Filmmaking / Directing : Real character development... Where has it gone? by Thomas R. Monette

Thomas R. Monette

Real character development... Where has it gone?

Why is it, that almost every time I watch a new film, there is little to no time spent on character development? Is it just me? I know I'm going to see it from the very good to great filmmakers, but it seems as though most newbs want to skip it it all together. Have artists not learned any better, are people just getting lazy or do they just not care? Shouldn't people be taking the time to make us care about the characters they create? Or is this the difference between the mediocre and the outstanding? Your thoughts.

Eisha Marjara

Interesting thought. Is there any film(s) you've seen recently that sparked this query? When I think of poor character development, mostly commercial action films come to mind. (And one seems to expect "weak" characters in testosterone driven films, ironically.) I do agree however that the focus is often on plot and less on really knowing the engine that drives the story: the characters. My story editor keeps telling me again and again, "You know your character, you know your story."

Simon Watt

I just finished scoring a beautiful short "For Evie" and it was all about character and had great space, a composers dream................

Thomas R. Monette

Hi Eisha. Thanks for the response! It just seems to me that over the last 10 to 15 years, character development has become less important. I'm curious to see if anyone else feels this why and if so, why do you think that is?

Thomas R. Monette

Hi Simon, where can "For Evie" be seen? I'd love to take a look a it.

Max Boyce

Character development depends of genre and if you are watching summer release or winter releases. It is all marketing and the 12-25 age market is the one where less char dev can be foisted on the audience. They want action and sex and basically where every character is a manifestation of their ego or their love interest. It is about the 'me' generation--- always was, always will be because of sex hormones of the young blind them to social values and contemplation of character. Character development exists in the classics but with the democratization of mass media and social networking hype turkeys are made into swans and every movie reel an instant instant classic. Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy by La Carre, had very solid character dev, in fact the movie was just character development, with a 30 second denouncement at the end --- yet the audience gave it a 65 of ROTTEN TOMATOES, while the critic gave it an 80%. Actually, HBO is pushing the strongest venues for char dev... The Wire, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire... and of course Rome. Quick in and out of the box office, heavy weekend hype and a turkey can turn over the investment, buy a new house and the latest Mercedes. I recommend PBS mystery, Masterpiece Theatre. Mankill's, Wallander, is a masterpiece of character development when compared to the piece of c^%p Sherlock Holes with Robert Downy & Jude Law... but action rules when the education level of the American populace averages about an 8th grade level.

Thomas R. Monette

Hello Max, First off, it’s great to meet you. Secondly, thank you for sharing your wonderful insight. I absolutely loved “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, it’s a shame that it didn’t do better here in the states. It’s also a shame that most films have to suffer from having to accommodate a low common denominator. I think it is a disservice to society and to the art in having to do so. Max, or anyone who feels like answering… do you think that the marketing structure will ever change to accommodate more completely developed characters? If not, can we as artists do anything to help a genre evolve or do you think that the character suffering genres will be pigeonholed by these old marketing ploys for the foreseeable future? Thanks, Thomas

Simon Watt

Hi Thomas, For Evie is getting ready for the festival run early next year so I'll let you know where (Director and producer are picking the spots now) Fingers crossed it does well, you can have a look at the website. http://www.foreviethefilm.com I also love Lost in Translation and those brilliant long shots.

David Ashutosh

TV is where deeper characters are these days for a variety of reasons. Partly just the time allows for it. Also though Sundance Films and IFC projects don't sell nearly as well as mainstream work. The business follows the money and the money follows the viewers. TV audiences are on average a different demographic. People also often look to tv for certain things and to film for something else. There are writers who write interesting work, but it has to sell to the movie making machine which is very much an industry like any industry. So they go after the sequels and things based on books which often people just fill in the blanks. TV channels being like they are take a lot of viewers. People can binge view on dvd and then that enhances an experience of a show. Why go to movies in theaters when you can watch them at home. Sundance has interesting films but they don't get butts in seats like a blockbuster action film with big explosions and a big name actor rushing around taking off his shirt for the ladies with bikini glad girls for the men. Character development becomes less of the drive. Literally developing the fundamentals of a swimsuit scene can be more important or as important to a studio and then to have them in a film trailer. Too much character development can in some cases turn people off to a character in a way they may not otherwise be. It is like modern furniture. Sometimes it is interesting for what it is, often it is sterile and lacks much personality. Audiences too sometimes just want an escape when they see a film more than to be educated and connected. Thus, character development may feel for many people like a distraction from their escapist rushes. So as artists sometimes we have to sneak it in and fit it in and around things more than force it on people. I wouldn't blame Hollywood though nor assume it is the writers not creating more depth. It is more about what is selling than what is out there. And some writers never learn to build things around the industry standards which is what will have their work sold and seen.

Jennifer Funk

I do believe that "Character Development" is missing in today's film industry. Makes a huge difference in the outcome and understanding of a movie. However, with technology to make things fly by and cover everything up....."who needs to understand the character?" Character's just fly by as time and money do. New technology and a new upbringing of people brings a new genre of the way things are made and done. Sucks to lose old fashioned traits, teachings and understandings of simple life history.

