Character Blog 1

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So first, I apologize that I have begun this so late. It has been a struggle for me to get a good idea of what I want to do for my next year thesis script.

So, to start off this assignment, let me tell you about my basic story first. My story will be about a guy (who works as a driver) who drives around a high class “escort” one night. The main characters name is Jason. I was first influenced to create a story in a specific genre, a crime neo-noir thriller. I am influenced by films such as, Drive, Pulp Fiction, Collateral, and Taxi Driver.

With my main character of Jason, the main idea that I had for him is to put a man, who is trapped in a beautiful place (in this case, a city at night). My main intention is to create a character who is stuck in a world that he doesn’t want to live in. His circumstances force him to live their though. In this case, it is the world of crime.

The way I went about creating this character is at first, looking at myself. I, like many people, have felt a certain detachment with the place that i live in. Growing up, everything was just a little different for me. You see, I was raised with a Polish heritage, while all of my friends were raised with an Italian one. Most of them (if not all) were pretty well off: me not so much. They all played ice hockey, I couldn’t. These are the differences that made me feel detached from where I lived. While this is in the past, and I don’t have anymore of these feelings, I do understand them.

I try to make all of my characters personal. From my point of view, I feel that they have to be. I either look at myself, or to others to influence what kind of characters I create.



Being There (1979) Directed by Hal Ashby and Written by Jerzy Kosinski

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“I like to watch.”

Being There is a drama-comedy about Chance The Gardener (Peter Sellers), who is now forced to leave his the house that he has lived in for his entire life (without every leaving it once). Everything that he knows comes from what he watches on television.

I watched this movie for the first time about a couple of months ago. I bought it on Blu-ray, after reading a bit about it. What attracted me to this film at first was Peter Sellers, who I feel is was an amazing actor, and one of the best comedians in the history of cinema. Also, the basic concept of the film was too good to pass up.

First off, Being There is a film that has a three act structure story. The beginning of the film sets up the character of Chance, then quickly establishes the conflict of the film. As Chance wakes up one day, he is told by the maid of the house that the “old man” is dead. This is the first plot point. The old man was the home owner of the house where Chance has lived for all of his life. Now Chance is forced to go into the outside world (with TV remote in hand) and find a new place to live. Chance eventually does find a place to stay, after getting hit by a car. The car he gets hit by was owned by Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine). Eve takes Chance to her home to see their doctor. There he meets the sick old billionaire Ben Rand (Melvin Douglas). They become good friends. Chance also gets to meet the President of the United States (Jack Warden) at Ben’s house, and becomes a celebrity after giving the President some great advise. Chance also develops a close personal relationship with Eve, who is struggling with the fact that her husband is going to die soon. The second plot point isn’t as clear but I feel that it is when Ben dies. After Ben dies, Chance is now a part of Eve’s life. He has a home, and a large garden to take care of. Also, by the pallbearers at Ben’s funeral, Chance is accepted and agreed upon to become the next President of the United States.

The character of Chance is absolutely original and immensely engaging. This is a man that only knows two thing in life, gardening and television. At the beginning of the film, he has never ridden in a car, has never used a phone, and has never even walked outside the house that he lives in. He only knows what he sees on TV. This background information is established in many ways, with the most prevalent being his own dialogue. A great example of this is when after he is hit by the car, he is driven to the Rand mansion. Just as he is about to go in to have a seat, he mentions to the driver that he has never ridden in a car before.The dialogue that Chance uses is very direct and honest, just like his personality. He says what is on his mind, with no real deep thinking behind what he is saying. Dialogue is the main way that Chance is able to express himself. However, there strange thing about Chance is that he seems to have no real body language. His actions and behavior show how little he knows about everything. When he is given a phone, he doesn’t know how to use it, he just puts it down. Chance seems like he is a cold and stiff person, who is lacking in every emotion. His circumstances would indicate that to be true. The only time Chance every really emotionally behaves is when Ben dies. He looks sad, and is holding back some tears as his good friend passes away in front of him. We can see that he is able to feel at least something, and most importantly, that he has emotionally grown through out this story.

