another in our fortnightly series in which we analyze the films that are currently released. why? to quote the writing mantra I coined over 5 years ago: watch movies. read scripts. write pages. you will notice which one comes first. here are my reflections from that post on the importance of watching movies:
To be a good screenwriter, you must have extensive exposure to the world of film. every movie you watch is a potential reference point for your writing, from the story concepts you generate to the characters you develop to the scenes you build. Also, people who work in the movie business constantly refer to existing movies when they talk about the stories you write; it is a shorthand way of conveying what they want to say or imagine.
but more importantly, you need to watch movies to “get” how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of cinema, it’s like a gestalt experience where you begin to intuitively understand scene composition, story structure, character roles, dialogue and subtext, transitions, and the like. the rhythm, etc.
Let me add this: It’s important to watch movies as they come out to stay on top of the business. Decisions are made in Hollywood largely based on the performance of movies, so watching movies as they are released puts you in the same headspace as managers, producers, executives, and buyers.
this week’s movie: inside out, screenplay by meg lefauve & josh cooley and pete docter, story of pete docter & ronaldo del carmen, additional dialogue by amy poehler & bill hader.
our discussion schedule this week:
Monday: general commentsTuesday: plotWednesday: charactersThursday: themesFriday: takeout
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, click no more, as we’ll be dealing in major spoilers. If you’ve seen the inside out, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the film.
My principle for topic is this: topic = meaning. and is often more specific: what is the emotional meaning of the story?
When it comes to the inside out, the story is all about emotions. So why not pose a question I ask my writing students as they develop their stories: what do you want the audience to feel when they walk out of the theater?
it’s easy to say, “hey, I want you to feel good.” but why? and how? What are the narrative elements that will make them feel good?
Inside out, we have the proverbial “happy ending.” riley met with mom and dad. she reconnects with a part of her Midwestern self, visualized through her involvement in hockey. notably, he doesn’t head to the ice and immediately becomes a goal-scoring machine. in fact, he messes up a couple of times. but in the end, he is fine. the message seems to be, life is not perfect. our emotions are fluid, organic and have a vitality of their own. they are powerful agents capable of guiding us here and there.
No matter how rebellious they are, it’s nice to have them. to feel them. this is a lesson all key players learn:
* Mom and Dad learn to make room for Riley to feel sad about moving.
* riley learns not to run away from her feelings, but to have the courage to share them with others.
* emotions, and especially joy, learn that each of them has a rightful place in riley’s life, not just dominated by joy, but sharing riley’s psychological space.
so one theme is this: your feelings exist and deserve to be acknowledged. in fact, if you don’t recognize them, they can wreak havoc on your life.
what other themes do you see at play in inside out? I hope to see your observations in comments.comments archive