Robert P. Davenport II

I think character development is alive and well, "Slumdog Millionaire" comes to mind, the entire premise of the film was what had brought the young hero to his moment of triumph. Yes technology and action sequences can distract filmmakers from scenes essential to fleshing out their characters completely but the skill required to do so is painstakingly acquired over many years and many scripts for most of us. Now with the proliferation and democritization of the process that allows us to create technically acceptable film more filmmakers are just rushing to get their scenes on the screen in an entertaining audience pleasing manner. I would agree TV gives the writer a larger canvas on to which he/she can project the arc of their characters development over several episodes or hopefully seasons. Nonetheless the visual arts of cinematography and editing can enhance moments that are the epiphanies of transformation in characters. The light bulb reaction on the face of a character or the droop in their posture when they accept failure can effectively transmit their placement along the arc of their development without several pages of preachy word smithing. I think character development is expanding and including more interactively all aspects of filmmaking from the cinematographer to the scoring mixer, and is no longer the exclusive domain of the writer, director, producer, and actor. Every element is doing it's part to drive the central theme forward, as it should be, nothing on screen should be there without purpose in my opinion.

David Ashutosh

Slumdog Millionaire was an Independent film not a big Hollywood film. It was larger than many big Hollywood productions. It was made by Danny Boyle who also made Millions which has nice character development, but barely showed in the U.S. I think things like the success of Slumdog and Memento (which Nolan did) lead to other projects like Nolan doing Batman and Nolan doing Inception which was a harder project for him to get than others. I think a lot is about education level. HBO has a different audience than mainstream networks. Look how popular shows like Real Housewives and the Honey Boo Boo show are. I think there are shows like Slumdog that happen clearly. There is enough of an audience that something like that or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" happen, but they are flukes. Those sorts of films get made and generally are watched at Sundance Festival and other festivals. They are generally not shown on major cable channels. The studios may distribute them in some cases and buy them up after they are made, but seem to rarely make them. 'The Beaver' is another example. There is a central character developed. But it had a limited audience. 'Lars and the Real Girl' is another example. The audience is not as large or they would be the main shows in big theaters. They are lucky to get one screen compared to the 4-8 screens a show like Spiderman or Batman gets. To their credit, some of those shows do develop characters and especially those focused around a single character can do more of that and do do more of that.

Gordon Mathieson

I agree, Thomas. Many of today's director's can't, won't or don't know how to motivate talent act. It's easier to blow things up, race cars or show visual graphics to keep audience attention. I will never do that in my books or my screenplays. The script is the thing and I challenge actors and Directors to get it, and get it right! This writer agrees with your insightful remark!

Patrick Hampton

Blame it on Hollywood writers. People are about the money not the project. Character development isn't hard to make happen. But it takes time from everything else. Funny fact alot of them went to college but have never won a film festival. Does anyone else find something wrong with that?

Tony Treloar

I find that character development is found in indie flicks more often than mainstream fair. Of course, not all of them are successful but at least they give it a go. All the big tent pole movies seem to shun characters for the spectacle with few exceptions and it is quite disheartening especially for all the writers out there slaving over deep, meaningful and interesting scripts. In Hollywood, all that matters is the movie makes money and whenever a formula proves successful, it's repeated until it's dead in the water. I would have loved to have lived and worked in the film industry in the 70's when it seemed like anyone and everyone was given a chance to work on varying subject matter that would never be touched today. It's sad but I don't see it changing in the studio system. Thankfully though, there are people making indie shorts and features that have quality character studies and development. It's just tough finding them.

Gordon Mathieson

I agree Tony. My scripts are adapted from my books, and are Asian American content and talent. My hope is to provide more opportunities for Asian American by ACTING in contemporary roles, not the stereotypical roles assigned to them in the past. Just did a major staged table -read in NYC at the Asian American film lab and found some outstanding talent who deserve opportunities....hopefully with my scripts..and this is character development with story lines for " real acting"....just like decades ago.

David Ashutosh

Patrick... have a lot of them even entered competitions? Would they win if they entered? Are competition winners getting acclaim for things that would not fair well commercially and/or be a draw for studios?

Patrick Hampton

From the writers I know. Some have tried others don't even bother. Their are 1000's of festivals and writers who strictly ride the circuit. The common way to get into the studio system is to get into a writers room which is almost impossible to do unless you know someone there. Writing in Hollywood is all about moving up the ranks not about talent or passion.

Patrick Hampton

We also deal with the other people who write a script or try to and call themselves writers. Being a writer and calling yourself one are 2 different things. Welcome to Hollywood.

Kirby Britten

This is a great and worthy discussion that will always find merit and purpose in the creative process. I can connect with Thomas's frustration, and I think we all do here. As we all know, the industry will forgo art to chase a dollar. I have made it one of my working creeds, to dismiss material with shallow and undeveloped character and/or story foundations. Also, talent in the likes of Philip Seymore Hoffman, Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken will not accept work with poorly developed characters. Let's keep up the fight, guys!

