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Tag Archives: indie

Three Tips for Writing Great Characters

 

 

A great character makes or breaks a film. It’s also what will get a major star to agree to sign on to a project.

Having written a great character is money in the bank, so here are three helpful tips to help make yours the best they can be!

 

http://comicvine.gamespot.com/captain-jack-sparrow/4005-52182/
Too real can be too boring, mate.

 

  1. Don’t make them too much like real people.

People tend to think super-realistic writing equals good writing, but there’s a difference between a film that “feels” real because it hits you emotionally and a film that feels real because it could be a home movie of two people having a boring talk.

One thing about real people and real life: they use a lot of filler. What percentage of your life actually has something HAPPENING? Are your friends riveted if you tell them you: Got in your car, turned it on, went down the street, made a left, went to the grocery store, and got eggs? No? Ok… then why should a screenplay give this much detail?

Additionally, “real” people tend not to talk in a super-exciting way. They make a lot of chit-chat and often dance around their real point. In a cinematic world, you want people who are clear about their wants and put it out there. This drives the drama.

To that end:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu2pFaKCGug
Based just on his lines, what are Austin’s core traits?

 

  1. Limit their traits – and make every line stem from a trait.

In real life, people have tons and tons of traits. You could sit down and list your traits – and easily fill a page. The more traits someone has, the more complicated they are.

While you do want your characters to be complicated, too many traits will dilute them to the point that they come across as vague. Yes, this might make them more ‘realistic’ – but it will also make them boring or confusing… or both.

Good characters should have no more than four core traits, and every action they take and word that comes out of their mouths should reflect on one or more of these traits. This delivers characters who are clear and memorable. Four core traits – and one clear thing that they want. That’s it.

http://killbill.wikia.com/wiki/Beatrix_Kiddo
Think the most important thing to describe about her is that she’s blonde?

 

  1. Make your descriptions count.

When a character’s first introduced, the introduction should be short and to the point, so as not to slow down the reading. However, just because it’s short doesn’t mean it shouldn’t pack a punch. Make those descriptive words count!

Also – avoid describing anything physical that doesn’t give a trait. A huge complaint in the industry is that female characters tend to just be described as “beautiful,” or described in an overly specific way, like “LENA, 20s, short black hair and big green eyes.” This tells nothing about the character and limits the number of actresses who fit the description. Also, unless it’s important that the character be ugly for some reason, don’t worry – a beautiful woman will likely be cast anyway!

Instead, use physical traits that DO tell you something about the person. For example: “PENELOPE, 18, hair out of place and too much in her backpack, stumbles down the hall.” What do you know right away about Penelope? She’s awkward, a bookworm, doesn’t care too much about her looks… You get a lot more than you would from “PENELOPE, 18, brown hair and blue eyes. Beautiful.”

Those are the top three tips for writing great characters. Let us know if you have any others in the comments!

 

Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

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Opening this Weekend: Boyhood

Rarely is an indie movie’s premiere considered an ‘event’; at least, not compared to premieres of major studio blockbusters released amidst massive marketing campaigns and publicity. But Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, opening this weekend, is an exception to this rule.

The film has received rave reviews since showing at Sundance this year and is currently 100% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after 94 reviews. If those facts alone aren’t enough to peak your interest, though, perhaps the concept is.

boyhood fam
Patricia Arquette with Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater in Boyhood.

Boyhood is a film that chronicles one young man’s journey from ages 6 to 18. That’s not too unique, but the approach to filming the story was: the movie was shot over the course of 12 years, filming 3 or 4 days each year.

The result has been astounding critics and audiences: the viewer gets to actually watch this family of four age and repeat the same cycles at different stages of their lives. Nothing quite like it has ever been done before, the closest attempt being Michael Apted’s 7 Up documentary series that re-visited the same subjects every seven years starting in 1964, documenting their progression from hopeful children to somewhat dreary adults. Boyhood, however, is no documentary; it’s pure cinema.

Ellar Coltrane, the film's star: ages 6 and 18.
Ellar Coltrane, the film’s star: ages 6 and 18.

The effect of seeing time pass in this way can be as unsettling as it is epic. After watching Boyhood, some reviewers remarked upon how it feels to see someone age before your very eyes – reminding everyone that we’re “here today, gone tomorrow.” The film is a surprising 165 minutes long – however, in keeping with the theme of time slipping away, viewers seem to unanimously agree that those 2 hours and 45 minutes fly by.

All this interest surrounding Boyhood suggests it will do quite well at the box office. Only opening in 5 theaters this weekend (Lincoln Plaza, IFC Center, and BAM in NYC and Arclight and Landmark in LA), the film is expected to sell out at every showing, averaging a $50,000 intake for each theater. This is well above the $35,000 ceiling most indie films hit when it comes to theatrical releases. That’s great news for the film’s distributor, Jonathan Sehring of IFC Films, who has amazingly bankrolled the project from its start in 2002.

Left to right: Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, and Richard Linklater.
Left to right: Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, and Richard Linklater.

The film stars Ellar Coltrane as the central character, Mason, and Lorelei Linklater, the director’s own daughter, as his slightly older sister, Samantha. Ethan Hawke, who has notably worked with Linklater on the highly acclaimed Before trilogy, stars as Mason’s unreliable father, and Patricia Arquette rounds out the central cast playing Mason’s mother.

What do you think? Will Boyhood’s realism catapult it to further greatness this year? Or will it fail to live up to all the hype?

 

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain

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