Being There is a narrative driven film. While the film is focused on telling the story of Chance, it is told objectively. The fact is, Chance is a character whose story couldn’t really be told too subjectively because emotionally, he isn’t affected by what happens to him. He simply just exists. A key scene in this film for me is when Chance is wandering around Washington DC, looking for food.There he encounters a group of young hoodlums, who threaten to cut him with a knife. Feeling uncomfortable, Chance takes out his TV remote, points it at the hoodlums, and tries to “change” the channel. While this is a great example of “show don’t tell”, it particularly reminded me about something else. One thing that I heard when I saw Academy Award Winner Canadian writer-director Paul Haggis ( at the Lightbox eariler this year) was the question “What is the worst thing that can happen to your character?” He said that this is a question that he keeps in mind when writing, and I feel that in this scene of Being There is a great example of that. Chance has had no life experiences, literally, so seeing him react this way is a great way to reveal and develop his character. He trusts and believes in TV so much, that he thinks he can make reality go away with his remote control. But the fact is, he can’t.

The film ends during Ben’s funeral. The President recites some of Ben’s quotes, while his coffin is being taken away. The pallbearers decide that Chance is the best choice for the new president of America. Meanwhile, Chance walks away from the funeral. He goes through a forest and towards a lake. Then he looks over, and begins to literally walk on the water of that lake. At first, (especially for the people who have yet to see this film) this is an odd ending. What is this supposed to mean? What is it trying to say?

Personally, I love this ending. While it makes a simple conclusion become very open-ended, it adds a whole knew meaning to Chance. He is not a man of miracles like Jesus Christ, but in my opinion, he does bring powerful emotional healing into some people’s lives. Ben was able to finally take comfort with his situation and die in peace. Eve is able to find joy in her life and get past her personal struggles. Even the President was inspired by his words. Chance’s honesty, and lack of judgment are the reasons for this, I believe. As the last line of the film states “Life is a state of mind.” Life is only good if you feel good. Life is bad if you feel bad. Chance makes the people around him feel well. Most people in our world today don’t.

Whether you agree with my opinion on the ending or not it is okay. This is truly an ending that forces people to fill in the blank and think, “Who really is Chance?”

(PS. So far, this is the best film that I have watched this year, such an amazing film that I feel that everybody needs to watch at school!)

The Ghost Writer (2010) Directed by Roman Polanski and Written by Robert Harris and Roman Polanski

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This is a political thriller about a unnamed ghost writer (played by Ewan McGregor) who is assigned to write the memoir of a controversial former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). I was drawn to this film mainly because of the great reviews that it was getting when it came out. I was also interested in seeing a Roman Polanski film, because up to this point, I haven’t watched any of his films before.

The screenplay is a three act structure told in chronological order. The story only follows The Ghost. The only part of the film that he isn’t in is the very beginning, where we see how the first ghost writer, Mike McAra died. His car is shown to be empty, and his body gets washed up on shore.  This story is also a narrative driven one. While we follow the main character of The Ghost through out this journey, the story is told very objectively. We just see the events happen, we watch the drama unfold, but we never get a strong sense of how this story is effecting The Ghost and how he is personally dealing with all of the problems that he being is faced with.

The Ghost himself, is a very intriguing character. We know very little about him, just that he is an excellent at his job and that he had a former relationship that didn’t go well, that’s it. His main focus is in the story becomes not to write Lang’s memoir, but instead to find the truth behind the death of Mike McAra. The story moves forward only because of this goal. The Ghost begins to look around where he shouldn’t look around, he takes a couple of mysterious trips in order to find out more about McAra. In one scene, he decides to randomly go on a bike ride outside the Lang house. There he meets an old man (Eli Wallach) who basically tells The Ghost that McAra was probably murdered. He starts asking questions. Right before Adam Lang is killed, The Ghost confronts him with the fact that McAra was murdered. Like a detective, The Ghost tries to solve McAra’s mysterious death. It is through his actions and dialogue only, that the story moves forward.

