Purposeless, passive character in bio pic



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  • Purposeless, passive character in bio pic

    All-time blockbuster FORREST GUMP influenced me much as I wrote my first s/p -- Forrest Gump, Sleepless in Seattle and Saving Private Ryan rolled into one. The themes and the music, as well as the actor did.

    Do you think a hodge-podge of indirectly related biographic events that caricature a passive protagonist more than present causal, specifically goal-oriented dramatic twists may succeed again?

  • #2


    • #3
      On Friday a script called BOOK OF KINGS sold. It
      is a literate screenplay about the relationship between
      two life-long friends and how a piece of paper
      called "the manifesto" has affected them both.

      This is a script without a hero-based structure,
      the protagonist isn't "active" in the usual sense,
      and his search is more introspective. The script
      is biographical, episodic, and spiritual. And it is

      So, the answer to your question is "yes".


      • #4
        creative exec

        Do you think that kind of film is less effective with a non-VO narration/seen from a minor character's POV?

        Do you like/look for that kind of material for any of your clients? Could you tell me which actor? Thanks. ([email protected])


        • #5
          I prefer scripts without VO's - even the kind
          of scripts in discussion.

          You often see VO's in "slice-of-life" scripts
          (a non-hero based narrative) that are adapted
          from novels. This is the easiest way to relate
          the inner monologue of characters and
          also remains faithful to its literary origins.
          But I still dislike them.

          I would not say that these kind of scripts
          are more or less effective with VO's. I do
          believe, however, that most scripts should
          be conceived without voice-overs

          BOOK OF KINGS does use voice-over.

          In most scripts I read, they are unnecessary.

          REMEMBER THE TITANS opens and closes with
          VO's from a supporting character - the little
          girl (all grown up). In my opinion, those
          voice-overs were unnecessary. Thankfully,
          they were merely bookends.

          Obviously, some scripts work great with them -
          A CHRISTMAS STORY come to mind.

          But these are VERY well-written VO's.

          Unfortunatley, many writers do a poor job with
          VO's and "tell" instead of dramatize or show.

          I also like VO's to be dramatically purposeful.
          For instance, being used to mislead the
          audience, or learning the talking character
          has been speaking to someone - other than
          us - like a reporter, grandchild, or a classroom.

          I also hate when voice-overs reveal expository
          info that the speaking character had no access
          to. This can be a problem when a minor character
          is given the responsibility.

          I am not a fan of "slice-of-life" screenplays.
          I often refer to them as "slice-my-wrist"
          scripts. The hero-based story archetype
          is certainly more commercial and easier
          to write (and read). Slice-of-life scripts
          often menander, have little drama and
          tension. Lastly, they need to be to VERY
          well writen.

          I do not actively seek out any particular
          kind of script for any client. If the premise
          grabs me, I'll consider it.

          However, slice-of-life scripts do not "pitch"
          well. (Just check out the LOG LINE section
          here at "Done Deal".) They often sound bland
          and identical. These scripts are about the
          QUALITY of writing. And a "newbie" will have
          a difficult time convincing a pro with, "Well,
          it may not sound exciting, but it's really
          well-written. Give it a chance."

          Boy, such a long answer for such a short
          question. Did I even answer your query?

          - Windbag


          • #6
            Well, you certainly gave me
            some new info, so thanks!



            • #7
              VOs, POV


              I hate VO narrations, myself. And, by "minor character's POV," I don't mean a VO. I mean his/her indirect perspective if he/she is not in a scene, but bywhich the script maintains consistency of POV.

              premise - Do you mean a logline or something you find in a synopsis or treatment? I understand a logline should suggest the premise but may not say interesting aspects of it.

              consider - You mean, consider to read the script but what do you do if you get to like it? Pitch it yourself or by your client to a prodco? Sorry, I'm clueless.

              Is any of these a client of yours: Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Richard Gere, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore? (just dreaming about my s/p)



              • #8
                I'm still clueless myself.

                The log line must reveal the full dramatic premise
                of your story. The "interesting aspects" of your
                script will not sell it. The conflict will.

                JAWS LOG LINE: The sheriff of a Long Island beach
                community battles a man-eating shark at the height
                of tourist season.

                That's the major dramatic thrust of the story.

                There are many interesting aspects to JAWS:

                The Sheriff is hydrophobic. He is joined in his
                pursuit by a hands-off scientist and a hands-on
                crusty, old fisherman - who butt heads. The
                Sheriff feels guilty for not clearing the beach
                when he knew the shark existed - resulting in
                the death of a young boy. The Mayor and city
                council do not want to close the beach. There's
                a great opening and a fabulous monologue (by

                But these are not aspects to include in the log
                line. Leave it for a synopsis.

