But I love lots about what she has to say here, about the communal experience of watching a movie, and the essential role that storytelling plays in our lives.
I liked most of all the idea that you need to leave space / gaps / ambiguity in your work, because that is where the audience gets in there and makes their own, personal, unique connection with the story that you are telling. That's where talent, judgement, confidence and experience all come into play, and it's the journey of a lifetime trying to perfect that art.
Movies began as a communal experience. Even though we now watch them as DVD’s, sometimes alone on our computers, mostly in the history of cinema it has been a communal experience. And even now, we prefer to go to the movies with a friend, with our family, with our partner. Even at home, we’d rather watch with someone else, given a choice. It’s a different experience to watching a You Tube clip, or playing a videogame, or watching Come Dine With Me.
There’s something about movies that makes us want to watch them with others. Those of us who make movies know that filmmakers always have this in their heads. We talk constantly about ‘water cooler moments’ - the moments in a movie that are going to have everyone talking on Monday morning around the water cooler or the coffee machine, the discussion making everyone else want to go out and buy a ticket so they can join in the discussion.
So - that’s the ‘when’.
At the beginning, characters have goals - to ask the girl on a date, to rob a bank, to be reunited with an estranged father, to land on an alien planet, to win a horse race and so on. If the story is working, the audience cannot stand up and leave the movie theatre because they need to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. This simple desire is what drives everything. The guys around the campfire knew that just as well as the screenwriters of today.
**********CUE: RUN CLIPS: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT SECTION:
The correct term would be INTERESTING. Why is the character INTERESTING? Why do we care about the character and what happens to them? What stops us drifting off and breaking the movie’s spell? Why do we keep watching the screen? Why don’t we start wondering about where we parked the car, or what we’re going to have to eat at the restaurant after the movie, or whether we left the oven turned on at home?
So the most interesting characters keep us hooked. Not likeable ones! Iago, Shylock, Darth Vader - are they likeable? Do you want to invite them to dinner? (Well, it might make for an interesting night).
But they are sympathetic: because each has been created to feel he was wronged or in search of a complex goal. And most importantly, they are INTERESTING. Each does crazy, mean things to other people, but we understand why they do what they do. We understand their human nature, because we feel those things ourselves.
************CUE: RUN CLIPS:ALISON MOVIE REEL
This sounds absurd, but I hadn’t even consciously noticed I was doing this until Tanya pointed it out. I have made a career telling the stories of extraordinary women. Because, well, someone’s got to ;-)