A few years ago I was asked to watch a student short film and give the writer professional feedback.
The film was smart, entertaining and had something to say. Yet I felt it wasn’t quite as emotionally powerful as it could have been.
I had a really hard time facing this… Why?
Because I had been hired to consult on the final draft.
Watching the result of your work on the screen is educational, fun and it boosts the ego. Except when it isn’t as strong as I had hoped.
But what exactly was wrong with it? I couldn’t tell. It had a clear hero, a clear goal and a strong climax and resolution.
Watching the result of your work on the screen is
educational, fun and
it boosts the ego.
The writer played the film to me during the break at a Hero’s Journey seminar. It was a fabulous day, great energy in the room, inspired people.Then I had an idea. I asked the writer if it would be OK to show the film to the other students and discuss if/how it applied the Hero’s Journey – or not.
That’s when the magic happened. The students were perfectly capable of finding the flaws in this short film based on what they had learned from me that morning.
One of the problems: the 2nd act started too quickly after the inciting incident. There was no ‘refusal’, so it seemed as if it was no big deal to the Hero.
Another issue: the clear potential for ‘threshold guardians’ was not used. The travel from A to B was without any obstacles where it could have easily been more dramatic.
All without increasing the production budget.
That’s when the magic happened.
The students were perfectly capable of finding the flaws.
I was perplexed when I realized I had worked with the writer to get the 3-Act Structure right. For lack of time and budget, we didn’t go the extra mile of looking at the 12 journey stages.
At that time I still believed the Journey didn’t apply to short films. Boy, was I wrong.
Here was the clearest of evidence that short films can be significantly improved using the tools of mythical structure.
Even more striking was the fact that the students didn’t need my help to find the issues with the story. They had freshly assimilated the material and applied it immediately – right there.
Short films can be significantly improved
using the tools of mythical structure.
And the writer? He was delighted. He had just started a feature and saw what to do with that.
– Karel Segers
Karel Segers is a producer and script consultant who started in movies as a rights buyer for Europe’s largest pay TV group Canal+. Back then it was handy to speak 5 languages. Less so today in Australia.
Karel teaches, consults and lectures on screenwriting and the principles of storytelling to his 5-year old son Baxter and anyone who listens.
He is also the boss of this blog.