David Ashutosh

I think that there needs to be more Independent Movie theaters around the country showcasing the smaller films. I would love to see them sell something other than fountain drinks and popcorn as well. Perhaps fruit juice, fruit, tea, crackers and cheese, wine (where it may be legal to do so), etc... I think the commercialism and endless noisy previews, wild teenagers, etc... of the big theater chains can turn off a lot of the independent film viewers as well. The independent theaters are often relatively divey and it would be nice to see them cleaned up and more professional, and more welcoming to the public as a whole.

Patrick Hampton

We are boarding of a new film movement. Mark my words.

David Ashutosh

I think we sorta have to be just from the conversations I keep hearing around, plus the technology getting cheaper and cheaper. Also we keep seeing tv channels producing more and we have been something in an age of television. Seems natural that something has to develop. What direction do you see it going Patrick? I would be curious to hear you elaborate based on what you are seeing/hearing.

Patrick Hampton

@David I dont have the time to get into it here. but I started a new discussion http://www.stage32.com/post/460829598154760577 Would like to open it up to everyone!

Shandell King

I agree with you Thomas i believe it is because we live in a microwave era where everyone desires to get and to do things quickly. We've forgotten the innovative powers that the arts has in bringing out the true meaning of life and the profound teachings via sound storytelling. As a writer I find it quite astonishing to see that reality TV fabricates and skews what true reality is and so the same for other shows. If reality TV increases its ratings by TV reality characters fighting, cheating, getting drunk and sleeping around. Then most writers watching figure that material takes little to no thought, " I can do that make a quick buck" and forget about it. But maintain your stance, just like a new toy it will get old and we will start seeing the new films with sound storytelling and strong content emerge. Everything in its season.

Thomas R. Monette

Hello Everyone. Thank you all for participating in this conversation. Sorry I am jumping in a bit late tonight, I had a long day. It is awesome to see so many thoughtful and considerate ideas. Here are the things that I have noticed in this conversation so far. Please correct me if I am wrong or left anything out. The reasons we have up until now for the lack of character in film are; systemic greed, individual greed, cultural change (more or less), lack of popularity, lack of directorial skill and a blatant disregard for character altogether. Am I missing anything? Gordon Mathieson claims that he would never sell out one of his creations for the sake of eye candy and short attention spans. Is this where we must also draw the line? Should we as a collective group of creators vow or even go as far as create a creed stating that we must never sell our creations or ourselves out for the sake of accomplishment? Shouldn’t this be one of the purposes of the guilds, to protect the integrity of any particular art form? Is there not some governing body of successful creatives protecting the quality of work shown to the public? If there is not one, shouldn’t there be? Alternatively, shall our endeavors be held captive to a system that has been in decline for over a decade or are we plagued with having to serve a model of complacency just to have our work seen? I am of the mind, that just because something makes money, does not make it good or acceptable. I agree with all of you who have said that television is the more favorable location for character development. However, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Casablanca, Ordinary People, Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, The Shawshank Redemption and the like were not created or adapted for television. The films that have lasted lifetimes and carried us through our darkest times first blazed in the glow of the “Big Screen” and now sit on our shelves waiting for the time that we need them again. We covet the special films because they deserve to be coveted. Here we are… Some of us struggling, some of us striving, all of us working and hoping that one day, one of our works of art will be remembered as the ones I have mentioned above. With that said, what can we do to as a community of artists to insure the future integrity of our own work in order to heighten the integrity of film? Does it start with an oath such as Gordon’s? Is it in the form of a charter or creed whereby we promise to hold our work up to the light of particular creative standards? I believe that by revealing the character within the story, I also uncover something about myself. I love my characters and I hate them. I love them so much I would do anything terrible to them just to watch them grow! When I see a film’s character underdeveloped, I feel cheated and practically lied to. It pains me when I see a chance within a film to reveal more about a character and it never comes. It is creative blue-balls to say the least. Maybe I am taking this idea of character development a tad too serious… Some would say after all, “It’s just a film!” Are they just films, or have they been relegated to become “Just films”. Either way, that is unacceptable to me. Especially when I know how much time, money and effort went into creating such a travesty. I am sorry about my dissatisfaction, but I love film as much as I have loved all the loves of my life and I cannot help but feel a little cheated at times. I hope you understand. Thank you everyone for your time and wonderful contributions. I hope to hear more from all of you. Thomas

Erin Miller

I couldn't agree more. It seems like every show is action based. It doesn't feel like anyone gets inside of the character's head anymore. I miss it.

