Friday, January 27, 2006

Socially Responsible Screenplays

Lately, I've been wondering if my stories are too heavy. Most of my stories have themes like redemption, forgiveness or embracing diversity. It's not that I have a desire to change the world. I just like to write stories that draw on something deep and personal in the human spirit. That's my choice. Something about exploring the human spirit feels like a valuable and worthwhile use of my time, skill, and talent.

Therein lies the problem.

My very first screenplay was a silly fantasy about pirates, mermaids and sea hags. It's been two years since I wrote it. Not bad for a first attempt but nothing I'd have the nerve to show anyone. The writing was dreadful. No, that's too kind. I can't even think of anything bad enough to say about the writing. It was an adventure to research and an adventure to write but it didn't have a theme of social responsibility and after the first rewrite, I put it away. It just felt frivolous.

Don't get lost here. I'll tie this up in a moment...

I've written before about my son, Will, , his challenges and the multitudes of surgeries he endured before becoming a hottie jock with wings on his feet. Since then, I've spent a lot of time at Children's Medical Center visiting children who undergo craniofacial surgeries and talking with their parents about what to expect after surgery and during the months to come. Two things always happen during recovery visits. Photos of Will running like the wind make the parents cry while the recovering children watch a funny DVD. The movies watched most often by recovering children? Shrek, Ice Age, and Monsters, Inc.

Each one of those films is silly and frivolous. But, each one them also has social value. Shrek has that "beauty is only skin deep" thing going on and Ice Age addresses cultural differences and relationship barriers. Monsters, Inc. has a cleverly crafted message about fearing what we don't understand and people who are different.

The measure of a good film isn't whether or not it makes the viewer cry, donate blood, join the army or give money to the Red Cross. The lesson here is that social value doesn't necessarily have to be heavy, dark, and depressing. It only has to be entertaining.

Time to pull out that frivolous adventure story and rewrite it.


Slain said...

MaryAn ~ i disagree with ya on this one.

it really depends on yer audience, ya? for example, i get totally depressed watching stuff like King of Queens but actually feel good watching Stallone or Dolph Lundgren blow people away

..the darker, the better. or at very least, there must be some deep, heartfelt and heroic theme to the story

..i find it difficult to watch *no offense* dumb-downed versions of 'hero' stories.

i believe during Shakespeare's time tragedy was considered inspiring cause it showcased the human spirit whereas comedy was darker *more depressing?* cause it forcused on the frivolity of human existence.

tell me what you think?

MaryAn Batchellor said...

I think we're saying the same thing here. I write tragic stuff. But I don't think it HAS to be tragic to have meaning and purpose. You just have to know who you're writing to.

Slain said...

MaryAn ~ ::grins:: we're in da same boat, huh? writing tragic stuff i mean..