Video: George Lucas on Star Wars and “psychological motifs in mythology”

October 30th, 2014 by

In a recent appearance with Charlie Rose, George Lucas got his theology on when talking about Star Wars. Check it out:


When I was trying to pitch Star Wars, I had an idea about psychological motifs that are in mythology. The great thing about mythology is it’s an oral medium, up until they learned how to write. But before that with Homer and everybody, they would just tell the stories… Passed down from father to son, father to son. And it told the people what the rules are. It’s the same thing as the Church, all the things we’ve got that make us a community, that we all believe in and share. What they used to go from a family to a tribe, and tribe to a city. So I said, “I wonder if people still think the way they thought then?” I think I proved they do.

It wasn’t until Freud came along that people realized that, “Oh, these are psychological motifs that have been around for a long time.” And they’re just as strong today.

What’s a hero. What’s friendship. What’s sacrificing yourself for something larger. They’re all very basic things. Well, why make a movie about that, it’s very obvious… but it’s actually not. Unless you have somebody tell you every generation this is what our country believes in. This is what we believe in. With Star Wars, the religion and everything was taken and put into a form that was easy for everybody to accept… It went everywhere in the world. Because they could say, “Oh, the things I believe in are the same as that.”

Most people in the world believe exactly the same thing. They share the same beliefs. Why do we think the way we think, why do we do what we do, why do we form our societies the way we do. It’s something I did when I was about eight years old, she was putting me to bed. I asked her a question. I said, “Mom, if there’s only one God, why are there so many religions?” And it’s a question that’s fascinated me ever since. If you really look at it and say, “What’s the difference between a Shia and Sunni? What’s the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant? They aren’t any different. We all believe in the Jewish God. But what about the Jewish God and the gods that came before? Buddhism is a little bit different, but in the end, everybody expresses it a little different, but basically it’s, “Don’t kill people” and “Be compassionate and love people.” That’s basically what Star Wars is.

Sounds like the Jedi-In-Chief would like my series Theology of Screenwriting.

Beyond the surprising connections Lucas draws between Star Wars and theology, there are three big takeaways from his comments:

* Universality: Stories that traffic in universal themes are more likely to resonate with big audiences. Or depending upon the theme, connect deeply with a small, but specific group.

* Psychological motifs: This is so much up my alley, what I teach, how I write because at the end of the day, while we want interesting plots with twists and turns, I am convinced what really compels us to respond to a movie are the characters and their psychological lives. We can identify with the characters and that sucks us into the story through their transformation-journeys.

* Mythology: Lucas sounds very much like Joseph Campbell in drawing the historical connection between stories passed on from generation to generation. Indeed, how it is incumbent upon each generation to come up with their own stories that will almost inevitably use mythological themes as part and parcel of their narratives.

Hopefully the new batch of Star Wars movies will find a healthy balance between technology and eye candy, and universality, mythology and psychological motifs to give each movie depth and emotional meaning.

HT to Indiewire for the link to the interview.

Video: Jill Soloway Keynote Address | 2014 Film Independent Forum

October 29th, 2014 by

Screenwriter-director Jill Soloway delivers the Filmmaker Keynote Address at the 2014 Filmmaker Forum.

Via Indiewire.

The Signature Gesture: A Workshop in Expressive Writing

October 25th, 2014 by

Here is an experiment in something. At the precise moment this post goes live, I am at the Austin Film Festival co-hosting a workshop with Mary Coleman, head of Pixar’s story department. It’s called “The Signature Gesture: A Workshop in Expressive Writing.” Yes, another attempt at emphasizing the importance of visual writing. So in that spirit, here are 20 hand gestures presented by Italian models!

Like I said: Visual writing! Next year, plan on attending the Austin Film Festival. It’s amazing.

“Cross-Cut”: A visual homage to Blow Up, The Conversation, and Blow Out

October 23rd, 2014 by

A wonderful visual homage from Dr. Drew Morton (@thecinemadoctor) to three notable films:

Explore the narrative, stylistic, and thematic connections between Michelangelo Antonioni’s BLOW-UP, Francis Ford Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION, and Brian De Palma’s BLOW OUT with this video essay entitled “Cross-Cut.”

Via Indiewire and Drew Morton.

Video: “The Wire” cast reunion

October 20th, 2014 by

Via Slate:

On Thursday night, as part of the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest 2014, the cast of  The Wire reunited for an hour-long panel discussion, which you can watch in full above. Though not everyone could attend—Dominic West and Idris Elba chimed in via video messages—the panel included the show’s co-creator David Simon and executive producer Nina Kostroff Noble as well as cast members Michael K. Williams (Omar), Wendell Pierce (Bunk), Sonja Sohn (Kima), Seth Gilliam (Carver), Jim True-Frost (Prezbo), John Doman (Rawls), Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (D’Angelo), and Jamie Hector (Marlo). More cast members—Tristan Wilds, J.D. Williams, Bob Wisdom, and Michelle Paress—were seated in the audience.

Here is video of the event:

Just makes me miss “The Wire” even more.

Slate article here.

Video: “The Silence of the Lambs” – Who wins the scene

October 19th, 2014 by

Deft analysis by Tony Zhou of a key scene from The Silence of the Lambs.

The positioning of the camera is interesting, but that’s something over which screenwriters have little control. Sure, we can write “Clarice sits down” which can create an image in the mind of the reader that Lecter is standing above Starling. But our job isn’t to direct the camera so much as it is to direct the psychological interplay between characters. Obviously we can do that through dialogue, which character assumes a power position through attitude, information, revelations, etc. But we can also convey it through scene description.

Here are some actual description lines of this scene from Ted Tally’s shooting script:

Clarice stops, at a polite distance from his bars, clears 
her throat.

She complies each time, trying to hide her fear.

A tense beat, then a smile from him, at this small boldness.

He rises, glances at it, turning a page or two disdainfully.

Suddenly he whips the tray back at her, with a metallic CLANG 
that makes her start. His voice remains a pleasant purr.

His every word has struck her like a tiny, precise dart. But
she squares her jaw and won't give ground.

He steps backwards, then returns to his cot, becoming as still 
and remote as a statue.

Notice the combination of action and emotion in these excerpts. The scene is most definitely a battle to see who will win it and the description helps to convey that.

Check out Tony Zhou’s Vimeo site for more excellent videosl

Video: Watch the final shot from every Best Picture Oscar Winner

October 10th, 2014 by

As writers, we spend a lot of time thinking about a script’s very first image. What about the final image? What can we write that sums up where we want a script reader to end up emotionally? For inspiration, here is a terrific video compilation: The final shot from every Best Picture Academy Award winning movie:

Via /film,, and The Final Image.

Video: New York Film Festival “Inherent Vice” press conference

October 9th, 2014 by

Here is the trailer for the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie:

Video: 25 years of “The Simpsons” couch gags at once

October 8th, 2014 by

The audio reminds me of that part in The Beatles’ “Day in the Life” where all the of orchestral instruments go up the scale by half-notes [listen here].

Simpsons link via Toybox.

Video: Sarah Polley and Greta Gerwig on “Frances Ha”

September 26th, 2014 by

17 minute conversation between Sarah Polley and Greta Gerwig about the indie film Frances Ha from the Criterion Collection:

Via VICE and Indiewire.