This week we kick off the first in a twelve part series of JT Velikovsky’s doctoral thesis: “Understanding And Exploring The Relationship Between: Creativity; Theories Of Narratology; Screenwriting; And Narrative Fiction Feature Film-Making Practices.”
By JT Velikovsky
Firstly – my thanks to Karel, and to all the gang at The Story Department, for inviting me to blog a series of Guest Posts, relating to my doctoral research on feature film screenwriting / filmmaking. I hope you find all those guest-blogs interesting, informative, and enjoyable to read. Here we go:
So, this famous painting below by Raphael from the 1500’s shows many of the most famous ancient Greek philosophers. That’s actually Plato (left) and Aristotle (right) in the middle there. Pontificating – or – philosophizing. Hard to tell. Maybe they’re pitching ideas for screenplays at each other.
They do appear to be holding manuscripts in their hands… And – when we zoom in, you can make out – they ARE actually screenplays:
And –so – there are also, of course, many philosophies on Screenwriting. Mainly as – there are so many different types of story, and therefore film, and therefore screenplay…
i.e. Culture evolves.
– Exactly the same way that Biology evolves, right?
That is – as with biological evolution –any `creative system’(e.g. the film industry) functions by:meme (as opposed to gene) selection, variation and transmission.
Both on a macro scale– by `The Field’ (i.e. Film Audiences), and on a micro scale– by individual Writers/Filmmakers.
So – this model (below)shows how Biology evolves, with: gene selection, variation and transmission…
And – Professor MihalyiCsikszentmihalyi (one of the world’s leading experts on: the empirical and scientific study of Creativity) states – that:
`Creativity is the engine that drives cultural evolution.’
(M. Csikszentmihalyi and Wolfe 2000: 84)
i.e. Creativity – and Cultural Evolution – `work’ the same way, because they essentially are parts of the same system:
Biological Evolution uses genes(digital information, stored on our DNA) – and Cultural Evolution uses memes (i.e. “units of culture” / ideas / concepts) stored in our Culture (in: films, and books, and on weblogs – just like this one you’re reading right now).
i.e. As a screenwriter – every single time you have a new idea for a screenplay, you just `selected’that idea from `the meme pool’ right?
From: all the ideas that you know – or have ever seen/thought/heard of, or – can imagine.
e.g. So –let’s examine a film idea:
`Boy meets girl’.
(Not exactly a very `original’ one, right…? And yet – it seems to always be pretty popular for some reason.What’s up with that-? Do our genes mean that: we all find something `timeless’ about certain themes/memes…? That’s a whole separate philosophical discussion, for another time.)
And so – then – you will inevitably combine it – with another idea.
(Mainly as – the above idea for a film isn’t very exciting/interesting/original/`fresh’ yet… In the same way that say, an ovum and a sperm, aren’t very `promising’ for Creativity – without `each other’…)
e.g. So – combining it with another random concept, then:
`Boy meets girl – in space.’
And then you will likely also vary the idea…
(Mainly as – if it isn’t different/`fresh’/`new’, then – it’s cliché, right?)
Ok so, maybe the idea has now evolved into:
“Boy meets girl in space – during a war.”
(See the movies:Star Wars. John Carter of Mars.Avatar.etc. etc. etc.)
So – as screenwriters, we choose (select) ideas, and vary them (by adding other ideas) and transmit them – into your screenplay.
And – this meme selection, variation and transmissionprocess keeps right on happening, until:
You finally have your story, and: a feature film screenplay on your hands.
And if you’re fortunate – that screenplay becomes a film, and then – the ideas (the memes) in your screenplay get transmitted – into the culture. And the cycle continues.A recursive and iterative loop.
And – if the film (which is a meme) spreads fast through the culture, it’s sort of like: a virus in biology. Like a really contagious flu.
Andso – new film genres, styles and story tropes are `invented’/createdlike this – every single day.
So – by combining two other viral memes, we can end up with a thing that Charles Darwin called hybrid vigor.
Interestingly, Charles Darwin’s great grandson, Matthew Chapman, is a Hollywood screenwriter/filmmaker.
His feature film The Ledge is fascinating.
But I digress.
Anyway, so – perhaps oddly – some new film story genres, styles and tropes`catch on’- and they spread like wildfire, in the Culture.
i.e. Word-of-mouth means: People see a (great) movie, and then say to their friends “OMG – You have gottago see this film..!”
Want more tropes? Go here.
And, yet… other ideas/concepts/stories/films (i.e. memes!) fade away before we even hear about them…
Good article today, on exactly this topic, on i09.com by Charlie Jane Anders about“”: 10 Decent Movies That Were Doomed by Unfair Memes.
(Though – I don’t personally agree with every point. But as that great philosopher Steven Wright once said, `You can’t have everything; where would you put it?’)
Anyway those are a few thoughts from my thesis. (It may be stuff you already know.)
Next month’s post:
Part 2: `3 PIECES OF MY UNSOLICITED SCREENPLAY-WRITING ADVICE’
– JT Velikovsky
[box]JT Velikovsky is a million-selling transmedia writer and consultant (films, games, TV, comix, novels) and produced feature film writer.
His doctoral thesis research on Film/Story/Screenplays of The Top 20 ROI Films can be found here.
Photo Credits: Stock XChng, JT Velikovsky