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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Workshop (Part Two)

Last night's class was all about creating 'compelling characters'.

It was a class that I've been looking forward to ever since I saw the original ad for the workshop.

Part 2 of 5 – Compelling Characters
Wednesday, March 10th
By understanding each character you will be able to develop your story. The central character must be complex and unique. Other characters must be memorable and provocative.
- How to create compelling characters that stay with the audience
- Character sketches, traits and other tools
- Empathy and emotion
- Secondary characters that challenge

That -- along with Week 3's Structure session -- was what ultimately made me decide to shoot my credit card data into a tight spiral across the intertubes.

What can I say? I'm always trying to learn about characters and structure.

So, last night was the big session...

Did it live up to the hype?

In a lot of ways, yes. Yes it did.

There are a few gripes that I have about the night in general, but overall I was actually quite impressed with his insights toward character creation.

Some of it was rather enlightening.

His advice on avoiding the use of the 'royal we' in scripts made a lot of sense. (It excludes everyone -- crew, producers, actors, etc -- except the audience... which is a big no-no in a collaborative medium).

And finding your main character is easy if you look for the person who's going to go through the biggest arc, change the most or be at the center of the story.

Hell, his thoughts on character sketches and personal motivation were definitely worth the price of admission.

But as time passed one thing became abundantly clear: this course really isn't going to be much help for series TV writers.

Uh... like me.

Characters don't really change in TV. Certainly not in the kinds of ways we see in film. TV characters change over seasons, not hours... and sometimes not even then. Certainly not if you're on a successful procedural -- You're the same character from act one of the pilot until the moment you get killed or walk off the show.

Which leads me to what I think is my only real criticism of the program thus far.

It's billed as a 'Writer's Foundation Certificate' that exists "To offer screenwriter's and storytellers the basic elements of screenwriting".

And it really is a 'screenwriting' course - as in 'writing for the screen'. Some of the stuff will translate, some will not.

Nothing wrong with that.

It's not like it's useless knowledge (not by any means).

But a part of me was hoping I'd still be able to sneak in more TV-related questions. To get some answers on crafting scenes that play well on TV where you're revealing plot more than character.

It's kind of hard to do though, especially when you ask a question that ends up diverting him off topic and eating up time for the other 20-ish people in the room who're there to learn about film.

That said, Mr. Chubb's been very accommodating so far... but as time ticks on and as the only TV-guy in the room, it's getting harder and harder to ask the questions I want to ask.

Time's always ticking down...

Oh well, c'est la vie.

I think the plan from this far out is to just go in with an open mind take a bunch of notes and worry about making the connections later. I'll ask the questions myself and see if I can glean the answers I want out of the notes I've been given.

Even now, only 2 sessions in, I feel like I've gained some valuable perspective... I just wish there was something a bit more in it for us TV-folk.

Well... okay, me.

That said, maybe I should try and scrape together $369 and hit up The Toronto Screenwriting Conference as it appears that there'll be quite a few TV-folk in attendance.

Then again, maybe I should just get started on my next spec script...

Ugh, decisions, decisions.


1 comment:

Rich Baldwin said...

Go to the conference - we can hang together!

Also: I've found this problem before (mostly film-focused info, difficulty finding ways to talk about TV). The best answer I've found to that: if it's not a TV-specific course, I'm either not attending or I'll expect to get a lot less out of it than will the filmies.