Last night, dreamt I was flying, but unlike previous flying dreams, in which I found myself embarrassed or afraid, I felt an incredible sense of freedom and control, climbing, descending and hovering effortlessly – soaring over the tops of clouds and playfully plunging into them.
I climbed so high that I could see the curvature of the Earth. The stars called for me to come play with them - singing a nostalgic lullaby I once knew by heart, but had long since forgotten. I looked back at the beautiful blue mother Earth and was suddenly overcome with a great love like nothing I'd ever experienced before. With a burst of energy, I bolted toward the surface, blazing across the sky like a meteor. I knew that my impact would change the world.
Rob's dream occurred the night after one of the most powerful screenwriting workshops we've ever attended - the two-day "Beyond Structure" class taught by writer and producer David Freeman
We are in the midst of rewriting a screenplay that has already won in the Moondance International film festival, but we want to make it something that will truly soar. Other courses have helped us create a structure that fulfills the basic human need for evocative storytelling, but there was always something missing. We felt if didn't quite evoke the beauty that would truly touch the hearts of our audience. So we took David's course, but with a bit of skepticism. How could a course help us find that artistry which seems to be solely the province of intuition and inspiration?
David has deconstructed the aesthetics of screenwriting, and given us a palate of tools, or techniques. These techniques -- over 200 in all are offered in the class -- can raise the level of artistry and the commercial potential of one's writing.
Here's a simple but powerful "Scene Deepening" technique: you can create emotional power in a scene by contrasting tragedy and levity within the same scene. As an example, in "Jerry Maguire," when he's fired in an outdoor restaurant by his protégé, some people are singing "Happy Birthday" in the background.
Well, that's just one technique -- imagine learning 200 more, focusing on not just scenes but characters, dialogue, and plots as well. Some of the techniques get quite advanced, as when David demonstrates a number of different defense mechanisms a character can employ to resist growing, and how the plot can force that character to grow in all sorts of interesting ways.
We found David's work in codifying dialogue techniques, so that characters' dialogue actually captures the rhythms and subtext of spoken speech, to be truly groundbreaking.
It's no wonder that "Beyond Structure" has been taken by writers, directors, and key executives behind films and TV shows like "Good Will Hunting," "E.R.," "Total Recall," "Jack and Bobby," "Doctor Doolittle," "American History X," "12 Monkeys," "Saturday Night Live," and dozens more.
We were not surprised that David's next stop was Pixar (before his San Francisco class on Oct. 29-30).
David is also a working writer, with a $60 million dollar film he co--wrote just wrapping production, and other projects sold or optioned to many Hollywood Studios.
We came back from the course fired up to dig into our script to work out the ways our characters could grow through their fears, limitations, blocks and wounds, obliquely unmasking their coping mechanisms for dealing with un-faced events, while delving into their characters arcs and enhancing audience "rooting interest" (empathy for the characters). Employing the techniques we discovered in the course, will help us shape a movie that can indeed have a meteoric impact on the world.
David's fresh and offbeat impromptu humor brought bouts of laughter, but from time to time, David would add heartfelt inspirational touches, which the class always enjoyed. David's thoughts and observations in this regard almost always had to do with the dignity and the value of the artist in society. He drew on sources as diverse as Navajo healing ceremonies and the artwork of Picasso.
I remember one comment he made, that went something like,
"The role of film is to help the world be healed by beauty. This harkens back to the ancient Navajo. The Navajo believed that if a person is sick or depressed, they are being crippled by an inner battle. So the whole community conducts a three-day ceremony to bring the person back into a state of beauty. By stepping into the world of beauty, the battles stop and the person is healed."
"Movies, like a Navajo healing ceremony, have the power to help us find hope when there is none. They remind us of the best in us. They help us find meaning, the magic of life, the redemptive power of love."
David's course, taught at Universal Studios, was attended by producers, well-known screenwriters and development executives all looking for how to improve their craft.
To see some sample techniques, take a look at his website at www.beyondstructure.com.
Despite the fact that David is one of the most popular screenwriting teachers in the U.S., he hasn't written a book on screenwriting. However, he has written a book on writing interactively for video games, with many tips for screenwriters as well. It's called "Creating Emotion in Games."
"As writers, David says, "we don't create things of steel and wood. What we create is much, much more elusive... Insight. Wisdom. New and sometimes contradictory viewpoints. Fresh takes on the complexity and challenges of the human condition. We rediscover abiding truths. We show new roads to walk, and new ways of being to occupy. Sometimes we lift the burdens of the journey, by finding the irony and humor of life, or giving recipes for being outrageous. We create play. And we create beauty."