How to Write Memorable Characters - It's All About Your "Hero's Journey"

Character Deveopment Class: WHO Is Your Script About?
Taught by Ross Putman

$99 $249

On Demand Class - For immediate download. Unlimited access for 1 year.

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Who Should Attend:

  • Screenwriters who are looking to enhance their protagonist on the page
  • Screenwriters wanting to learn better techniques to distinguish their protagonist and antagonist
  • Screenwriters looking to better develop their secondary characters and how they can compliment their protagonist
  • Producers who are in need of developing their protagonist, antagonist or secondary characters further to make the roles more attractive to potential talent

This Next Level Education class has a 94% user satisfaction rate.

Class hosted by: Ross Putman

Producer at PSH Collective

Ross Putman is the producer of First Girl I Loved, directed by Kerem Sanga and starring Dylan Gelula (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) which premieres at 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The co-founder of LA-based production company PSH Collective, Ross produced the independent feature film The Young Kieslowski alongside Danny Leiner (Harold and Kumar) and Seth Caplan (In Search of a Midnight Kiss), starring Joshua Malina, James Le Gros, Melora Walters, Ryan Malgarini, and Haley Lu Richardson, which won the 2014 LA Film Festival.  He co-produced the Netflix/Fox Digital series Bad Samaritans, and has sold the feature Eskimo Sisters to Awesomeness Films, with Danny Leiner directing. Prior to his producing career, Ross was a creative executive at Ineffable Pictures. Before Ineffable, Ross was the executive for producer/director Walt Becker (Van Wilder, Wild Hogs). Full Bio »

Session 1: Want vs. Need

  • WANT vs. NEED – The most crucial element of building a character. What is it that they want to achieve for themselves? What is their ambition? What are their desires, good or bad? "Want" causes a character to jump headfirst into their journey, seeking to achieve their goal. But what they "want" is not always what they "need." The most satisfying endings come when the character discovers what really matters and does what's right (or wrong). It's not always a happy ending, but understanding the difference between "want" and "need" is the key first building block of any engaging character.
  • In order to explore the above, we'll break down famous characters from cinema to examine their thematic journey and the reasons they're compelling as a protagonist. What is it about these famous characters that keeps us watching? Why do we become invested in their eventual success (or failure)? The centerpiece film that we'll explore throughout most of this lesson is the classic blockbuster BACK TO THE FUTURE.
  • By using those characters as a jumping-off point, we'll explore how their journey drives the story rather than conceit, even in the case of high-concept films. We'll talk about how to start with a protagonist and build out from there. Examples from high-concept films will help illustrate how even the biggest-budget movies need to have a beating heart at their core.
  • Finally, we'll talk character introductions and how to memorably insert your character into the movie. We'll discuss how "less is more" when it comes to exposition, and how to comfortably integrate it into the flow of a narrative film. There's a delicate balance, too, because the last thing you want to do is be as bleak and blank as a film like DRIVE. Giving your audience enough to get invested without overloading them in the opening pages is the way to go.

Session 2: Forget About "Saving the Cat" / Anti-Heroes

  • Everyone wants to have a likeable protagonist—even if they're doing bad things. We'll discuss how to make your protagonist "relatable," even if their goals are nefarious and/or unethical. There's always some reason to root for someone to succeed, even if what they're trying to accomplish is actually "evil."
  • How do you find the humanity in an inhumane character? There are a number of famous anti-heroes throughout cinema, though for this class we may focus on Walter White, from the hit TV series BREAKING BAD. Without giving any spoilers for those that haven't watched, Walter provides a great way in to an initially relatable protagonist that goes deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole—and yet anchors the entire series from start to finish.
  • From there, we'll talk about the rise of the anti-hero in television on the whole (with suggested reading being the fantastic book "Difficult Men." But we'll also talk about how to modernize the hero for today's audiences; we'll talk about why superhero movies generally fail to live up to the best examples of the genre (which is probably THE DARK KNIGHT) and how to craft a tension in your film that tracks with your character's personal arc. 