Edwin Adrian Nieves

I believe it comes from both sides of the field: the filmmakers and the audience. On filmmakers, at least for some, there is a lack of a simple understanding, what is cinema? I've seen many films that treat the camera (and I don't care if it's a DSLR, a Red, or a 16mm Bolex) as a machine instead of a pen. There is a clear connection between cinema and literature, and that is the use of LANGUAGE. I stated in an interview--let's see what happens to it--when asked what my mission was as a filmmaker, "Aside from creating compelling stories that emphasize the human experience, to address what we call film grammar...the two are very much related to each other, or, even simply, one and the same." By language, I mean "form," the way a cinematic expression is made. The best way to emphasize character development is by making the most of the visual-audio relationship in regards to the story and the vehicle(s) of the story. Let's put it this way...It was stated before that audiences today want to see action and sex. When we consider these two, we find that they are both "sensual experiences," sensual as pertaining to the senses. Film is connected to the eyes and the ears. Filmmakers, give the audience something that arouses their sight and hearing, and they will surely fall into your film. On the other side, the audience. For a film to be successful, there needs to be an audience, which means it is their choice. I bet more people right now are reading People magazine instead of a Dostoevsky novel. It sounds disappointing, but in the end, I feel there will always be the need for "truth." Humans are seeking for truth everyday, for some kind of explanation on human life, for something that gets him or her closer to the mystery of life, especially human connection--note: film emphasizing human experience entails human connection. I will always remember one hot summer night while in high school, going to my living room to the TV and finding my dad sitting on the couch. We both couldn't sleep, so he let me go through the movie channels and a film that was just about to start stood out. It was Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love. My dad, who will fall asleep while watching any movie, even the action flicks he likes, said ok to watching it. He made it to the end, laughing, startled, engaged throughout the film, and said to me, "Estaba bueno"...It was good. At almost 4 in the morning, I knew he meant it. Make a film that drives on character development. But if your audience gives you a try, you better deliver.

Jaclyn Abergas

Another reason it seems that way is because a lot of movies, both mainstream and independent, have similar stories and characters. Sometimes, that lack of character development is due to the fact that we've been seeing the same characters in different movies for several decades now.

Eduardo Maciel

I agree. If we take as parameter digital art which is my field, we note first of all that it takes whatever time is necessary (within a work schedule) to develop the character and his universe, features and relevance. If this is done for animations of drawings in 3D, much more with live characters. Note that often a character steals a scene and sometimes an entire movie just because of his presence and development scene. This happens already in the pre-production.

Kristen Tinsley

I feel that some writers rely to heavily on cliche characters because audiences are used to seeing them and are just supposed to get it. I'm a script reader and say this in my comments all the time. Character development is lacking in scripts and this makes the story suck. The action takes off too fast and leaves the characters behind. I think it may be because newer writes are being taught to start the story as late as possible. Watch a movie from the 90's or earlier and you will see what I'm talking about. The whole something has to happen before page 20 can be distracting. That is the hardest part. A writer has to be good enough to give a little back story, reveal character traits in dialogue and then show how the characters change throughout the story.

Kristen Tinsley

One tip, don't waste the first ten pages describing what is going on in a location. You are not the director so you should not be detailing a hawk flying through the mountain tops and describing every tree it flys over. Unless the hawk crashes into your protagonists windshield and causes an accident that leaves him or her disfigured and this is the concept of your story.

Max Boyce

What is character development? Simply put, is the experience of being in the character's shoes and living the action as the character experiences it. If character development is thought of, by the art consumer, while engaged in the art, then the artist has failed. When the reader/viewer is in this dimension, in the character's shoes, all other attributes of a film/written work suddenly fall away as inconsequential. When one is aware of style or camera angles then you are not 'in the character'. An action movie/novel can have plenty of action. The Three Musketeers, a novel by Alexandre Dumas, is action packed, however, the affinity the reader feels for the character's inner life is far more important and satisfying. Although, actions heroic, taken by the protagonist, makes the character unique, thus allowing the reader to relate to more meaningful abstract emotions such as honour, courage, gallantry, valour, etc. The talented writer knows how to mould and shape unique basic emotions and the more important abstract emotions with practised skill. The classic works, written examples of unique characteristics/characters, are written by individual authors who know their craft backward and forward. Authors spend time getting to know the basic plots of literature throughout the ages, and they also know the basic character types going back to , say Hercules. They might also know what Carl Jung or Henry James or John Carpenter, for example, knows about plot and character. This basic knowledge of stage/literature goes way back to Sophocles, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, etc. Many successful writers have put in the prerequisite and demanding time in college humanities courses, obtained an MFA or worked the public library system 24/7 for a number of years. Hacks, such as myself, have a constant up-hill battle to compete with motivated writers who have already gone the distance and started writing in the crib or cradle. If film makers took the time to learn the basic moves concerning plot/character, if money men where not so myopic (seeing fantastic piles of cash before it is in the bank) and viewers/readers were more disseminating (and not hoodwinked by marketing twinks) ...well, America could set a standard that negates art work before it is release to the lemming-leaning public. Social media (and the trolls & twinks) has democratised access to constructive criticism, however, constructive criticism and reviewing is also an art form that requires knowledge of stage/ literature to a Master's level at the least. It ain't called a Master's for nothin'. Speaking of lemmings... I hear my ambition calling... gotta get to work before Dr. Faust & Dr. Parnassus's circus of pied pipers leaves my town.

