stick by his side, or move on herself -- The other side of addiction; those affected by the addict & their destructive behavior. Don't forget to address your love interest's reaction to all of this, too. Especially if she is being treated for SA as well.
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Old 04-14-2010, 10:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dog678 View Post
.

So if he's addicted to sex and comes to a realization about it, can the audience forgive his odd behavior and believe the main character can truly redeem himself through the eyes of someone else?
The answer is yes, because we can engage emotionally with just about any type of character for a variety of reasons. Because they're vulnerable, because they've been wounded, because they're funny, smart, etc. Not every film is about change and redemption, but if that is yours, then you just have to make the character arc believable. Someone who gets caught jerking off at the office is not a heinous character, he's usually found in raunchy comedies. So that is certainly not enough to dislike him. I take it this is more of a serious dramatic portrait of a character with this kind of problem, so yeah, you have to make the arc believable, and you have to give us a reason to care.

But I'm going to be totally honest. If he's ugly in the script, then he better have a damn great personality Or something else really interesting about him... I mean hell, women fall in love with serial killers and write to them in prison and propose marriage because they think they're hot. There has to be SOMETHING about this guy that makes him watchable for 90 minutes. Because an unattractive creepy guy, well, you don't have to go too far in the real world to find that. Films do for the most part tend to center around fairly attractive characters. If they're not attractive, then they have money, or power, or a fascinating life story, or something that elevates them above the tedium of the everyday.

Re. what nikee said, Woody Allen (although he is now 70, not 40 ), was not attractive, but he was funny and smart and so audiences did engage with him and believed it when he hooked up with hot actresses and then their daughters

It's been a while since I've seen Leaving Las Vegas (how many films can Nic Cage make that take place or end up in Vegas??), but to my recollection he never expresses any remorse about what he is about to do. But we still love him. Find something attractive about your character and make the audience see it. That's where the battle is won. IMHO.
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Old 04-15-2010, 10:08 AM   #10
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Default Re: Character dilemma... any thoughts?

Wow, great stuff guys. And actually without giving it away too much, the woman in the story is actually a prostitute/escort. So for his character to have to face his addiction head on when he meets this woman, I think will birth interesting moments in the story.

And the main character is sorta well known. He is recognizable among a certain group of people. A very low D level celebrity depending how you look at it.

I shouldn't have said love interest, because the happy ending I don't think will be these two finally coming together. That would be too easy as long it's executed right, but I'm trying for something different, not so happy ending, but definitely these two come out of the experience better people. I should have added Lost In Translation to the mix.

So it's Leaving Las Vegas meets Adaptation meets Lost in Translation. My biggest challenge is I'm trying to meet the Nicholls deadline of May 1st, and am about halfway through the story. I'm not gonna lie, this is the most fun I've ever had writing a screenplay, but perhaps it's because I haven't written a full-length screenplay in 6-7 years.
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