loren Eric Swanson: Story Seminar--Days 2 & 3

Monday, December 10, 2007

Story Seminar--Days 2 & 3

Sam and I finished McKee's 30 hour seminar two hours before quitting time (8:30 pm last night) in order to catch a plane to LAX. The last three days were incredible! McKee taught non-stop from 9am in the morning until 8:30 each evening for the past three days. There were three 15 minute breaks and one 60 minute break for lunch. Without PowerPoint he taught a semester class, which he developed over 20 years ago, while teaching at the film school at USC, over a 3 day period. We from 3pm yesterday we did a scene by scene analysis of what McKee thinks is the finest film of all time....Casa Blanca. 80 students barely moved the entire time.

Sam had an epiphenal moment where he realized that all the things McKee was teaching were really insightful in developing his "sermon as story." The goal is not to weave creative stories into the sermon but from beginning to end, develop the sermon as one would tell a story. McKee drops little insightful gems along the way--like the connection between "author," "authority," and "authenticity."
Author--is to originate. After the author, all else is interpretive art work.
Authority--comes from research on your subject / topic. Audience will feel they are in the hands of an authority.
Authenticity--Developing an interally consistent world one can believe in. The audience must empathize with the protagonist and authenticity is the key. Authenticity has nothing to do with reality.

McKee says that people who say, "I don't want to see a down-ending film because I have enough of that in my own life" are liars. The people that enjoy down-ending films are people who have suffered because such movies reassure them they are not alone in their suffering...they are not being singled out. Haloucaust survivors go to such movies.

McKee talkes about the "inciting incident" that upsets the balance of the progagonist's life that best the question, "How will this turn out?" This causes every person in the audience to create the coming "obligatory scene" that must happen in order to bring resolution to the inciting incident.

Progression in a movie is satisfying when the protagonist makes choices that reveal character. This is called a turning point that leads to a "rush of insight" by the audiience. In movies the choice is never between good and evil but the better good or the lesser of two evils. A love story, for instance, always must include a third person that will come in the way of love, or there is no love story.

Drama is written to the emotion. Comedy appeals to the intellect. Drama admires the human species. Comedy understands that under the best of circumstances, people will find a way to screw up. "You know a society is in trouble when it cannot laugh." (e.g. Iran) The one test of comedy...do people laugh?

An artist can repeat what he /she does with success...they ave access to thier talent whether they feel like it or not. An artist is not someone who got it right once. They have control over the art form.

One huge insight...and something McKee insists on, is that every text has a subtext. The subtext is what is going on behind the words.

A "classic" in any art is something you can return to and receive pleasure. I have attached a clip I took of McKee teaching.

If you want to see a short interview with McKee, click on this link.



At Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:08:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Read the book a while back but the seminar sounds like a great experience. And I love Sam's new emergent haircut!

At Saturday, December 15, 2007 6:12:00 PM, Blogger Joe Cross said...

pretty cool Eric. i'm hoping for a good story if we can see you in denver in january.


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