Character = Function

September 2nd, 2013 by

In a screenplay, characters exist for a reason. Unlike a novel, a writer doesn’t have unlimited time to introduce characters willy nilly, rather the limitations of a script’s length compels us to handle characters with one eye always on how they connect to the plot. Moreover almost all movies feature a Protagonist who goes through some sort of metamorphosis. As a result, it’s almost certain all of the primary and even secondary characters in a story tie into and support the Protagonist’s transformation.

All of this translates into a 3rd essential screenwriting principle I teach in the Core content of The Quest:

Character = Function

This may sound reductionist. It is precisely the opposite. Much like an actor asks, “What’s my motivation,” digging down into the core of their character’s persona, so, too, do we as screenwriters delve into characters to determine what their core essence is and how that plays out in terms of their respective narrative functions. Once we make those discoveries, we can shape our characters in unlimited ways, all the while playing to how they function in relation to the narrative.

That is the starting point of Core III: Character, a 1-week online class I will be teaching starting on Monday, September 9. In this course, you will learn about:

* Five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster

* Protagonist Metamorphosis Arc

* Nemesis as opposition and ‘shadow’

* Attractor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s emotional development

* Mentor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s intellectual development

* Trickster as the character who tests the Protagonist’s will

* Different Protagonist paradigms

* Working with archetypes and switching Protagonists

And much more. The course consists of four components:

  • Lectures: There are six lectures written by me, each posting Monday through Saturday.
  • Writing Exercises: These optional exercises offer you the opportunity to workshop one of your own loglines and receive feedback from class members and myself.
  • Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material.
  • Forums: The online course site has forums where you may post questions / comments.

We will analyze the following movies: The Wizard of Oz, The Apartment, The Silence of the Lambs, Slumdog Millionaire, Citizen Kane, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Life Is Beautiful,

For those of you who have not taken an online class, the interface is extremely easy. Plus online classes can be an amazing experience. Most of the activities you can do on your own time — download and read lectures, review and respond to forum discussions, upload loglines and track comments. In addition, I’ve been teaching online for over a decade and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a community emerges in such an environment.

Core III: Character is one of eight classes in the Core curriculum. Here is the schedule for all of them this fall, the only time I will be offering these courses in 2013:

August 26: Core I: Plot

September 2: Core II: Concept

September 9: Core III: Character

September 16: Core IV: Style

September 30: Core V: Dialogue

October 21: Core VI: Scene

November 4: Core VII: Theme

November 18: Core VIII: Time

Choose one or two depending upon your interests and needs. Or if you’re really serious and want to save some coin (nearly 50% off), consider The Core Package which gives you immediate access to the content for all eight Core classes which you can go through at your own pace, as well as the option of taking each 1-week online course.

“Joining Scott’s class is one of the best decisions anyone could make when deciding to embark on the journey of writing a screenplay. His passion for teaching and screenwriting could not be more inspirational. I couldn’t wish for a better teacher and mentor!” — Theodora von Auersperg

I have spent years studying Carl Jung, who was a huge influence on Joseph Campbell, and as the Hero’s Journey may act as a paradigm for narrative generally, I am convinced there is a similar universality in movies relative to these five character archetypes. Moreover these archetypes are a key to character-based screenwriting, providing writers a non-formulaic way to engage the story-crafting process.

For information on Core III: Character, which begins September 9, go here.

For The Core Package, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

August 2nd, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Character Monday asking this question: Are you more comfortable writing character or plot? You can read that discussion here. Tuesday this question: What techniques do you use to develop your characters? That discussion here. Wednesday: Why is the Protagonist so important to a story? Discussion here. Yesterday’s question: Why is a Nemesis so important to a story? Discussion here. Today’s question:

* How do fill out your story’s cast of characters?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core II: Concept starting Monday, September 2. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions about Concept. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Onward!

