2.2 Character as Cornerstone
Character as Cornerstone
CHARACTER AS CORNERSTONE: “Character is the essential internal foundation of your screenplay. The cornerstone. It is the heart and soul and nervous system of your screenplay. Before you can put one word down on paper, you must know your character” (Field 46). “You can't sit down to write a [story] with just an idea in mind. An idea, while essential, is nothing more than a vague notion. It has no detail, no depth, no dimension. No, you need more than just an idea to start writing a screenplay. You need a subject to embody and dramatize the idea” (32). [If you’ve seen the film Mother, think about it in this context.]
SUBJECT AS WHO AND WHAT: “A subject is defined as an action and a character. An action is what the story is about, and a character is who the story is about” (32 Field). “Knowing your subject is the starting point of writing the screenplay. And make no mistake: Every screenplay has a subject. The Last Samurai (John Logan) is about an embittered Civil War mercenary (Tom Cruise) who travels to Japan and is ultimately transformed by the people who were originally his enemy, a band of samurai warriors. The character is the Civil War mercenary, and the action is how he is transformed in thought, word, and action, allowing him to regain a sense of self he had lost after the war ended” (33 Field).