As a filmmaking teacher, I often have to take the elements of a movie and break it down into it’s main story points. It’s like taking an analog watch apart to see how it works. All the moving parts interconnect and fit together in a certain order- to tell a story. The medium (movie, tv show, book, article, poem, etc) should be complimentary to the story, like a wristband on a watch. However, the watch itself and all the moving parts are what make the watch a watch, not the wristband. Otherwise it’s just a bracelet. In this same way, the script and all it’s elements are what make an impactful, entertaining movie. A movie that works.
Aside from the characters, when coming up with a story, we have to think about the THEME. The way I would explain this to my students… Theme in a movie is: What is the lesson you want to teach? What is the film about? What is the bigger picture?
Another element of story to consider is CHARACTER. What does the main character want? This is usually the first question we ask when trying to figure out a film. Often what the character wants has nothing to do with the lesson they will learn.
CONFLICT is what happens when what one character wants gets in the way of what another character wants.
A wise woman once told me that life is like a movie script. It’s already written and each actor has their part. We are all the star of our own movies and whoever we believe is directing this movie (a higher power) will give us direction, or a motivation.
So now let’s look at the THEME, CHARACTERS and CONFLICT of our life.
Most people are only concerned with their own wants and desires. If they’re too busy telling you what YOU should do, that’s usually an indication that they are avoiding some issue in their own life.
Take for example a conflict you might be having with a friend. We can think about how the friend is reading their own script, it’s from their point of view, and I am reading mine. We each have to advance to the next act in our movie. Friends today, we may not be in the next act of each others movie. Or maybe we just don’t play as large a part. Or perhaps we have become the villain.
I’m sure whatever the conflict is about, each one of you thinks you’re right, and two very different opposing scripts can be written from each of your points of view painting the other as a villain with good cause. Try this next time you’re having an argument with someone or feeling mad at them. If you can imagine the script of this situation from their point of view, you’ll often gain the compassion to forgive them for whatever drama they are bringing to your movie.
Depending on the point of view of the story, one character might be a villain or a hero. Take for example the show Dexter. If this story were from Deb’s point of view (Dexter’s sister), she would most likely be less annoying, if you can imagine that. Dexter would be the villain who makes her job very difficult. No one would want to watch that version of Dexter, though. I digress.
Similarly, I choose to believe life is more like a Goosebumps choose your own scare book. At several points in the book, you come to a crossroads, often quite literally a fork in the road. There are two or more decisions you can make that will take you to a different page in the book, next. The choice is completely yours. As a child I used to dissect these books to get to all the endings. There are only two or three possibilities for an ending, no matter which choices you make. Sometimes if you turn left while running from the monster, the book says, Sorry, you died (I’m paraphrasing). The story is over. Think of life in this way. There are only two or three ways the story of your life can go, choices in between that bring you to one outcome or another. Your choices may bring you to different settings or change the setting or circumstances you live in. Overall though, the choices you make in life do not change who you are as a character.
A unique strength of mine is my resourcefulness… my ability to creatively find my way out of problems and setbacks that others might get stuck in. It’s a skill that drew me to the fast paced worlds of filmmaking, creative writing and art. I’m able to think on my feet and change course when something isn’t working. Often though, I get sad at the outcomes and characters that I leave behind when making a big choice in life. Take for example the possibility of packing up and going to live in a different country. It would surely be an adventure with new doors and new possibilities. After time, I would be sad missing home, my family and friends. Perhaps this is just the storyteller inside of me that likes to think of the alternate endings. There are always other paths we can take, and each path has positives and negatives.
Some believe that God has a plan for us all. That may be true. I like to believe also that my willpower and effort can bring change to the settings and circumstances of my life. The theme stays the same. We learn the same lessons in our life- that being- whatever lesson it is we need to get through the conflict, and to deal with the characters in our life.
Some things in life aren’t really a choice. Do you recall a time struggling to make a decision and it turns out that it wasn’t really a choice after-all? Some things in life are just meant to happen, they are the incidents caused sometimes by characters in the story that lead to lessons. So if our life is a pre-written script with only a few possible endings, then maybe each little decision in life is NOT so painstakingly significant.
But just like the Goosebumps book, we can’t surrender. If you want to keep on going, you go through the open door, you fight the monster. Otherwise you could refuse to go to through the door because you’re afraid of what’s on the other side. In that case the movie would be over. You die. THE END.
Sounds like life to me.
If we give up on ourselves, we learn nothing, and that’s not a very good movie.
Lights, Camera, Action!
What is the theme of this chapter your life? Please reply in the comments below.