                The log line for JAWS is enough is entice me
                to read it.

                I like a story that is inherently dramatic. The
                organic conflict will be very apparent in the
                log line. The rest is frosting.

                John Logan's fabulous THE LAST SAMURAI has
                a great log line - that would beg people to read
                it. In addition, it has "interesting aspects" that
                only make the experience that much better.

                One reason writers have a difficult time with log
                lines is that they have not conceived a particulary
                DRAMATIC story.

                A log line is a "profile" of the screenplay. It gives
                someone an impression of your story.

                Some Done Dealers have posted their log lines
                to me and I have not responded favorably. The
                premise may not thrill me but could thrill others.

                I read thousands of scripts. 23 this weekend.
                (And that's the FULL read. Not just 10 - 30 pages.)
                So, I have seen lots and lots of stories. Many
                writers pen the same stuff - espionage/Viet
                Nam, aliens, fairy tales, and the gathering of
                a "circle of friends or family" type scripts. I
                have seen SO MANY of these, that they don't
                excite me. That means I could miss out on
                (which I think is wildly overrated anyway) and
                THE BIG CHILL - if they were pitched today.
                (Of course, these were all fresh back then.)

                Next topic:

                "Consider", I guess, means a number of things.
                If I like the pitch (log line), I consider if it
                is something I want to read or if it is right for
                my client base. If I read it and like it, we
                decide on how to pursue. We may contact
                the producer, or the writer. If it was submitted
                to me by a producer or studio - which is
                often the case - it will be sent to the actor.
                If the actor likes it, I do lots of notes until
                the script is shaped to the actor's liking,
                and the talent signs on. (Then it's out of my

                On the very rare occasion that the script is
                penned by a newbie, we could get the writer
                repped here and package the script - with one
                of my clients attached. However, I may also
                try to secure the writer representation else-
                where, if the good script isn't right for a
                client or the agency isn't right for the scribe.

                My clients include Richard Gere, Denzel
                Washington, Michelle Pfeiffer, Liam Neeson,
                Mel Gibson.

                Hope that helps, ferds.


                • #9

                  a character's name strongly suggest the theme and add dimension to stating the premise, is it okay to mention it in a logline?

                  Could you give example of a logline that effectively states an an introspective, spiritual conflict or man-against-his-evil-side kind of movie in contrast to JAWS/action oriented stuff?

                  Yeah, I can live with Michelle Pfeiffer and I'd love Liam Neeson to perform my material. But box office calls for Denzel Washington!

                  I think we have a movie. Thanks, CE!

                  So, where and when is the best time can I e-mail you my logline?


                  • #10

                    The story you're pitching shouldn't rest on the
                    name of a character. Ebenezer Scrooge is
                    a great name. But the story would be just
                    as potent if Dickens had named him John Smith.
                    Perhaps you can find an adjective to describe
                    the character. Instead of Scrooge, one could
                    say "miserly". However, you're not breaking any
                    rules if you choose to use the character's
                    name in the log line.

                    Don't worry about "theme". No one is interested
                    in your theme. Ten people will read your script
                    and interpret it ten different ways. It's your
                    job to tell the story - not to tell your audience
                    what it should mean to them.

                    Per your request. Here are three LOG LINES from
                    scripts that portray internal struggles and
                    spiritual searches in lieu of a DIE HARDesque
                    hero archetype.


                    A sheltered young woman struggles with breaking free from
                    her isolation by planting seeds in a local park and falling
                    in love.

                    LIFE AS A HOUSE

                    A terminally ill man attempts to rebuild his life while he
                    rebuilds his house.

                    MEET JOHN TROW

                    A man at mid-life crisis seeks refuge from his unhappiness
                    by playing a Civil War soldier for a reenactment society,
                    but his world becomes more complicated when the
                    character he portrays infiltrates his life.

                    Despite the psychological studies these scripts
                    dramatize, you'll note each log lines contains a
                    strong visual spine to accompany the internal -
                    and not so visual - quest.

                    The first offers a garden.

                    The second a house.

                    The third a mock war.

                    If you are going to craft an internal story, you
                    would be wise to enhance it with some kind
                    of integral and organic visual stimulus that
                    will be an EXTERNAL symbol of the internal
                    struggle. It also provides additional (and external)
                    conflict in of itself.


                    • #11
                      GOT IT.

                      Thank you, creative exec.

                      AM BACK TO WORK.


                      • #12
                        Wow, CE, you are GOOD!
                        Clarifies for me.

                        Thanks again.