Friday, September 16, 2005

This WEEK's lesson!

Boy, it has certainly been out of routine for me. A conference on Monday and Tuesday and catch-up the rest of the week. However, I did get one good lesson in on Wednesday, but not amongst the rabbits and ducks.

This week's lesson comes to you from the waiting room at Koala Autos where my car got it's Warrant of Fitness, then from the waiting couch at New Lynn Barbers, and later in the day from the car outside Marie's work before I picked her up. So this lesson will probably be more urban and/or suburban. :)

This lesson was from Story, Chapter 8, the Inciting Incident - the point in a film where you wonder "What will this lead to?". McKee's official definition of the Inciting Incident is that it "radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist's life."

And, of course, the protagonist has to try and bring back balance. This is obvious in action films like DIE HARD, where the antagonist commits a crime, and the protagonist has to work to bring the criminal down.

But what about romances? Or subtle, arty films? The best ones all have this Inciting Incident aspect to them. McKee quoted someone (who? Can't remember and too lazy to look it up) who said an Inciting Incident can be as simple as a woman putting her hand on the table and looking at the protagonist in "a certain way". :)

The main thing I remember about the Inciting Incident is that it makes the audience picture the climax. For instance in JAWS the sheriff hears about the shark, and you know in your heart of hearts that the sheriff and the shark will meet face to face at the end. What you don't know - and it would spoil it if you did know - is who will survive that meeting.

Another lesson was that story is about character change. If the character doesn't change, there's not much of a story (or a very frustrating one). However, change doesn't mean anything until it's been put to the test.

McKee gives the example of TENDER MERCIES, a film I'd like to see, where a guy turns away from alcoholism to become a responsible father. His new life is put to the test, though, when his daughter dies. As McKee says, if he needed an excuse to have a drop to drink, that's it. And so that film's big question is, who will win, the man or his addiction?

Lastly, there's no point jumping into the Inciting Incident unless you know enough about the protagonist to make sense. THE LAST SAMURAI is a slow-building film, because we need to know that Algren (Tom Cruise's character) is extremely capable (even when drunk) but self-destructive and careless of his own life.

LAST SAMURAI's Inciting Incident comes quite a way into the film, where Algren's western-trained troops are massacred by the samurai and he is captured. But we need the build-up to understand who he is.

Finally (really) here's a neat quote from McKee: "Story - when it is art - is not about the middle ground of human experience."

Darn. So my idea for a movie about socks is not likely to win any awards - or audiences. ;)


Post a Comment

<< Home