Dawson City International Short Film Festival 2013 / Uncategorized

Story editors & “save the cat” moments

I have two awesome moments written into my notebook from this afternoon’s workshop “Deconstructing Lucille’s Ball.” This was a 3-hour discussion with director/writer Lulu Keating and producer/story editor Roslyn Muir, looking at the ways the script for Lucille’s Ball shifted from initial script to completed shoot.

Keating and Muir had materials lined up to present, such as walking us through how some of the animated sequences could allow for a character’s interior voice, and/or fill in a “missing” scene that wasn’t in the pressure-cooker 12-day shoot.

But they also actively gathered questions from the 20 (or so) people in the room, and this is how the two striking moments appeared. The Q & A here are paraphrased, of course.

Q: How do you create an empathetic character, one who isn’t too goody-goody but also isn’t annoyingly self-absorbed?

A: Make sure you have a “save the cat” moment. Okay, people who learn about screenwriting apparently all know this term, but I laughed at this – what the – ? The mystery got even better when someone said, “Lucille’s moment of confronting – ” [oh, okay, I won’t give it away] “- was her cat moment.”

Soon this was explained; the point is to make sure your character does something somewhat heroic, and has a moment of growth – this is their “save the cat” moment, and so I think all of us should access our inner firefighter when we’re working up the plot points for our scripts (or at least ask your local volunteer firefighter, of which there are many in Dawson), what heroic move a character could take on.

lucille's ball workshops

Roslyn Muir (L) & Lulu Keating (R) discuss the writer-story editor relationship

The second read-again-later answer was in response to this:

Q: Lulu had 3 different friends read the script for Lucille’s Ball at different points in development, and someone wanted to know “How do you decide what is right when it comes to feedback? when you’re getting so much information from so many directions all at once, it can be confusing or lead to forgetting what your original point was in the first place.”

A: (paraphrased from Lulu): The master of the script, and what it needs or doesn’t need, is the story, not my ego or the experience behind the person offering the advice. Changes have to work with the story, serve the story. And you need to know when enough is enough. It’s go back to your log line, your outline, your treatment and the initial synopsis you wrote before you ever got to the screenplay, to remind you of what the core of your first ideas are.

A2: (paraphrased from Roslyn): Get advice from people you trust, only and always. And surround yourself creatively with people you trust.

Sounds like good advice. Also sounds like the tone of the Film Fest this weekend – being surrounded by people who are creatively authentic & inspiring allows for plenty of trust-building in both professional and personal relationships, bring it on!

by Meg Walker, Dawson City writer, filmmaker & drawing fiend 

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