A scene in The Ghost Writer that taught me an important lesson is when The Ghost goes to Paul Emmit’s (Tom Wilkinson) house. All we know of Paul Emmit is that he is just an old friend of Adam Lang, but Mike McAra found that there is a stronger connection between the two. On the night that McAra was killed, he was actually trying to go meet Paul Emmit. The scene starts off fine, with Paul Emmit being very courteous to The Ghost, but after some questions, Emmit begins to get uncomfortable, and he asks The Ghost to leave. The fact that we know so little about Paul Emmit, is the reason why this scene is so great. Just like The Ghost, we want to know how Paul Emmit is connect to Adam Lang. The fact that Emmit becomes irritated, and angry, we feel that The Ghost is getting into some serious danger. We sense that Emmit is hiding something, but we don’t know what. This is a great example of where “less is more.”

Now finally, the ending. I found the conclusion of this film to be excellent. The Ghost ends up solving the whole mystery (Ruth Lang, Adam Lang’s wife, has strong CIA connections, through Paul Emmit) and after he reveals this information to her, The Ghost runs outside and presumable gets run over and killed (off screen). All we see is the pages of the memoir get blown away, scattered across the whole street. It is a bit of a strange, and anti-climatic scene, because our hero has failed to get this information out. However, upon further thinking, I feel that this was bound to happen. The Ghost became aware of too much information so it kind of was a matter of time before he was killed. Too bad though.

Drive (2011) Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and Written by Hossien Amini


I was drawn to this film by its first trailer. It seemed to me like a film that was intriguing and that had an interesting sense of style. I also love crime films, especially LA crime films like Heat, and Collateral, so that’s what brought me to the theatre to see it.

Drive is a LA crime film, about a nameless Hollywood stunt driver (played by Ryan Gosling) who at night is a getaway driver for many criminals.

Drive is both a narrative and an experience driven film. While it does have a strong plot, the story particularly focuses on the Driver and the world that he lives in.  The story follows a basic three act structure that works very well here because it provides the opportunity to simply tell the plot, while trying to convey the emotional experience of the film.

The character of the Driver is also very interesting to look at. To me, he seems like he’s half human, half machine. Like a knight in shiny armor, a protector, and somebody that solves problems for others. He is somebody who just does, and does not spend time thinking about the consequences. He does what he feels is right. This is what “drives” the story and his character forward, his actions. The driver is put in a situation where he must help his neighbors in need, but when the husband, Standard (Oscar Issac) is killed by gangsters, he helps out the wife Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) by making sure that the people who were responsible for Standard’s death get what they deserve. The Driver is also a very quiet, and stoic character. It is through his actions and behavior that we really understand him. His dialogue is simple and direct. He doesn’t tell us much, especially about himself, and most importantly it doesn’t move the story forward. He says what needs to be said, but he does rest.

A strange part of this story is that the background of the Driver is never actually given. The only piece of information that we ever learn from his background is that one day, he just asked Shannon (Bryan Cranston) for a job in his garage and has worked their ever since. Other than that, we learn nothing about him. We only understand the Driver by what the film shows us about him.

A great storytelling lesson that I learned in this film is that knowing very little about a character than knowing a lot about them can be an amazing way to really create somebody who is special, and original. While I can’t mention one scene in particular, overall, we don’t really know who the driver is by the end of the film. By providing very little information about him, the audience is forced to ask themselves who they think he is. By having the Driver be as ambiguous as he is in this film, it subconsciously invites the audience to participate in this story, by adding their own thoughts and opinions of who they think the Driver is. We begin to decide who the Driver is.

The film ends with the Driver getting stabbed by, but eventually killing the antagonist of the film, gangster Bernie Ross (Albert Brooks). He then leaves, and just drives away. I felt that this was an excellent ending. He did what he felt he had to do, and then just simply drove away. How else could it have ended?

