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Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Shrink is IN

My good friend and our new resident psychologist at The Script Department, Jeff Cotton took five questions from Rouge Wavers last week and wrote up some great answers. Today we have Jeff's response to the first two questions:

Dear Doctor Jeff:

One problem I've encountered with my characters (in my drama specs) is that I hesitate to really put them through the wringer. In other words, intellectually I understand that Very Bad Things must happen to them, after all it's a drama, but emotionally, I can't bring myself to do it. I find myself shying away and doing The Next Bad Thing That Isn't So Bad. How can I overcome this?
-Too Nice in Toronto

Dear Too Nice:

One of the questions to ask yourself is “have I gone through the wringer in my own life and am I better because of it?” If the answer’s “No, I haven’t gone through it” or “No, I’m not better because of it,” then I don’t blame you from shying away from putting your hero/heroine through hell. Yet, most life situations that have taken us right to, and sometimes right over, the edge and we healed from, become our great teachers and allies; the places we are wisest because of our personal experience.

I watched Russell Crowe on “Inside The Actor’s Studio”, talk about not falling too in love with your character because either you won’t want them to have flaws or resist having them go pain. To not have our characters go through life is akin to putting the “high filter button’ on my old stereo. The high filter button was used when an album was too scratchy. While the high filter diminished some scratchiness, it also dulled the music. --- I encourage you to go for it.

Dear Doctor Jeff:

Is there is a book out there on reviewing the psychology of a movies/scripts like "Silence of the Lambs" or "Batman" or 'Hellboy" or "Pan's Labyrinth"?
-Curious in Cleveland

Dear Curious:

I had a friend call Samuel French bookstore. Either he didn’t ask the right questions, but they did not know of a book that did. He checked out websites and came up with these. See if they’re useful.

I remember reading ‘Red Dragon’ forerunner of ‘Silence Of The Lambs.’ Graham, the FBI hunter of serial killers said (not quite a quote) “I grieve for the little boy that was tortured into becoming a monster.” It seems important to recognize that monsters are created, rather than born. Also, as much as movie like to give it the “it” moment that created us (our personalities), it’s generally a lot less black and white and more created over time, than in an instant.

A good rule of thumb is that the younger (and more helpless) the child was during the trauma(s) either the more helpless they become in later life…. OR the more monster-like they become to protect the helpless child inside.

Okay Wavers, stay tuned for more questions for Doctor Jeff and his illuminating answers.

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JPS said...

The British Film Institute publishes some very good, well-written and often astute books about films such as "Se7en" and "Silence of the Lambs". Though this-- a British website, the books are readily available through Amazon here in the States.

Benjamin Ray said...

Thanks Dr. Jeff and Julie and Jps,

Some good advice and info.

Looking forward to some more ideas and strategies.

Julie -- this new feature is a suspenseful treat.

When will Dr. Jeff post some more?

Benjamin Ray