Sunday, April 23, 2006

What Sunday means to me

Having started the 3rd (hence: last) Term of the First Year at the Edinburgh College of Art, I am now practicing Filmmaking three days each week.

To remind you, in 2nd Term I had to 'solve' a 30-second still-image presentation on the theme "What Sunday means to me". I had come up with the following images of a person being woken up each day of the week by his alarm clock. Until Sunday... total silence. Not so, the church bells blasted the peaceful quiet to bits!

What Sunday means to me
Clock is ticking... Man is sleeping.
SOUNDFX: Ticking clock, sleeping man.
ACT I Scene 02
Clock is silenced.


SOUNDFX: Soft tap, ticking sound stopped
Clock is ticking...
SOUNDFX: Ticking clock, sleeping man.
ACT II Scene 02
Clock is slapped.


SOUNDFX: Hard tap, ticking sound stopped
ACT II Scene 03
Clock is ticking...
SOUNDFX: Ticking clock, sleeping man.
ACT II Scene 04
Alarm sets off.


Clock is smashed!
SOUNDFX: Loud punch and clock falling to the ground.
Clock is no longer in view, nor ticking. Man is snoring.
SOUNDFX: Snoring man.
ACT III Scene 02
Loud church bells !!!


SOUNDFX: Loud church bells.
The End

After this very minimalist construction of a story about Sunday, and what it means to me, I have now been asked to build on top of this and make a movie out of it.

I start by selecting the kind of story I want to tell:
  • a Novel - Chapters
  • a Stageplay - 2 to 5 acts & scenes
  • a Screenplay - Sequences, scenes & plot points
  • a TV show - 5 to 7 acts & scenes
  • a Mythical story - 12 story creation steps

I chose to make it a Screenplay in which the story follows an interesting main character (sometimes the protagonist) with whom the audience identifies themselves, seeking a clear goal by addressing an ever-escalting set of difficulties.

========================= PREMISE ======================

First, the premise is to be written. The premise of a film or screenplay is the fundamental concept that drives the plot. A good premise can usually be expressed very simply, and many films can be identified simply from a short sentence describing the premise. The uniqueness or compelling nature of a film story's premise is often a key element in selling it, especially during the initial pitch.

A story which has an easily understood, compelling premise is said to be high-concept, whereas one whose premise is not easy to describe, or relatively small-scale or mundane, is said to be low-concept. A low-concept story is highly execution-dependent because the commercial viability of the project will depend largely on the quality of the creative endeavors of those involved, whereas a high-concept story may still pull in audiences even if the script is flawed, the acting wooden and the direction directionless. (source: Wikipedia)

As an attempt:

"What Sunday means to me" is a documentary about a man, his rest and a typical Sunday.

To put more flesh on the bones of this meagre statement I delved into a Story telling theory, called Dramatica. Read the review by the IdeasFactory.

Most of the 'wisdom' following can be read in a wonderful Comic book format which you can get from Dramatica.

Click to enlarge: Comic Book "The Secret of Great Stories

I start out with the StoryMind

This is the idea that a complete story is the model of a single mind at work finding the solution to a single problem.
Your story's Characters, Plot, Theme, and Genre are like the thoughts coming out of this mind as it works.

Click to enlarge: Four Throughlines

The Story Structure is provided by the Four Throughlines (i.e. perspectives):
1) The Overall Story
2) The Main Character
3) The Impact Character
4) The Main versus The Impact Story
which you find in any story. The Storymind explores these in looking for the problem at its center.

Ad 1) The Overall Story view sees the entire story from a distance, but is not really involved.

Ad 2) The Main Character view is the first person, 'I' perspective. Through him/her we experience how it feels to go through the story, as if we were the main character.

Ad 3) The Impact Character has the strongest personal impact on the Main Character, forcing the Main Character to face his personal problems and making him/her question his/her deepest beliefs.

Ad 4) The Impact Character's Impact on the Main Character creates an argument between them; the Main vs. Impact Story. This relationship between the Main Character and the Impact Character is the Emotional Heart of your story. These two argue about some personal issue until one of them changes at the end.

NOTE: The Main Character is not per se the Protagonist (or hero); The Protagonist is an overall story character seen by its function in the overall story, instead we deal emotionally with the Main Character through who's eyes we see.

NOTE: The Impact Character is not per se the Antagonist (or opponent); The Antagonist is an overall story character seen by its function in the overall story, instead we deal emotionally with the Impact Character.

A missing Impact Character can hamstring a story's emotional involvement.

PHASE ONE - STORYFORMING: creating the blueprint for your story's throughlines, character, plot, and theme.

A] Setting-up the Main Character
  • Question 1: Main Character Resolve - "Will your Main Character ultimately CHANGE (e.g. Ebeneezer Scrooge) or remain STEADFAST (e.g. James Bond, who forces his Impact Character to change)?" Our Main Character will remain STEADFAST, he basically wants his rest... particularly on Sunday.

