Interview with Alex Epstein, Part TwoComplications Ensue
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Friday, June 08, 2007

More of my guest-lecture by chat:

BS: Hi Alex. What do you consider the most important thing when you develop your characters?
AE: What do they have to do with the story? Is this character the main character, the antagonist, the intimate opponent, the sidekick, what?
CL: Do you mean how they move the story forward?
AE: If they don't help or get in the way of the hero, they're gone. A story is: a. A compelling character -- someone we care about -- b. with a problem, opportunity or goal c. who faces obstacles and/or an antagonist d. if he or she succeeds, there's something to win (stakes) e. if he or she fails, there's something to lose (jeopardy). So, anything that isn't part of the story as defined above, doesn't belong in the movie.
RG: Do you have a pat formula?
AE: Nope, no pat formula. My schtick is "tell your story out loud." That's my formula. I don't have formula, just process.
BS: What does that mean, tell our story out loud?
RG: say it out loud..hmm okay can you explain a little more?
AE: I mean this: before you write anything down on the page, tell your entire story...
CL: You mean say the story out loud? Even as a novel?
AE: Yes. Tell it over and over again. Tell it to anyone who will listen ...
CL: What are you looking for, glazed eyes, interest?
AE: Tell it LIKE A STORY you would tell someone. It will help you make a much more interesting story. If you are boring your audience, you'll know. If you are boring yourself, you'll know. The moment you commit something to the page, you lose half your storytelling skills. There is no more audience, really, and when you're bored you can just "blip" over the boring spots. When you're telling your story out loud you will instantly know when it's not making sense; and when you're bored, or they are, you'll come up with something better... THAT'S my pat formula.
CS: when you commit something to the page, you lose half your storytelling skills?
AE: Yes. You know when your LISTENER is bored. But when someone reads something on the page they have time to come up with something nice to say.
CL: Ha!
BS: How do you keep the interest going when the less active scenes come along?
AE: You keep interest going by not HAVING less active scenes ... in the sense of, don't have any scenes where nothing's at stake.

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