Max Boyce

Character development is alive and well - http://www.theparisreview.org/

Emil Ledoux

I don't know what planet most people have been living on for the last few years? Even a blind man can see that the film industry has been consumed by greed and has now been turned into just another puppy mill, a "3D" Puppy mill to be exact! Now that everyone from a wealthy drug dealer to the rich owner of a string of New York gay night clubs can back any film being made we will keep seeing nothing but garbage on the silver screen. I use to love going to the movies every sunday night with my friends, it was our thing and in the last five years I have been to the theater but maybe eight times and the last time was to see 'The Book of Eli' The main problem is that the new technology has created way to many viewing outlets and each one of these sources want their share of monetization and these sources try to appeal to every single soul on earth which can't be done, I doubt very much if the mindless tramp stamp wearing girl is going to like or be interested in the same film/music as a 50 year old blue collar worker. There was a great old saying "If it isn't broke then don't fix it" Well the new Hollywood elite have broken every part of the their industry and are clueless on how to fix it...

Glenn Pratt

As far as major Hollywood blockbusters go, the explanation in some instances can be quite simple. If a movie's goal is to gross millions, you need to look past domestic box offices and towards international markets. Character driven and non-flashy movies don't sell as well overseas due to the fact that someone has to sit and listen to a movie in a non-native language and read subtitles. Therefore big movies opt for more spectacle than character development. Otherwise, it is just poor-screenwriting. If your movie isn't a big vfx extravaganza, then take the time to make me care about your characters.

Theresa Chaze

Most character, especially in television, are what I call plug and play. The characters can be played by anyone and the project would still be the same. In order for a character to be believable and have depth, there has to be part of the actor in it.

Alex Sarris

Hey Thomas, I feel the reason for this is that many writers try to keep their writing tight and cut back as much as they can in order to make it an easy read. This cuts back putting enough descriptions and personality into the characters as they only write what they feel is relevant to the story and not relevant to the character.

Dustin Bowcott

I agree with Alex. A character is built through their actions and dialogue.

Patrick Hampton

We keep on forgetting that film isn't just about one medium. A Character is built through the writers ideas, the directors vision, and the actors portail. Without all three we would have a film.

Dustin Bowcott

Very true, Patrick. As a writer it's very easy to forget that, as we see it all in our mind's eye already. We already have our own actors and direction.

Theresa Chaze

I have compared film and television production to that of building a house. The writer is the architect . She or he plans the project and give it structure. The Producer gathers the resources and personnel to do the work. The director is the foreman who organized the workers and makes the vision real. The crew t actually do the labor to make it real. The actors, musicians and the other creative people are the interior decorators that make the house a home, where the story and characters live. Without respect and balance on every level the film can't stand. This has been the problem in the industry for a long time. The balance and respect are gone, especially for the writers. Not everyone has the capability of creating a character and plot, which is the foundation of every book, film, television show and play every created. With out those film and television shows look and feel like video games.

Reid Webber

Interesting discussion. We just watched the Avengers and character development was almost too much at times. Superheros should be professional enough to work together and not spend half the movie trying to fight like two year olds. On the other hand, Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum II, had a lot of fun characters. It has taken MIB three movies to really complete the primary characters.

Twila Victory

People, in general, have gone into the "Fake it till ya make it" world and so pretty much they fake it or are to lazy to actually DO what it takes to make it. Ask any average Joe or June around any town and they will tell you they want action and Blood and silly NON-reality films these days, NOT a reflection on what real life is today. Reality DOES NOT SELL anymore. Audiences look to film to give them their identity here, and to escape from their identity cause they do not like it. Superheros are BIG right now because we all want to be or to be rescued by a super hero who saves us all from certain doom. If we all would just WAKE UP and see that we all have that superpower already.......a revolution would be at hand soon. That is just MY opinion. Nobody else has to agree or not. Form your own opinion based solely on your experience, your research of the actual truth (neverending) and a slight bit of passion for what you stand for and believe.

Mark Georgeff

DO NOT EVER blame this on the screenwriter. PRODUCERS, AGENTS, STARS, DIRECTORS, STUDIO EXECS and every single one of their low paid assistants, readers, secretaries -- WHO DO NOT WANT to do their jobs any more...are the ones responsible for this mess. Why/ because THEY ALL have say over the direction of the screenplay. Unless you, as a writer, producer, writer-director have access to the money yourself on any level...and therefore, control the actual production, you won't have say on making scripts better. the reality of hollywood has always been about power and control. And in Hollywood...EVERY ONE thinks they can write a solid screenplay, and they just simply can't. Why? because they don't put in the hard work; they don't make sacrifices to put in the hard work...and THAT has nothing to do with money; or networking; or getting an agent or clubbing. It has to do with keeping your butt in the chair and writing. And rewriting. And being your toughest critic on your writing before you start bragging about it. Next time anyone...wants to blame the writer? Research the history of Hollywood. You'll see how much power screenwriters have. Virtually none.