  • Question 2: Main Character Growth - "Will your Main Character ultimately START (e.g. Ebeneezer Scrooge's starts giving) or STOP (e.g. Schindler stops working for the Nazis)?" A "CHANGE" character will GROW either by STARTING a new characteristic or STOPPING an old one. "STEADFAST" characters will either be holding out for something to START or holding out for something to STOP. The point is to clarify whether the Main Character's problem is because of what is there that shouldn't be, or because of what is missing. Our Main Character is holding out for something to STOP, his problem is the noise that shouldn't be there, hindering him from having a rest.

  • Question 3: Main Character Approach - "Will your Main Character be a DO-er, solving problems externally (e.g. Dirty Harry kicks ass) or a BE-er, solving problems internally (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi, not necessarily passive)?" As showcased from the hitting of the Alarm Clock our Main Character definitely is a DO-er, silencing the noise by use of physical force.

  • Question 4: Main Character Problem Solving Style - "What kind of Problem Solving Style does your Main Character use: logical or Intuitive? As it affects how he or she perceives or decides anything. LOGICAL style sees problems in terms of cause-and-effect, seeking linear explanations (often found by Males). INTUITIVE style sees problems in terms of the relationships involved, how they balance as a whole - holistic (often found by Females).Since it doesn't show from the outset and our Main Character is a Man he is likely to use the LOGICAL problem solving style. Note: Logical style need holistic style to see the big picture. Holistic style needs logical style to follow the steps leading to the conclusion.

  • B] Setting-up the Plot
  • Question 5: Story Driver - "Which comes first in your Story: Actions or Decisions?" The choice of Story Driver sets up the opening incident. As the Alarm is (the result of) an action, that keeps the Main Character from resting, our story is ACTION driven.

  • Question 6: Story Limit - "What will raise tension and bring your story to an end: a Time lock (e.g. only 5 seconds left) or an Option lock (e.g. only one suspect left)" Since our Main Character seeks to find rest on Sunday, the last day out of seven, our story has an OPTION-LOCK. TIP: We have to make clear at the beginning of the story that there are only seven days and Sunday is expected to be the ultimate day. Also show which day we are at as the story heads towards the end.

  • Question 7: Story Outcome - "Do the characters achieve the common goal they set out for, or not: Success if yes or Failure if no?" FAILURE, even on a Sunday the Main Character does not get to rest.

  • Question 8: Story Judgement - "Does your Main Character resolve his or her personal problems or not: Good if yes, Bad if no?" Story Outcome and Judgement combine to create four kinds of endings: Tragedies [Failure & Bad], Personal tragedies [Success & Bad], Personal triumphs [Failure & Good], or Triumphs [Success & Good]. Concluding from this we are writing a Tragedy, whereas the story judgement is BAD.

  • C] Setting-up the Overall Story Throughline
  • Question 9: Overall Story Throughline "Which kind of problem brings your overall characters together: a Situation, an Activity, a Manipulation, or a Fixed Attitude?" - I guess the ACTIVITY of our characters finding rest on Sunday.

  • Question 10: Overall Story Concern - "What is most important to the characters in your story: (for Activity that is) internal such as Understanding or Doing, or it may be external such as Obtaining or Gathering Information.?" OBTAINING rest it is for them.

  • Question 11: Main vs Impact Story Thematic Issue - What is your story trying to say: (for Manipulation that is) Rationalization, Responsibility, Commitment, or Obligation? The thematic focus of our main vs. impact story explores the meaning of COMMITMENT; while the Main Character commits to resting, he neglects Sunday as a day of worship. Choosing the Issue tells an audience by what standard the author intends them to evaluate what they experience in the story. TIP: Show examples of what Sunday means to 'others', such as to worship.

  • Question 12: Main Character Problem - "Which personal issue is causing him or her problems and driving him or her to solve them?: Uncontrolled or Hinder" Our Main Character's problem is HINDER, he cannot find rest. When we look at the Main Character's Problem, we are really looking at the inequity of the story at large as it is reflected in the Main Character.

  • After creating two characters for the story:

    - Main Character, called "Rusty" - a Sculptor, desperate for resting on Sunday.

    - Impact Character, called "Waky Waky" - a Spirit, keeping Rusty from resting.

    the traits of the story "What Sunday means to.. Rusty" are summarized in underneath table:

    Story ElementThroughlineConcernCatalystUnique AbilityIssueCritical FlawInhibitorBenchmark
    Overall StoryActivityObtaining; GoalMorality-Self Interest-PreconceptionDoing; Requirements
    Main Character
    "Rusty", Sculptor
    SituationThe Future; Dividends-ChoicePreconceptionAttitude-How Things are Changing; Forewarning
    Impact Character
    "Waky Waky", Spirit
    Fixed AttitudeInnermost Desires; Cost-DreamDenialObligation-Impulsive Responses; Preconditions
    Main vs Impact StoryManipulationChanging One's Nature; ConsequenceResponsibility-Commitment-DenialPlaying a Role; Prerequisites

    PHASE TWO - ILLUSTRATING: symbolizing your storyform gets you to fully know your story.

      A] Illustrating Plot

      B] Illustrating Character

      C] Illustrating Theme

      D] Illustrating Genre

    PHASE THREE - STORYWEAVING: deciding how to present this story to an audience.

      A] Creating scenes

      B] Selecting emphasis


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