Sunday, July 14, 2013
What does character driven mean? Face off between School of Rock and Back to the Future
I've decided to jump around a little and interrupt the complete story weave map of Back to the Future. There are several reasons. First is that it was a much bigger project than I imagined- mapping almost 200 story beats and defining the story function for each. I learned a lot completing the parts that I did. I've had a lot going on in my life so it's been hard to find the time to tackle such a big task.
The second is that I'm still trying to decide how to do it! I mean I could put all of the beats on one dragon and it would look like the cockpit of a 747. It would be hard to gather useful information at that level of detail. Yet, this is exactly what we must do when we make a movie- work with that level of detail. The trick is to show how it's useful. I think the partial maps that I've shown have done this. Like showing how setups and payoffs in the story must link together.
Third, is I want to keep sharing the fun information that I've been learning from my Dragon weaving theory, like what happens if you move the parts around?
So here's the next post...
I'm sure many of you have heard the expression "character driven story." Has anyone ever explained what it means? No, it's not when the character drives in the story. Unless it's about a bus driver. No one has ever explained it to me. So with the help of the dragon, I'm going to show you two films to illuminate the difference between a story that is character driven and one that's not.
First let's ask what the character wants. What does Marty want? Come on, isn't it obvious? He wants to go camping with Jennifer.
Now, what does Dewey want? He wants to be a rock god, so he can go camping with Jennifer. No, sorry. He wants to be a famous rock and roll star. But, he's miserable at it and he gets kicked out of the band. And on top of that he can't pay his rent so he's about to be kicked out. So, in other words, he's desperate.
Marty wants to camp with Jennifer. Dewey wants to follow his dream to play music. How do these characters drive the story? What does Jennifer have to do with going back to the future? The only thing that I can see is a psychoanalytic interpretation which we won't get into here. It has nothing to do with the story. So does Marty drive the story? Or is he stuck in the middle of random events?
Now let's look at Dewey. Dewey's desperate, so what does he do? He answers Ned's phone, pretends to be Ned and steals his offer for a substitute teachers job. Does he drive the story.?"Stick it to the man", you bet he does. Every thing in that movie is a direct result of Dewey pretending to be a teacher so he can pay his rent and follow his dream of playing music. And he gets it. He becomes the teacher of School of Rock.
Marty does drive part of the story. When Marty saves his father's live, he interrupts the space time continuum and now according to the family history, instead of falling for his father, Marty's mother falls for Marty. I knew Freud had something to do with this. But now because of his impulsive action he begins to drive the story. Figurative and literally. He drives the DeLorean back to the future.
So there you have it. Which is a better film? I love both of these movies, however I think you could learn more about storytelling from School of Rock. It's a clearer example of character driven.
Here are both films laid out so you can easily compare them using their dragon weaves.
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Till next time, happy weaving...