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

August 1st, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Character Monday asking this question: Are you more comfortable writing character or plot? You can read that discussion here. Tuesday this question: What techniques do you use to develop your characters? That discussion here. Yesterday: Why is the Protagonist so important to a story? Discussion here. Today’s question:

* Why is a Nemesis so important to a story?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core III: Character starting Monday, September 9. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions about Concept. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

Write a Worthy Nemesis

More Related Discussions

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

July 31st, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Character Monday asking this question: Are you more comfortable writing character or plot? You can read that discussion here. Yesterday this question: What techniques do you use to develop your characters? That discussion here. Today another question:

* Why is the Protagonist so important to a story?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core III: Character starting Monday, September 9. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions about Concept. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

Create a Compelling Protagonist

More Related Discussions

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Onward!

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

July 30th, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

For those of you who plan to Go On Your Own Quest, we began our week-long discussion on Character yesterday asking this question: Are you more comfortable writing character or plot? You can read that discussion here. Today another question:

* What techniques do you use to develop your characters?

Biographies, questionnaires, interviews, 1st person monologues, etc. How do you dig into, understand and bring to life your characters?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core III: Character starting Monday, September 9. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

Meanwhile I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions about Concept. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Onward!

Go On Your Own Quest — Week 3: Character

July 29th, 2013 by

The 2013 version of The Quest starts Week 3 today. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by because you can Go On Your Own Quest by following the structure of The Quest to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.

This week, we are reflecting on the subject of Character, mirroring the content the Questers are engaged with in Core III: Character, working through six lectures I have written building off the 3rd Essential Screenwriting Principle: Character = Function.

Characters are the players in our stories. They participate in scenes, move the plot forward through action and dialogue, influence each other, evolve and change. Each has their own distinct backstory, personality, world view, and voice. When a writer does their best, digging deep into their characters, tapping into their souls, the players in our stories magically lift up off the printed page and come to life in a reader’s imagination.

A lofty goal. And where to start the character development process? By zeroing in on their Core Essence, what lies at the foundation of who that character is. In doing that, you not only discover something essential to their being, you also go a long way in understanding what their function is within the context of your story.

I am not talking about novels. I am talking about screenplays. As screenwriters, we have 100-120 pages within which to introduce and handle a cast of characters, manage the central plot and numerous subplots, and hope that in the end we have told a whacking good story. Unlike a novelist, we don’t have the freedom to go off for 20 pages, veering into the personal history of a character because a script averages just 60 scenes from FADE IN to FADE OUT. As screenwriters we are forced to focus our characters and their respective narrative functions simply to survive the relentless push forward from P. 1 to P. 2 to P. 3 and so on.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here:

The first eight weeks, we will focus on eight essential screenwriting principles, reflecting the content of what the participants in The Quest will be learning. The content I present publicly won’t be nearly as in-depth as that in The Quest proper, but the subjects and some of the ideas will be the same. What I’m hoping is that each week as we work through these eight subject areas — Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time — the GITS community will engage in a wide-ranging conversation that will deepen and perhaps even change your understanding of screenwriting theory.

During this phase, I will be challenging you to do two things: (1) Generate story concepts with the goal of coming up with a killer idea for you to write as you Go On Your Own Quest. You may think you have a good idea now. Fine. Use these next eight weeks to come up with a better one. (2) Read scripts and watch movies that are similar but different to the story you want to write. This is not only about research, it’s also about priming your creative juices and centering your energy in that specific story area.

Here is the schedule for the first eight weeks of Go On Your Own Quest:

July 15-21: Plot

July 22-28: Concept

July 29-August 4: Character

August 5-August 11: Style

August 12-August 18: Dialogue

August 19-August 25: Scene

August 26-September 1: Theme

September 2-September 8: Time

Then on September 19, you can move into the next phase of Go On Your Own Quest, where you spend six weeks prepping your story.

And on October 21, you can type FADE IN, then over a ten week period write your first draft.

Again all of this is free.

If you plan to participate in the Go On Your Own Quest challenge, you have 6 weeks before we move into the Prep part of the process. In that time, I challenge you to get to know your characters. Find the Core Essence of each of the primary ones. Consider what their respective narrative functions are. In a perfect world, they will lead you into and through the story-crafting process.

For now, we can kick off the Week 3 discussion with this question:

* Are you more comfortable writing characters or plot? Why?

If you’d like to access the same Core content as the writers participating in The Quest, I will be teaching Core III: Character starting Monday, September 9. More information on that 1-week online class here.

