Friday, April 27, 2012

Your villain = your hero in Bizarro World

First of all, a great blog that I can’t believe I’m only finding now. Scott Myers wrote K-9 - an 1980s guilty pleasure of mine – and is also an instructor with the UCLA Extension programme. His blog Go Into The Story is here: and it’s well worth a look.

It’s the kind of content that sucks you in and suddenly two hours have passed and you’re still reading. Still, better this informative and intelligent site than the pure evil that is the Daily Mail and their stories of celebrities circling the plughole/kittens making faces.

I’m nearly finished with Script Frenzy and luckily I’ve nearly finished the script Last Girl Standing too. I’m one of those people who gets a physical pain if they do not complete a challenge so not finishing was not really an option. It was that or lie in the foetal position groaning.

The whole thing has inspired me – what if we could all write a new first draft EVERY MONTH? Or even every second month, and edit in between? Once you cut out procrastination and excuses, there are no limits! We can write six scripts a year! (They’ll be 120 pages long and full of brain vomit, but still).

Anyway. One of Scott Myer’s recent posts was about making sure to humanise your script’s nemesis, to make sure they’re well-rounded enough to keep the audience’s attention. I agree this is important. But what’s just as important is to make sure the protagonist and the nemesis are, in a way, two sides of the same coin.

For example, in Last Girl Standing my hero is a sleazy lawyer who’s prepared to marry a girl just to get his hands on 20 million dollars that she will inherit (unknown to her) once she gets married. He’s a real shit and the kind of guy who’d sell out his own grandmother. So it was important to have a nemesis who’s even more unpleasant. The nemesis has no conscience and no sense of humour, plus he takes himself seriously – none of which applies to the protagonist. He’s prepared to go even further and pull even lousier stunts than the hero to get his way.

Basically, he’s like a Bizarro World version of the hero – the worst example of where the lawyer could find himself if he doesn’t change his ways.

Like the Joker in the Dark Knight – what is he but the man Batman could become if he carries down a certain, darker path? Or to use a more real-world example, Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is the woman Anne Hathaway’s character could morph into if she sells her soul and claws her way to the top of the industry.

The Nemesis is the character that the hero fears because they reflect their own faults and weaknesses. If you bear this in mind, you’ll end up with a flawed but well-rounded hero and a villain whose motivations we can understand if not identify with. And this is what makes a film – even a comedy - compelling, interesting and gripping.

That’s my tuppence worth – but what do you think? Should the villain be the hero’s dark mirror image or their polar opposite?

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