Film Production

16 Steps for Planning and Writing Your Script: Step 10

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16 Steps for Planning and Writing Your Script: Step 10
Location Profiles for your Characters

Hi, my name is J.O. Booker and I am the producer, screenwriter, location scout, storyboarder, director, and editor of the upcoming short film called L.O.V.E.: A Four Letter Word.

Before starting this session, I want to add something to the previous session on character development that I’d overlooked.  This involves all of the characters in your story but especially the protagonist since he or she will be the dominant perspective throughout your story.  Add this field within your profile: flaws!

No good character is one-dimensional or completely good or bad.  Name any iconic hero or underdog in any film and this character will have some flaw or darkside about him or her.

Look at one of the most iconic film characters ever, Dirty Harry, played by Clint Eastwood.  People identify with Dirty Harry because he gets around all the bureaucratic red tape and Miranda Rights and long courtroom procedures and dispenses good old fashioned street justice — quick, simple, and hard.

But if you really look at the entire Dirty Harry series, he’s sometimes a chauvinist, sometimes a bigot, and even a racist.  But we love him anyway.

Why?

Because he’s genuine, he’s a real guy.

Let’s look at another iconic character, Tony Manero, played by John Travolta in his 1977 hit Saturday Night Fever.

Throughout the film, the character directs profanity laced slurs at blacks (niggers) and Mexicans (spics) and yet, we still love him and root for him because of his desire to cross “the Brooklyn Bridge” to a better life that we all identify with in our own lives.  Plus the guy dances his ass off!

I know that the trend these days in American filmmaking and literature is to be politically correct and if you want to join the fad, make your characters perfect and five years from now nobody will remember your book or script.  Or make your character real by letting them have their flaws, their bad habits (like smoking; When was the last time you saw a character light up in a movie?) and take a chance on somebody remembering that character, for better or worse.

Today, I want you to create a LOCATION profile for the characters in you script or novel.  This should be easier than the character profiles we created last time, and unless you are writing a story taking place in multiple cities, states, countries, or continents, your characters should share the same general location.

Here’s a template of how your location profile should look:

Location

  • City
  • Neighborhood
  • Hangout spots
  • How he or she feels about where they live
  • Time period (past, present, or future)
  • Season
  • Does the character have his or her own place or are they living with someone else; such as parents, lover, friend, etc.

This is a very basic template.  Two of the entries — “Time period” and “Season” — probably won’t be applicable if you are a low to no budget filmmaker but if you are writing a book the sky’s the limit.

Sociology asserts that we are all shaped by our environments so imagining your characters without taking his environment into account is like having an effect without a cause.  This location profile should make brainstorming your main character easier since his or her personality will be influenced by their environment.

Again, let’s look at John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever as an example.

Tony Manero lives with his family in a small apartment in a Brooklyn slum and he works at a dead-end job in a paint shop — these 3 factors give motivation to the character’s desire for a better life.  This makes him a character to root for.  His location explains his coarse language and his attitudes on race and the ethnic divisions of his neighborhood.  He’s no angel, but we still like him because we can identify with him.

So, this week, in addition to journaling and reading, you need to be brainstorming, refining your story and working on these profiles.  This should take no more than 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  You have time!  You have time — hours and hours a day to Facebook, hours a day to watch television, run the streets, but you don’t have time to write, and yet you want to be a writer?  Worse still, claim to be one!  Make time!  You are not by yourself.  I am with you.  I hold a full-time job, I’m producing my first short film, and I’m doing this blog, so know that I am in this fox-hole with you to the end.  You can’t succeed if you don’t show up.

Don’t give up! See you next time!

I’ll leave you with this video by Max Landis on : how to control your story

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