Why wait? You can have immediate access to the content of all eight Core classes by signing up for The Core Package. This enables you to go through all of the Core lectures (48 total, each written by me), tips, techniques and optional writing exercises on a self-paced basis as well as take any of the 1-week classes as I offer them. Plus The Core Package offers a nearly 50% savings compared to if you took each Core class separately. For more information on this unique offer, go here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Onward!

Reader Question: Structure is character. Agree or disagree and why?

March 8th, 2013 by

Art asks:

Structure is character. Agree or disagree and why?

If by structure you mean story structure or plot, and if by character you mean the characters in a story, and if your implication is a story’s plot should arise from character, I agree 100%. However I have a bit of a different language system.

My first screenwriting principle is this:

Plot = Structure

Screenplays are unique narrative forms in that they are a blueprint to produce a movie, so naturally there is, as there ought to be, a significant focus on their structure. But more than that, as Aristotle indicated with his articulation of beginning, middle, and end, Joseph Campbell with The Hero’s Journey, and others, there are innate universal elements to story, a sense of structure all humans share, both consciously and subconsciously. So when we talk about plot – and in particular a screenplay or TV script plot – we are first and foremost talking about structure.

My second screenwriting principle is this:

Character = Function

Just as there are innate aspects of story we share as human beings, there are also universal character archetypes, five of which we see in movie after movie: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster. The reason these character types are ubiquitous is they provide necessary functions in the metamorphosis process that most Protagonists go through in movies. For in the two realms of a screenplay universe — the External World (Plotline) and Internal World (Themeline) — the Protagonist’s psychological journey is almost always one grappling with their fundamental sense of Disunity, forced to confront the many varied aspects of their psyche, these ideas articulated, of course, by Carl Jung.

The beauty of approaching the story-crafting process from this vantage point is that for the first time – at least to my knowledge – we can truly put flesh on the bones of the old adage, “Character is plot.” Starting with the Protagonist, we begin a process of discovery that reveals what lies at the heart of their Disunity, an end point (Unity), characters who engage the Protagonist in their metamorphosis journey, and a Plotline that serves as a backbone for the overall story. All of that and everything else in the story emerging from the characters.

So do I agree “structure is character?” Basically yes, although as indicated above, I have a slightly different language system.

By the way, these two principles are two of eight I teach through Screenwriting Master Class in eight Core classes. Plus I use them with writers in the Prep: From Concept to Outline, Pages I: The First Draft, and Pages II: Rewriting Your Script workshops. In combination, I think these principles and corollary ideas represent a truly unique and cutting edge approach to screenwriting, starting the process where it should begin — with characters.

[Originally posted May 18, 2011]

NOTE: My next session of Prep: From Concept to Outline begins Monday. Learn a professional approach to working out your story and use it for all your future writing projects. Plus you actually speed up your first draft process and increase your chances of finishing the script by wrangling your story in prep. Sign up here.

Are you good at writing characters?

February 18th, 2013 by

Do your characters come to ‘life’ when you write them?

Do they feel real, compelling, and lift up off the page?

Do they make sense and work together to support your story?

Do you know how to discover what each of their narrative functions is?

In sum, are you good at writing characters?

If so, perhaps you don’t need my new class Character Development Keys.

If not, this unique 1-week online writing class may be just what the doctor ordered. And you don’t even need health insurance to take the class!

The course is part of my Craft series of eight classes aimed at helping writers drill down into specific aspects of the writing practice. Dealing with characters is something we not only have to do on a daily basis, but should do well in order to find the heart and soul of our stories.

Moreover in my approach to character-based screenwriting, by going into your characters, that’s where the story reveals itself, everything from the nuances of each individual to big pictures items like Plotline, subplots, themes, and so on.

In this 1-week online course, you will learn about five archetypes — Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster — and use them to develop your story’s characters and help them come to life.

  • From questionnaires to confessionals to free association, you will learn keys to crafting coherent, compelling and charismatic characters.
  • Workshop some of your own story’s characters and develop them by digging into their respective narrative functions.

Seven lectures written by me, special insider tips, a Character Development Tools sheet, daily forum Q&As, workshop your story with my feedback and comments from classmates, a live teleconference, and most importantly the understanding to become empowered as a writer in working with characters.