Theresa Chaze

I agree it all starts with a good script. there are a lot of them out there that are being over looked because they don't have the connections to get it to the people who can produce. A big studio used to produce 150-200 films a year. They were low to mid range budgets, which spread around the risk factor. Not all of them were hits, but enough were to make the the studio profitable. They might make one big budget, but they would never come close to the current budgets. Disney is pissing 200 million on the Lone Ranger. That's simply stupid. There is no reason a western should cost even half that! I heard they had to build a town. First the Lone Ranger didn't spend much time in town. Second there are hundreds of little western towns that kept the old west feel that they could have rented for a fraction of the cost. Films don't make money like they used to because of greed and stupidity.

Noel Sargeant

It has to do with pacing and movement of the story. If it doesn't propel the story forward to fit in its 90 minute time frame there's no need. You only introduce a character's quirky magic tricks if they're going to be a factor later on. Amelie would be a 15 minute movie if it was done in American cinema.

Kristine Fambrough

I must confess to be one of those who flock to films for escape...and perhaps that is what also draws me in as an actress--to some extent. When our real lives are never ending drama, confusion, and stress it can be difficult to want to take on more of the same in what little time there is for entertainment. However, it is a wonderful suprise when seeking out a comedy and finding characters with actual substance. But then again, I know plenty of women who like to go to a movie that provides them with a good crying session...but I'm not one of them. It seems to me televison provides the best opportunity to develop characters, especially for those that have running episodes. I think Revenge has done a nice job with its characters...enough for me to care and suspenseful enough I can't wait for the next episode.

Alex Sarris

Hi Mark Georgeff, I agree with you totally, screenwriters are taken for granted and every man and his dog, believes they can write screenplays, when in fact many screenwriters themselves can not !!!! Most write, though It takes a rare talent to be great at it. Many screenwriters think up a story and believe they have a winner, though it takes a significant amount of sweat and determination to knock out an amazing screenplay. Most screenwriters CAN NOT and I believe most other facetts in the industry would struggle even more.

Theresa Chaze

Yes, it takes talent to be a writer in any venue. But whereas books have a single voice, film and television are a choir. In order for film and television shows to be successful everyone has to be on the same page of music and be working toward the common goal.

Twila Victory

Theresa...I totally DIS-agree with you. Most books are a culmination of the writers imagination and his past experiences with EVERYTHING that has ever comes into his sight, sound, smell, taste and being. Thousand upon thousand of tiny little things make up his story. There is not 1 voice but the many that have shaped his/her life at all times. Consider the possibility that this brings.

David Ashutosh

Twila... I like your comment. Well said, although to say DIS in big letters sound like you are 'dissing' Ms. Theresa, but I figure that was not your intention. :)

Twila Victory

oops......No, in no way do I ever dis anyone. We all have the rights to our own opinions and didnt even realize It could be taken as you have pointed out it could. I am no writer as proven so.

Twila Victory

Theresa: Where do you currently live? What part of the country?? I personally, live in New Mexico, where all that money is being "pissed" away for Lone Ranger. Actually, Utah and New Mexico are sharing in the overall waste of money in which you so readily buy into. Please, before you put your foot in your mouth, come live in the state of which you readily dismiss, and know the actual impact this film has made on a hugely poor area in which the LOCAL NM and UT people in film are being used. Not to mention, the media and most websites and mags about the industry here in the southwest are NOT TRUE! The only thing you get from most of that propaganda is just that. We as a public are only told what those behind the media and sites want us to know. and like Lemmings, we are all think and hear it as the only facts to trust. Non-partisan my butt.

Twila Victory

AND.....yes, now I am being rude. Those of us who have lived and breathed this industry for over 25 years have a hard time with small minds that cannot think of the greater good and that each film, good or bad, is a piece of art. If they can raise the money..........GOOD ON EM!

David Ashutosh

Twila you are a character with that last comment. I hear ya and figure that your comments and emotion are understandable. I wasn't even reprimanding you for your prior comment and as I said I figured you didn't mean it. I don't know that you are being 'rude' here even so much as just forthcoming with your concerns, issues, insights and emotions. I think like you mentioned, there are often factors that people miss. To add to that, people are being employed from all different areas and walks of life for a project like that. That money also makes for a more glossy film and often small towns that are cute are not ready to be rented out for films, and historically they may have limitations which would have them not film as well. Studios tend to need/want rights to really control things for a time and to make the sets how they need and then also use them for random reshoots until done. Also with a show like that, if it is popular they may reuse multiple sequels. So that is further reason they may want to build a set of their own. Besides if ticket sales are likely to pay for such a thing, and they have the money to spend, the main concern from my view would be environmental impacts.

Patrick Hampton

@david I agree!!!!

