Friday, May 20, 2011

Emails #45: Almost Zero

RICK: Okay. This is not the Middle Ages. We have running water. Success has made us weak and flabby. Toughen up boy! Those chills you feel are the chemical rushes a fan boy feels. Perhaps in the end, the Cap project will turn into something else. Renamed. Reworked. Modern era. There is always room for a true hero on the stage of public opinion.

You are interested in throwing some of this out there? We will talk about it. I honestly don't feel we have enough material for a screenplay however which is our goal.

Despite meandering character development which has been useful, no plot has developed which could be fit into the Syd Mead (or any other) paradigm. I think the unconstrained exploration of the character has helped cement his major principles. Liberty. Justice. The Constitution. The need to stand against evil no matter what the odds. The path of Cap's development on these various sites is one of the freedom the explore, react, comment, research, delve, disagree...

Turning it into a blog reduces the chances of us making a screenplay to almost zero. I think you realize this. Also, unprotected by privacy, our Cap story becomes subject to the whimsical opinions of others even if only by the self consciousness of our own designs.

BEN: I hear ya and agree. Just was thinking that letters could bring out our feelings in a way that doesn't betray our story. It would probably be too much work taken away from what we already don't have time to do though :)

The only part I don't agree with is that the chills are fan boy in nature. I suppose that could be true in small part— my love for heroes— but what really gives me chills is the concept of this story. It's the part of it that's more than the sum of its parts. The spirit of America.

There is so little time. Carving out slices for everything except drawing... I was also thinking that the letters motif really couldn't hold up over time in the narrative format because the communication is all one way. After a couple guys tell you how Cap inspired them, twenty more variations are not needed. Cap does not fight out of vengeance or punish out of displaced anger. He tries to be just and fair and show compassion to enemies and allies alike.

Maybe we just need to settle down and pick something as a starting point. What is it about Steve Rogers that changes him into Captain America? He could always succumb to fear or retreat to isolation. Before the serum and the suit, Rogers has a changing moment that solidifies his thinking and gives him passion. What is it?

Later, Captain America has a changing moment, were his focus shifts and he takes up the endless struggle to stand against injustice. What is that moment? Everything after is Cap striving to meet his impossible goal.

The character of Rogers and Cap are then seen in three installments.
One: what came before that early moment with Steve Rogers.
Two: what came before Cap "becomes" Captain America.
Three: Cap's struggle which he can not back away from to fulfill his destiny.

When destiny called, Steve Rogers answered.

What part of this story should we start with? While it is not all roped out, laid out and certainly not neat, we have done a lot of thinking on this already, perhaps more than it seems. Perhaps the basic elements are there only to be answered in the writing. We should do a scene or seven. Pick a spot in Cap's evolution and get me started. I think continuity and logic need to take a back seat right now. Drop me an example of form to follow if you can.

“Writing should be an adventure, shrouded in mystery and uncertainty, blessed with amazing grace. In theory, of course.”
-Syd Field

We respond to a drama to that extent to which it corresponds to our dreamlife.
-David Mamet


  1. I am great with faces. Names not so much. In the opening portion of the post, I mistakenly insert the name Syd Mead when I really meant Syd Field. Both work in the film industry and are named Syd. That is about the extent of the similarities.

    Syd Mead is a prolific, highly creative artist whose talents have shaped some of my favorite movies. He is best known as a conceptual designer for such unique films as Blade Runner, Tron, Aliens and 2010.

    Syd Field is a prolific, highly creative writer whose books and lectures have helped define the present day art of screenwriting. Some of his books include: Screenplay, Screenwriter's Workbook, Selling a Screenplay, Four Screenplays, Screenwriter's Problem Solver, Going to the Movies and Definitive Guide to Screenwriting.

    I hope this clears that up (for now). RICK

  2. If such an in-depth charater exploration doesn't work for the screen, could it work in the graphic novel format? To what extent has this been done before?

  3. Hey Jim - Thanks for the question. I am not sure to what degree in-depth character analysis has been done as far as comics go. I know that Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Extraordinary Gentlemen, Miracle Man, Swamp Thing, From Hell...) does a lot of research and is just all around extraordinary in the intelligence department. Neil Gaiman also. However you don't have to be a genius to plot your characters. George Lucas generated Star Wars using ideas about myth made popular by Joseph Campbell.

    If I were starting a new project today, I would want to know as much as I could about the main characters and their motivations. I can't see why you wouldn't. The degree to which Ben and I delved into Cap has just as much to do with the back and forth nature of email as anything else. We never set out to start a blog, map Cap's character genome or write a script. Those things came much later.

    It is a testament to Ben's patience that he put up with my creative waffling. I am not by trade a writer, screenwriter or blogger. I think the discussion we have had was allowed to sprawl in many directions based on the curious, playful nature of our relationship and our strong desire to see where the story leads us.

    Will this approach work in comics? No. The handful of writers who honestly attempt such things in the comic medium prove that the mass of writing being done is the "follow the snake" variety. Dipping only one page into the past and one page into the future. Meandering like a snake with only a present. Sure, you can take the idea of full character development and make a hundred graphic novels out of it but it is a lot of work and a lot of brain power. At the end of the day, writers need to get paid...


  4. Gawd, Syd Field.

    To quote Wikipedia:

    "Field has written several books on the subject of screenwriting, and holds workshops and seminars around the world that help aspiring and professional screenwriters produce the kind of screenplay that will sell in Hollywood. Field's ideas about what makes a good script have become very influential for Hollywood film producers, who have increasingly used his ideas on structure as a guideline to a proposed screenplay's potential."

    Note the key phrases "screenplay that will sell in Hollywood" and that Hollywood producers use Field's ideas as "a guideline to a proposed screenplay's potential."

    That is creativity? Three act structure must be followed?

    Hollywood is the center of uncreative parasites who must follow "guidlelines" because they're too stupid to think creatively. Follow the formula. For example, notice all the stupid sequels and remakes.

    I prefer John Sayles, thank you.

  5. On the topic of characterization: When Cap first appeared he was a one-dimensional character. I'm not knocking Simon & Kirby. They created an interesting character by 1940s superhero standards.

    But compare Cap's early stories with the early Lee-Ditko Spider-Man stories, especially S-M's origin. Peter Parker was more of a real person, flawed, not perfect. As a young reader I could identify with Peter Parker; Superman was boring.

    Now the trend is to add deep personal dimensions to all superheroes. But sometimes such re-creation goes too far, becomes pointless. Look at Adam Strange to see how to "adultify" a character into a tragic joke.

  6. Hey Luke -
    Sorry Syd Field is not to your taste. I like Sayles but confess to having never read any of his screenplays or novels. I know him as an actor, director and writing only from finished films. I did download two of his screenplays to read. A three act structure not creative? Since as a writer you can pour anything you want into this structure and use this as your starting point, I don't see how this is limiting. Rather, you and I both lament the quality of finished products that roll of the Hollywood assembly line. Ditto for comics. RICK