Scarface (1983) Directed by Brian DePalma and Written by Oliver Stone


My Feature Film Review for Scarface

I was drawn to this film when I was 12 or 13. One day, I went to Blockbuster, looking to rent some mindless action film for a fun night with my friends. There, I met an employee, who helped me find a movie  to rent (The Scorpion King by the way). Just as I was about to go, he told me something that I will never forget. “When you”re older, watch this movie called Scarface”. He showed me the box, with that iconic cover. 2 weeks later, I bought the movie on DVD.

Scarface is a gangster film about Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee who has just arrived in 1980’s Miami. The film is about his rise and fall as a cocaine lord.

Scarface is both a narrative and experience driven film. The story is only about the main character and his story of reaching to the top Miami’s drug industry. However, the structure of the script focus’ on the specific events that get Tony to the top, and what eventually lead to his fall. The structure of Scarface itself is a loose three act structure. However, the main emphasis of the story is the rise and the fall of Tony Montana. The film almost feels like two separate films because of this. (By the way, I feel the point where the story switches to the fall is that great montage of Tony getting married and enjoying his wealth.)

The story also focus’ mainly on the present. Only the very beginning takes time to introduce Tony’s back story. It’s the scene where Tony is being interviewed. There we learn that he has some kind of criminal past, that he has no family, and that he hates Cuba and loves America. This is not even reliable information because we find out later that he does have a mother and a sister, both living in Miami. A detailed back story was not necessary to introduce Tony in Scarface, because when we begin to see and hear Tony, then we begin to really understand who he is.

The dialogue in Scarface is vital to the story. It’s the main way that Tony express’ himself. All of his intentions, desires, and goals are all honestly said by Tony. This really helps to show the type of character he is. He is expressive, honest, headstrong, driven, and confident. The scene that best shows this is when Tony talks his best friend Manny, just after they have met a powerful drug dealer named Lopez. Tony describes Lopez as being “soft” and that he wants “the world, and everything in it.” He hides very few things from the others characters and from us. Like the character of Sosa says “There’s now lying in you, Tony.”

Just like the dialouge, Tony’s character behavior and actions are very direct and specific for his character. When Lopez betrays him, Tony kills him, kills the crooked cop (Bernstein) who was with Lopez, then goes upstairs, and takes Lopez’s woman, Elvria, to be his own. There is only one part where Tony’s character isn’t as direct. That is with his sister, Gina. For Tony, Gina is everything that he isn’t. Innocent, sweet, caring, happy. He becomes overprotective of her, extremely overprotective. Tony doesn’t say anything about this for most of the film, but at the end of the film, what he does do is kill his best friend Manny. Manny married his sister in secret. My feeling is that Tony didn’t want her to become like himself, and to become corrupted like like he was. This relationship is the best example of action over dialogue in Scarface. We are not ever directly told about why Tony was so crazy about Gina. We just see that he was.

For me, a storytelling lesson that I learned was to put your protagonist under pressure. Not only can you make a very entertaining scene, but it is a great way to create and to further develop a character. The scene in Scarface that taught me this is when Tony is with fellow drug businessman Omar, in Bolivia. There, they meet drug lord, Sosa. Sosa finds out that Omar used to be a police informant and kills him in front of Tony. This is a big moment for Tony, because Sosa basically asks him “How can I trust you?”  Tony passionately replies “I have two things in this world, my word and balls, and I don’t break them for nobody!” Tony gives Sosa a speech that convinces him that he is honest, trustworthy, passionate, and a great partner for business. This is a scene where Tony could have also gotten killed, or could have at least lost lots of his credibility, but by being as honest and as bold as he was, Tony has now developed a relationship with a drug lord that will help him become the most powerful cocaine dealer in Miami.

And now finally, the ending. Whenever I think about the ending of this film, I always think, what else could have happened? The lifestyle that Tony wanted to live, lead to his demise. He destroyed everything around him, so it is only fitting that he gets destroyed himself.

I hope that you enjoyed my review for Scarface.

(PS. Im sorry that I wrote so much about this film. Its one of my absolute favorites.)

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