Theresa Chaze

Twita, First, what I meant about the author being the sole voice was that the story comes through the author. It is filtering of her or his experiences that makes the story unique and personal. A thousand people could see the same event, but each and every telling of the story would be different because each person comes from different life experiences. Secondly, I'm in Michigan. My foot is not in my mouth. I'm standing on both of them as well as my statement. If they had rented out a tourist town, It would have promoted it and the area to an international audience thereby giving it the opportunity for long term financial help. All those tourist dollars would long term financially help the whole area, which create new jobs and more filming opportunities.. Building a town for the shoot and tearing it down, helps no one and wastes resources. If your goal is to help the area, you should be thinking long term instead of just the short during the production. If shot wisely with a smaller budget, two or three films could be produced with the 200 million stead of just the one. More projects means longer term employment for cast, crew and the area. If you want to think small, that is your right. I look at the bigger picture and longer term.

LaShaunte Wade

I agree they never go into the background of the main character or supporting and they should so the viewers can better understand their personalities, depending on the type of film that is.

Theresa Chaze

David, The higher the budget the higher the breakeven point. Currently the breakevn is seven times the budget. Many investors will not put their money into films because they are so risky., If more films showed a profit, more people would be willing to risk their money, which means more films would have the opportunity to be produced and the more jobs that will be created. What creates more work one huge budget or 4 medium budget films? The union wages stay the same. The differences is that there would be longer term work with the four projects.

David Ashutosh

Theresa, I love that you think about these things in more detail than I understood from your original post. I think this is a valuable conversation and would like to see more thought about it and more open discussion about it in the community than a lot of what I see. I like your attention to resource considerations and to the community after the fact. One option could/would be to perhaps create something in a way that a community can be left with it vs. just disposing of it. As a writer, my awareness is often quite limited on the production side of things, although I have been around and involved to some degree on smaller (but big budget comparatively speaking) projects. Just two, and have been briefly around bigger projects through a friend in production. I hear some details, but he is less concerned about resources so naturally I would get less of that from him. I do know though that he has said that film is one of the more wasteful things one can do environmentally in terms of the big projects. I personally mostly think in terms of tv which naturally requires regular sets as well as some individual sets for specific shows/story arcs. Film is not my main thing that way as well, so then I am less focused on considerations that way than I may be otherwise. It sounds like you may be in production and may have some great things to offer through your work in the field given your thoughtfulness about things.

Theresa Chaze

Chris, from an insider who has been in the industry for decades. It includes the normal P & A as well as the hidden costs the distributors add in with creative bookkeeping. I've heard horror stories about distributors who charge additional costs that make it nearly impossible to for the producers to reach in the breakeven point. However with most theatres becoming digital by the end of the year it will be easier than ever for produces to self distribute, which will help them leverage a better deal if they decide to go the traditional route. It used to cost about four grand per screen with 35 MM; going digital drops the cost to about a grand per screen. With our paranormal feature Never Can Say Good-bye we will be building one set. It is for a kitchen scene. For the rest we will be using existing locations, which we will for the most part be doing in-kind exchanges for promotion in and with the film. If we need to tweak the action to fit the scene we will. It lowers our costs and promotes the businesses as well as the locations to an international market. We are building the one set because fire is unpredictable and it would raise our insurance rates. If you pre-plan what you need you can also lower your costs. Do it right the first time and you don't have to fix it in post. There was a film that after it was all in the can, the director decided that he wanted the one character to be the only one wearing a certain color. In post they spend 1,500.00 an hour to digitally change the color of the character shirt and remove the color from everywhere else. That is pissing away money. Building a set because the designer has a bug up her or his ass about a non plot point detail is a waste of resources. Those are the kind of things I was referring to. They increase the budget and give nothing substantially back.

Theresa Chaze

I already have the interest of one of the major chains for Never Can Say Good-bye. Paranormal features always do well. They might not be able to hide them in the same old way, they do have ways to hide them.

Patrick Stephan Marshall

I think the reason why there is less character development is because the personality of our heroes is a reflection of the zeitgeist. And today's mass consumer market, offers a quick, shallow bliss, for equally shallow people with an attention span of a three year old with ADS. But since we, as storytellers are shaping the zeitgeist of our generation, it is up to us to change these standards and make heroes with more depth and real growth, to help people grow from three year old ADS mass consumers into responsible, aware and smart people. We are the start and the end of this circle.

Kristine Fambrough

Having been on the Albuquerque "town" set of the Lone Ranger myself, I can understand why it was built and I do not think there is town that could have been rented for scenes that were filmed there. I'm not about to give details as I don't believe that is my place and would constitute a spoiler and perhaps a breach in confidentiality. I know from working with a small independent production company that the insurance required from a city even for filming a small scene with but a few actors and crew on city owned property can be pricey, let alone for multiple scenes with a large crew and cast that span over days, weeks, and/or months. Then there is the issue of crowd control and public safety which will also determine how much you shell out for insurance...so that being said, sometimes finding a secluded piece of private land to build a set that can be broken down and reused is the better option for ensuring fleibility, originality, and certain costs associated with public property usage.

Theresa Chaze

Is the short attention span media truly the trend or is that what they are being offered? If they were offered an alternative would they take it? How many people chose a money not because the they are excited to see it, but it is the least objectionable one and the other choice is not seeing a movie? The Devil Inside is the current best example. It wasn't a good film, but it still did 102 million worldwide because of the genre and it was different.

