Character vs. Concept

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  • Character vs. Concept

    Agree or disagree?

    From Ehren Kruger ("The Ring", "Arlington Road" et al.) in the latest Creative Screenwriting:

    "When trying to get scripts made, writers really need to focus on: will an actor want to play one of my main roles? Because that, more often than not, is much more important than how saleable is my concept."

  • #2
    Even with Eastwood, Freeman and Swank, the studio did NOT want to make Million Dollar Baby and getting it made was a very difficult process even for a guy with the power and connections Eastwood has.

    It is definitely important to write parts people will be attracted to play, but it's a false dichotomy to think that character can exist outside of the concept or that concept can exist without character. The two are so intertwined and dependent on each other for their existence that it's a waste of time to try and debate which is more important.

    What is character but the the determination of action? What is action but the illumination of character? - Henry James.

    Aristotle said that plot causes character to exist and the character exists to serve the plot.

    Another way to look at it is,


    Conflict creates character.
    Character creates action.
    Action creates story.

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    • #3
      Character vs. Concept

      Getting a script MADE and getting a script SOLD are two different things. When attracting a producer to a script, itâ€TMs about a great CONCEPT with great characters. When attracting talent to a purchased script, itâ€TMs about great CHARACTERS with a great concept. His statement, to me, doesnâ€TMt make a lot of sense.

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      • #4
        I was looking at this question a little differently.

        Let's assume that you are developing a story where the character and concept are thoroughly intertwined, and it's a fresh high concept idea. The only problem is that the lead character is is a kid. As I understand it, child actors rarely carry "A" list weight.

        Is that more likely to sell than something like:

        A story where character and concept are thoroughly interwined, but it isn't a typical high concept idea. But the lead and/or antagonist is a challenging role that could be played by a # of "A" list actors.

        Obviously, there is a best of both worlds scenario here, but for curiosity purposes--any thoughts?

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        • #5
          attracting actors

          js aka o

          yes. creating a script that will attract the talent is paramount. i think it trumps most other considerations (structure, genre, etc). if that's true then it follows - a script with solid structure, genre considerations, dialogue, etc that also has castable parts is a winner


          zilla

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          • #6
            Re: attracting actors

            I think Kruger makes them to some degree mutually exclusive. But I think most of us agree that something of both is necessary to create both a marketable and attractive script.

            kojled--your statement assumes that the first to see the script would be talent, while typically the first to see would be your reps, then perhaps a producer.

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            • #7
              Re: attracting actors

              An 'insider' recently told me to think in terms of specific actors as you write because it helps when the industry can visualize an actor that's a BO draw playing the role.

              Not that the script will be sent to the actor, but that your agent or manager can say: "The lead is perfect for so-and-so who's looking for a such-and-such genre at the moment."

              Edited to add:

              From the articles I'm reading lately it seems, now, more than ever before, HW does not want to take financial risks. If you have a script with leads 'perfect' for A-listers that are BO gold it will give you an edge.

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              • #8
                Re: attracting actors

                The concept is usually what gets your script read in the first place. If it doesn't appeal to people when pitched, they aren't going to be interested in reading it unless you've won an important contest, or you've made a name for yourself, or you have a big agent or someone else who can recommend you and open doors.

                If a producer reads it and like it, then it has to pass all other inspections. Is it castable? Can I sell it to the people holding the purse strings? Can we afford to make it? Will people want to see it?
                So it has to pass all the tests, at least in somebody's eyes.

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                • #9
                  Re: attracting actors

                  A screenwriter with a track record has different considerations from the unsold spec writer. He has already passed the first couple of hurdles. The main one being getting read at all! If your log line doesn't grab them all your great character work counts for nothing.

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                  • #10
                    Re: attracting actors

                    I will let everyone know shortly the answer to this question. I have a script out now that has a killer concept, but is weak on character development.

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                    • #11
                      Re: attracting actors

                      Goldman had some interesting things to say on this topic in his, "Adventures in the Screen Trade." I'm not even going to try to paraphrase his words, but the impression I got from his own Hollywood experience is that it didn't seem to much matter how glorious a concept a film had or how excellent a story was told or how brilliant the script was. The main concern when it got to producer (and/or greenlighter) level consideration was, "What bankable star do I need for this script?" and that always meant writing in an "anchor role" for the big star.

                      And without too much effort, I think we could come up with exceptions to this. Big name stars that take "smaller" roles or roles in "smaller movies" for whatever reason mattered to them at the time they said yes to the project.

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                      • #12
                        Re: attracting actors

                        I think this kind of question gets down to what the core problem is with most of the films out there today. You just can't have one without the other and expect it to be a script people will really love.

                        A meh concept with great characters is a movie people will say was boring but the characters were cool. And vice versa, meh characters with a great concept will be something that people may go to see but in the end, it will leave them feeling flat. Yeah, there was a lot of action or a cool story but the characters left them sort of uninvolved in the flick in general.

                        This is why the scripts that have both great concept and characters make a killing at the box office. Movies like The Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Lethal Weapon, Bourne Identity, Meet the Parents, Finding Nemo, Back to the future, etc...

                        It's sort of sad that we divide movies into two camps (character driven, plot driven), because most of the greatest movies are strong on both fronts.

                        But if you want to go by what does well at box office alone, it appears that concept wins out to character because quite a few movies of late have generic characters that don't get you very invested in the flick beyond 2 hours of mindless entertainment. For that, most will stay home and watch TV or view their latest netflix arrival.

                        Just my .02.

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                        • #13
                          Re: attracting actors

                          Quote:
                          ----------------------------------------------------------
                          I will let everyone know shortly the answer to this question. I have a script out now that has a killer concept, but is weak on character development.
                          -----------------------------------------------------------

                          I also think that this is (part of) the answer to this. Of course it is true that some actors are looking for certain kinds of characters in a script, because, like for any other person in his/her work position, they know what they good at and it might be a risk for them trying something they're not sure they manage. They want to be sure they can make this character come alive and that s/he developes the "right" way.

                          But, I think it's not good for the creative process to think about this for a writer. For sure, the writer might have a certain actor in mind, but I don't think it would be a good idea to adapt the script to suit that actor.

                          Interesting character is just as important as the concept and I can see no contradiction, just that both has to FIT and that it can be a problem if the writer only adapts the character to the story or the other way around...

                          /H

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                          • #14
                            Re: attracting actors

                            will an actor want to play one of my main roles?
                            Which brings me to the question...what makes an actor want to play a certain role?

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                            • #15
                              attracting actors

                              Because of the vast amout of money now being paid to actors I think many of them are willing to take on much more riskier roles than in the past. On the basis that if you get 'retiral' money -20 mill- for a blockbuster you can then afford to take a few risks with a couple of vanity projects. Brad Pitt is a case in point. 20 years ago he would be groomed as the typical matinee idol and shoehorned into appropriate roles. With the power and financial muscle they have now, actors can get projects made which actually stretch their acting muscles now and again and play very much against type.

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