I did a lot of reflecting on the 6 C’s over the weekend and came up with some really good stuff, but before I move forward I need to make sure these concepts are going to stick and I want to know for certain that I am choosing the strongest possible options to tell an incredible story.
Of the 6 C’s (Character, Crisis, Cuest, Conflict, Clock and Change), character is the most important and easily the most ambiguous. You can build off an archetype, but you need to create a full personality that is going to inform the story. What this person does, where they live, what they eat, their hopes and dreams, their greatest fears, their friends their talents, their struggles, significant memories. The more you can determine about who your character is, the easier it will be to construct your screenplay.
Look at Indiana Jones. I just had the remarkable experience of watching Raiders again after a very long time and it’s terrific. Indiana is a very complex character. He’s a university professor of archeology who specialized in the occult, yet he doesn’t believe in any spiritual or religious mumbo jumbo. his interest in artifacts is somewhat unexplained. It’s like he just wants the thrill of the chase. That would account also for his relationships with women. He works for his friend’s museum as a freelance treasure hunter, but as a professor, he has a certain disdain for those who corrupt the purity of an archeological site.
We learn these things early on in the film, against a university backdrop, shortly after witnessing our rugged and clever adventurer retrieve an idol from sacred and heavily booby trapped ground, narrowly escaping only to be overcome by a rival mercenary archeologist.
Why Jones devotes his life to a discipline that he apparently has no personal investment in is puzzling, even to Jones. Belloq, Jones’ rival will use this to psychologically manipulate him later. You could say he struggles with his mercenary role. Although he hides behind a good cause, he can’t reconcile his devotion with his detachment. That’s Jones’crisis. Later, in Temple of Doom. we discover how close to Belloq, Jones really was. His sole interest was in fortune and glory. The change that occurs in that film is what has put him in his current state of crisis.
the rest of the dots are easily connected on the strength of the definition of the character. He is sent on a quest to find the ark of the covenant before the Nazi’s do. Incidentally, the clock is built into the quest and some of the conflict (Nazi’s) as well, but Jones must also face Belloq, the dark representation of Jones’ character who has sided with evil and is always one step ahead. In the end, Jones comes to terms with the murkiness and there begins to be a defining light that separates the darkness. It even seems as though his failed romance might experience a rebirth.
Oh, there is lot’s of great action and humor too. Iconic sequences that will be forever remembered as some of film’s finest moments, but what really makes Raiders of the Lost Ark worth watching is the connection of all the action and special effects to such a strong through line, driven by the character. When we go through this process it is hard not to try to rush forward once we have a couple of easy answers, but the more thought we invest in the character and the rest of the *formula the more the rest of the story will fall in line, so you can concentrate on that kick ass dialogue or pulse pounding action sequences, or high tension scenes where nothing seems to be happening, but everything is.
*filmmaking is an art and a science. Only in the world of entertainment is formula a “bad word.” Every professional in every field relies on formula and even the need to be different, or unique or unpredictable cannot be truly fulfilled without understanding the formula and it’s value. Most often, the term formulaic is only used in a derogatory sense to mean too derivative, or too cliché. Rarely if ever is a great movie criticised for following formula. It is a tool of the trade, but the artistry is what you do with that tool.