Theresa Chaze

The towns I'm talking about are usually have a low population. The are tourist attractions. The area has been preserved specifically to attract those who love the old west. Using them might not be free, but the promotion in the movie and marketing campaigns would more than compensate the owners of the town for the loss of a season.

Raeshelle Cooke

Interesting post. What do you consider character development if you don't mind me asking?

Theresa Chaze

Michelle, Who is the question for?

David Ashutosh

Regarding production expenses and pluses and minuses it sounds like there is something of a liberal and conservative bent on it all. And there are middle ground approaches such as reusing resources in some cases through disassembly and reuse that can be put into place as well. Also of course in some cases things can be sold to others who may use it, or perhaps built in and around towns that could use it with their existing infrastructure. A lot of creative approaches to making it good for both the studio and film production people, actors, etc... and others involved.

Theresa Chaze

That's what the big studios used to do on the back lots. They would have generic sets for different genres that they would reuse. For some reason they got away from that--maybe it just cost to much to keep the land. But in any case, throwing more money at a bad project won't make it a better project. It has been my experience that when there is a huge pre-release media bliz, the film is usually bad. The goal is to get as many people to see it the first or second weekend before the word gets out. In spite of what the PR people say, word of mouth is still the best way to promote a film.

Karen Keslen

I agree with you Mr. Monette. Many films the characters are "launched" to us how we must know all they think or feel. I think people getting lazy and don't care about a good character development. Lamentable.

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Jennie Wesco

Great discussion topic...and funny you should bring this up because I was working on a feature film script this past weekend and found I'm watching my page count very carefully and thought I might have spent too much time on character development. Was refreshing to see the lack of cd has been noticed!

Jennifer Funk

I agree with you Thomas. My favorite actors and actresses are the ones who play different parts and you totally forget who the actor/ress is playing the part because they become the character. The true, believable character. It has been a while since I have seen a new acting person; make me forget who they are and make me believe they are the person they are suppose to be in the film. I believe people now days care more about getting the role and just stopping there. They want their name known, so you see them; not the character who are suppose to be seeing from the script. Live to laugh.......Jennifer Funk

Sean Martin

What do you think of character actor vs. Methed actor.

Noel Sargeant

I wonder how much character development ends up "on the cutting room floor" trimming down to 90 mins.

Jacqueline Smyth

Dead true, I have noticed the same thing in a few new films.

James Felt

It's really up to us as directors to make sure that char development lives within our films. Keeping that idea alive is essential to ensuring that future audiences are not just slapped with the blandness that some films are moving towards.

Thomas R. Monette

Gigi and James, thanks for chiming in! Both of you have made great points ans have provided us with even further insight into what I believe to be such an important topic. Thank you and everyone else who have contributed here. James, do you feel that newer film directors are perhaps suffering from the lack of ability in storytelling, or do you feel that it is also a direct result of our society as Gigi and others have stated? I myself am beginning to feel as though it is a lack of the storytelling gift and instinct. Of course I could be wrong. However, spectacle and farce certainly seems to have replaced substance. Thanks for the chat, Thomas

Kelvin Fahey

Often there may be a time constraint, focus on the pace leading to the climax scene, or a singular focus on a theme regardless of characterization potential. I mostly deal with music videos that have all these features, but for sure I really appreciate a feature film that takes that extra footage to reveal the expressions, emotions and inner character of the people it is built upon. All power to you & cheers from Australia :)

James Felt

Film directors of today are not the film directors of yesterday. I believe there is a wide gap between the two. Back then it was fairly new. They were pushing the envelope into uncharted territory. Things had not been done yet. The bar was being raised with every film. There was a drive and a desire to see what was on the other side. Almost a giddy feeling, I imagine, went through alot of them back then. What an exciting time it must have been. It invoked originality, going on instinct and thought provoking ideas that stretched the imagination. I'm not saying that it does not happen now, because I have seen some works of art, but it takes a thinker, a dreamer and the know-how to lay down substance. Today, is a time where people with cell phones shoot films and dslr shooters abound. I for one think that's a good thing, but so many think they can just shoot some stuff, edit it quick and throw it up on whatever site and call it good. With so many out there now, it takes more to weave in and out of the thorns to get to the rose. There are still talented people out there and storytellers among the fray, so don't lose hope. "Some say everythings been done...I say...it's just the beginning. - James Felt

Alex Sarris

Truth is people just want the easy way out and don't want to do the leg work. I have just completed a feature where I wrote character Bio's for all the leads, established their backstory which set their likes and dislikes, this give them personalities. Over all this I spent months researching the South Carolina dialogue and rewrote a character to suit. Just what I said, gotta do the leg work to give each character a personality. It still exists in writers who don't want to just print out a flat screenplay.

Chuck Dudley

Evil Dead Remake. Budget 17 million/0 character development. Number 1 at the box office./Gross to date 35 million. Producer's job with Evil Dead 2? REPEAT PROCESS. -- Hollywood is a business. The question is: If Evil Dead had character development would the movie gross even more? I think so.

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