Rose from Titanic, Lars, Shrek, Annie from Sleepless in Seattle.
What do these characters all have in common? They are all examples of film protagonists who begin their on-screen life entrenched in their IDENTITY, but fully embrace their ESSENCE just before the end credits start to roll.
IDENTITY is what psych majors would call "persona", it is the false self we present to the world, because it is safe. ESSENCE is the person's truth - it is what we bury under our identity. I wonder how that would translate into the blogging world? Is my blog my identity or my essence? Huh! As if I'd tell you.
Moving right along.
A helpless woman who must rely on the material support of a man; a man who can only have a relationship with an inanimate object; an ugly and unlovable ogre; a rational woman who organises her life like clockwork. These are the identities.
A passionate and independent woman; a deeply sensitive and empathetic man; an adorable, lovable being; a woman who will abandon everything safe in her life for the sake of her own magical destiny. These are the essences, and they are also happy endings. Sometimes they are classic Hollywood happy endings, other times they are simply enthusiastic signs of hope and promise. Either way, they make for good, fun movie viewing.
So. Now. How does one go about determining a character's true essence? Fill in the blanks:
"I'll do whatever it takes to achieve my goal, just don't ask me to __________ because that's just not me."
Whatever you filled in for the blank, is in fact EXACTLY YOUR ESSENCE. It is the real truth of you, that you will adamantly deny, because it scares the living crap out of you, and you would rather jump off a moving ship than face it. But it is you, and you would do well to remember that passion trumps fear every time.....eventually.
This is only a tiny bit of what I learned at a scriptwriting workshop held this weekend by Michael Hauge. It was a wonderful experience. He is a modest and unassuming man who teaches with wit, humour and a huge dose of generosity. He finished his day-long seminar by telling his students: "Now have the courage to go home, and fill in YOUR blank."
It was really only then (look...I was tired...and the line for coffee was really long) that I realised Mr. Hauge was teaching not merely how to write a screenplay, but how to view life, and art, and...most importantly...how to understand yourself.
And what could be a happier ending than that?