Almost nothing excites an agent, manager, producer or studio executive more than reading a script with fully realized, three-dimensional, and compelling characters. Character Development Keys not only helps you to delve into your characters and understand them more thoroughly, it gives you an awareness to help bring your characters — and your story — to life.

The class starts Monday, February 25. I will only be teaching it one time in 2013, so enroll now by going here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you… and your characters!

Scriptchat: Next Sunday, November 11 at 8PM Eastern

November 4th, 2012 by

Yours truly will be doing a #ScriptChat conversation on Twitter next Sunday, November 11 at 8PM Eastern.

Subject: A character-based approach to screenwriting.

My sense is that there is far too much attention paid to screenplay structure [and by "structure," most people mean plot] and not nearly enough focus on characters.

This is a problem.

When moviegoers walk out of a theater, they are not likely to say, “Wow, that movie had a really great structure.”

Instead they will recall this scene or that moment, all of which are inhabited by characters.

Moreover people in Hollywood who can take an aspiring writer and help them become a working writer complain about formulaic scripts, thin characters, and no emotional resonance with stories.

Starting with, developing and using characters to inform every choice you make in the story-crafting process can resolve each of these problems.

Much more next week.

If you are on Twitter, use the hashtag #scriptchat next Sunday at 8PM Eastern.

And if you aren’t a part of the ScriptChat community, you should be. You can find out more about them here.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — Character

September 26th, 2012 by

This week we are analyzing the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, the beloved 1981 action-adventure movie [screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, story by George Lucas & Philip Kaufman].

You may download a copy of the script [August 1979] here.

Today we discuss the script’s characters. Here is a list of the primary ones:

Indiana Jones

Marion Ravenwood

Dr. René Belloq

Sallah

Dr. Marcus Brody

Major Arnold Toht

Colonel Dietrich

How would assess each of these characters and their respective narrative functions?

Today we are fortunate to have Part 1 of a two-part analysis of Raiders by screenwriter John Gary:

A few years ago, I was at lunch with a friend and we were talking about character and theme and he said something and then I dropped my fork.

“You know how Ferris Bueller doesn’t have any character arc, it’s the Arc of Awesome, like RAIDERS, where he changes the world around him but he doesn’t change at all –“

And I dropped my fork because it was slippery from the salad dressing but also I couldn’t help but think that that just wasn’t true. Of course Indiana Jones changes in RAIDERS. Of course he has a character arc, and it’s a full one, a complete one.

I have many favorite movies, but RAIDERS is probably the one I’m closest to, owing to it being the one and only VHS tape my family owned for a good four years, from the first day we bought a VCR in 1983 until my dad brought home TOP GUN in 1987. My sister and I watched the movie on an infinite loop for days on end, the soundtrack bleeding into my ears while taking a history test, the design of the cobra’s hood embroidered on the inside of my eyelids when I shut them tight at night.

And then there was Mystery Man on Film – it’s a long-ago shuttered blog written by a guy who had some interesting thoughts on movies, and he also used to write for Script magazine. He posted a scan of the RAIDERS story conference transcripts. At 126 pages, it is a long read, but worth digging into if for no other reason than the realization that yes, George Lucas really does have that many amazing ideas and no, Steven Spielberg is not infallible, serving up some real stinkers. So after Mystery Man posted the transcript, he wrote an article for Script titled “The Case Against Character Arc.” I haven’t been able to find it on line, but RAIDERS is one of the primary examples he uses to prove his point. He answered questions about the article in a blog post, talking further about RAIDERS.

The third thing that happened was during a conversation about central dramatic arguments, which is a way of thinking about theme more organically and creative originated by Craig Mazin. Someone else mentioned that Indy doesn’t change – it’s the world around him that changes, and there is no theme to RAIDERS.

This, of course, is all bullshit.

RAIDERS is a master class in integrating theme and character. Almost every single scene in the film explores the central dramatic argument in a new and different way, and Indiana Jones most definitely changes. RAIDERS shows how potent marrying theme and character can be, and that cohesiveness is a key element in the movie’s strong, magical power.

