I had the honor of lunching with Neill Hicks this past Saturday, a former UCLA screenwriting prof and author of the book, Screenwriting 101, among others. I am liking what I am reading in his book so much, I have decided that I will blog about it. Here's something interesting from the first chapter about the screenplay premise...
Hicks strips down story to its barest essentials: At the heart of story is only the conflict between the central and the opposing character.
- Who is your main character?
- Who is the antagonist?
- What are they fighting about?
- What is the change that results from the conflict?
- Why must the main character take action to achieve the change?
What I have learned about craft of screenwriting usually involves dynamic characters and secondary dynamic characters, etc. But, according to Hicks, the screenplay premise is much like two gladiators fighting in the ring. You rally for one side or the other because they represent where you come from, and therefore your perceived values and morals. Sounds a lot like war, right? My two cents worth is that it is not that the opposing side is necessarily bad to its core or inherently evil -- he or she is just different (than you) and wants what you want or have -- therefore she conflicts with your needs and objectives. Any of us who are interested in how our country makes enemies out of other peoples depending on how they threaten our "survival" (e.g., hold of resources) will be able to understand this.
This simplification of story has been helpful to me because I can too often get caught up in all the "rules" purported by other screenwriting experts in terms of what elements need to be included in your story and by what page number. However, I will say that if I hadn't learned about all those other elements, such a simplified view of story might be confusing to me. Nevertheless, I think Hicks presents a very interesting argument for the basis for story, which is encapsulated in the statement: "Drama is conflict."