Session 3: Avoiding Archetypes & Using What You Know

  • How do you create a "unique" character while still remaining familiar enough to appeal to commercial audiences? People think they've "seen it all," and yet we're introduced to new and fresh characters all the time. Some examples might include Robert Downey Jr.'s unique depiction of "Tony Stark" in IRON MAN, Zach Galifinakis in "THE HANGOVER, Adam Driver as "Adam" on HBO's series GIRLS, and Bob Odenkirk as Saul on AMC's BREAKING BAD. These are some examples of characters that could have simply been archetypes and yet feel fresh and alive.
  • We will also talk about the rise of the "manic pixie dream girl" in literature and the problems with this kind of character, as well as other archetypes (the strong-silent action hero, the wise-cracking cop, etc.) Writers tend to build on the history of cinema by recycling relationships and dynamics that worked in the past. But other times, these relationships are given a unique twist to make them pop (look at RUSH HOUR). As a writer, your goal should be to show audiences something they've never seen before, yet could relate to on a personal level. How do we avoid simply rehashing things we've seen a million times before?
  • The goal will be to hone in on ways to create realistic, engaging characters with an emphasis on drawing from your own life. That means taking what you've experienced and extrapolating it out into something real and unique. It's not about copying—it's about using something that fascinates you as an inspiration. Perhaps it's something about yourself that scares you, maybe it's something you're dealing with on a familial level. Using these feelings, thoughts, and fears to generate character is the truest way to make sure that there's something genuinely compelling about them.

Session 4: Supporting Characters & Comic Relief

  • We'll talk about some of the most famous and memorable supporting characters in the history of cinema and how their involvement in a film has to support the actions of the protagonist. Think Christian Bale in THE FIGHTER, Mark Wahlberg in THE DEPARTED, etc. The color for the film comes from the supporting cast.
  • We'll also discuss how to avoid having a "boring" protagonist, which is a problem many young screenwriters encounter. By trying to ensure that they have a relatable protagonist, they make him or her somewhat bland compared to the quirkier characters around them. It's easy to give a supporting character a specific personality, but the feeling seems to be that making a protagonist specific is a bad thing—because you want the largest amount of people to relate to that person. The problem is that if we have a boring protagonist, why are we making a movie about this person? And, more importantly, why would a movie star want to play that character? We'll talk about some of the quirkier protagonists of all time and how being specific is never a bad thing.

Summary:

4-PART CLASS (OVER 8 HOURS OF EDUCATION!) NOW AVAILABLE ON-DEMAND!

4 part class taught by Ross Putman, award-winning producer! Ross's accomplishments include: First Girl I Loved (premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival), The Young Kieslowski (winner of the LA Film Festival), Bad Samaratians (co-produced for Netflix/FOX), and he was the former creative executive at Ineffable Pictures!

From Casablanca to Breaking Bad, the reason you remember these stories is because of the compelling protagonist at their core. Their journey is why we tune in, and the way they change is the reason we root for them to succeed (or in some cases, fail). But character can be a tricky piece of the puzzle for screenwriters, especially in Hollywood’s concept-driven environment. Ultimately, great cinema is based on great characters, and this 4 part class is intended to help you find your character, make them real, and build a story around their journey—all the while staying within the realm of commercial modern cinema.

Stage 32 is excited to bring you the previously-recorded 4 part class: It's All About Your “Hero's Journey” - How to Write Memorable Characters taught by Ross Putman, award-winning producer. To find out more, click the "What You'll Learn" tab above! This 4-part class offers insight into case studies to help you as a writer form a comparison to inform your own writing. In addition, you will walk away with tools and techniques to apply to your own writing!

On-demand classes are discounted and purchasing gives you access to the previously-recorded live class which has over 8 hours of education! Although Ross is no longer reviewing the assignments, we still encourage all listeners to participate to help continue to hone their own writing skills!


About Your Instructor:

Ross Putman is the producer of First Girl I Loved, directed by Kerem Sanga and starring Dylan Gelula (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) which premieres at 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The co-founder of LA-based production company PSH Collective, Ross produced the independent feature film The Young Kieslowski alongside Danny Leiner (Harold and Kumar) and Seth Caplan (In Search of a Midnight Kiss), starring Joshua Malina, James Le Gros, Melora Walters, Ryan Malgarini, and Haley Lu Richardson, which won the 2014 LA Film Festival.  He co-produced the Netflix/Fox Digital series Bad Samaritans, and has sold the feature Eskimo Sisters to Awesomeness Films, with Danny Leiner directing. Prior to his producing career, Ross was a creative executive at Ineffable Pictures. Before Ineffable, Ross was the executive for producer/director Walt Becker (Van Wilder, Wild Hogs).


Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is the format of a class?
A: Stage 32 Next Level Classes are typically 2 to 4 week ongoing broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online class, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the class.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the class software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The class software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live class. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer 

Q: What if I cannot attend the live class?
A: If you cannot attend a live class and purchase an On-Demand class, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A.

Q: Will I have access to the class afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand class, you will have on-demand access to the audio recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year!

Questions?

If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.
 

Reviews Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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