Let’s phrase the theme like Craig Mazin does, as a central dramatic question, discussed on Craig’s site a few years ago and on the ScriptNotes podcast more recently. I like this way of looking at theme, because it asks a question that should be answered by the end of the script. It also allows for a deeper examination of the theme, and it’s just easier to phrase the theme like this. The central dramatic question of RAIDERS is, “Must you kneel before God?” Nearly every single scene revolves around it.

And even better – Indy answers that question differently at the beginning of the movie than at the end. Oh, look, that’s right, it’s character arc. This is big-time movie-making, you guys: the central dramatic argument of a movie is the question the main character answers differently at the beginning than the end. The character’s growth centers around the movie’s theme.

It’s right there in the first sequence, with Indy in South America capturing the fertility idol. He’s savvy, he’s smart, and he has no time for religious mumbo-jumbo. He’s infiltrating a sacred space, but his only concern is getting in and out alive with the prize. He’s foiling traps, but he doesn’t proscribe to the superstitions of the guides who run away at the site of the statue.  So he grabs the idol and escapes, and who does he run into?

Belloq.

Belloq is a fantastic character, mostly because he’s the yin to Indy’s yang, he’s just like Indy except he doesn’t change. And this is what gets him into trouble at the end, of course. Indy and Belloq start out believing the same thing – no need to kneel before God, because they don’t believe in his power, or at least they don’t fear it. The Hovitos answer the question differently; when Belloq holds up the fertility idol, they all bow in supplication.

Belloq and Indy see the idol and other relics as treasure to be possessed. The Hovitos see the idol as a symbol of their gods.

So just in case you had any doubts about what the movie is about, this next scene lays it all out for you. Indy’s in class, he’s teaching, and what is he talking about? “One of the great dangers of archeology … I’m talking about folklore.” Even in class he mentions he doesn’t believe in superstition! Indy could be talking about anything, he could be telling a story about breaking into a tomb, he could be discussing methods of preserving vase fragments, but no. He’s talking about something related to the theme.

The next scene is Indy meeting with the OSS guys, learning about Hitler’s quest for the Ark. Indy tells us right here how he feels about the power of the arc: “Yes, the actual ten commandments, the original stone tablets that Moses brought down out of Mount Horeb and smashed, if you believe in that sort of thing. Didn’t you guys ever go to Sunday School?” The OSS guys seem about as believing as Indy – rolling eyes and shrugging.

I love the bit where they’re all looking at the picture in the bible. “Good God,” one of the OSS guys says. “Yes, that’s just what the Hebrews thought,” replies Marcus. “What’s that supposed to be coming out of there?” “Lightning. Fire. Power of God or something,” says Indy. Disbelief, casual apathy. He’s interested in the mystery and the treasure. Marcus, though, has a much greater sense for the gravity of the situation, and he’s the voice of warning. “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste in entire regions. An Army that carries the Ark before it… is invincible.“ Marcus’s unease carries straight through to the next scene -

When Marcus goes to tell Indy the good news, that he’s been approved to go after the Ark, this is what Marcus says: “For nearly 3000 years, man has been searching for the lost Ark. It’s not something to be taken lightly. No one knows its secrets. It’s like nothing you’ve ever gone after before.”

If you had any doubts what this movie was about, Indy says it right here, loud and clear: “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance, you’re talking about the boogie man.” By the end of the movie, he’ll believe in a lot more than the boogie man.

And we’re just 22 minutes in to the movie, and that’s the fourth scene.

Tomorrow Part 2 of John’s analysis of Raiders.

We have another live Tweet-Cast on Wednesday, September 26 at 8PM Pacific. What’s a Tweet-Cast? Everybody lines up a DVD, Netflix, or whatever version of the movie, then hits “Play” precisely at the top of the hour. During the movie, we comment on it real time on Twitter.

We generally have a group of professional screenwriters participate including Tom Benedek, Scott Frazier, John Gary and myself, and anyone is invited to drop by. It’s a lot of fun, but also a great way to break down and analyze a movie. Hashtag: #ROLATC

If you know of any great behind-the-scenes videos or interviews about Raiders, please post them in comments.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

See you in comments to discuss characters in Raiders of the Lost Ark.