I am a member of a couple screenwriter’s peer review forums, and I’ve noticed that there’s a particular kind of script that seems to be increasing in numbers.
Perhaps it’s because people are feeling desperate and just need a feel good story – but I have to wonder how good it really makes you feel in the long term.
The movie is that Last Chance for the Big Dream.
There’s two critical elements you need for a movie – a lead character who is likable or sympathetic enough for the audience to want them to succeed in their quest and the quest itself.
The quest part is usually tricker, since it has to be big enough to be a movie, as opposed to a movie of the week (MOW) or an Afterschool Special. What makes the quest big is the consequences of failing.
But, in the Going For The Dream movie, the consequence of failure is, well, you have to accept that the dream isn’t achievable and build a normal life for yourself.
Which is, in movies and in life, made harder by that a single minded pursuit of a Dream tends to not encourage people to hang around you and the ones that do, are related to the dream in the form of trainers, coaches, agents, other people pursuing the same dream, be it sports or arts.
Pursuing the sport or art type Dream is different than something you can accomplish by going through school and then setting up or joining an office – basically any profession like doctor, dentist, lawyer, a scientific field endeavor.
But movies rarely focus on these you really do need to work nad study hard and you can become them.
They focus on the long shot dreams of being a sport or artistic celebrity.
So, what are the consequences of a close to burned out middle age person trying for that last title fight, that last music contest or audition that will land them a contract or the young person making their first break attempt?
Well, if they fail, they have to get a life like everyone in the audience presumably has done.
Seriously, Boo Hoo.
That hardly seems like a feel good for the audience movie – that what their life is, steady job, marriage and maybe kids, you know, generally being a responsible grown up, is the worst consequence for the character onscreen.
There are two bad messages that I think movies have put out in the world.
1. That everyone has One True Love.
2. That if you try har/long enough or want it bad enough, it will happen.
Both are entirely dependent on Hope – the evilest thing in Pandora’s Box if you are classicially minded.
Hope means that no matter the probability, the person will dust themselves off after each set back and continue to put time, effort, money and at the cost other opportunities and relationships in the pursuit of a dream that they are not going to achieve.
This is usually referred to as resiliency, determination, confident and stubbornness in a good sense of that word.
When, really, it seems more like an utter inability to recognize reality, understand probability and poor judgment and project management – with more likely a large dose of arrogance and lack of self assessment in the talent arena.
I think too that people often focus overmuch on the dream – like being an Ultimate Fighter, a Model, Singer, Actor, Musician, what have you.
So even if they do get it, it becomes unsatisfying and they end up dead early from drugs or alcohol.
This is a common tendancy everyone does – focus on the how and never consider the what.
What does the person get from the dream? fame, money security, a home.
Is being a celebrity the only path to those things? No.
Well, maybe for fame, but a lot of people seem to have been famous for being famous – but also, what kind of fame – international, national, local?
Could it be enough to ahcieve fame in your community for your contributions and good works?
Wouldn’t running a non-profit to help youth, homeless or some disadvantaged group do better to inspire other people to good works than a hit record or a fight title? Especially the fight title.
The other important thing in movie scripts is that more often than not, there’s a switch in the quest towards the end, where the character realizes that what they thought they wanted – isn’t what they actually need.
So, I am not saying don’t dream or don’t dream big – but know yourself and what that dream means to you.
Figure out what you need, not what you want. Satisfying needs makes you satisfied – satisfying wants only satiates them for a while.
Having your needs met will ultimately make for a happier and more satisfying life than merely having wants met.