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The Six Stages Character Development with Michael Hauge
This week we have a returning guest, screenwriting guru Michael Hauge. In this episode, he discussed The Six Stages of Character Development. A very eye-opening episode. Check it out.
These videos on screenplay structure are from his best selling online course: Story and Screenwriting Blueprint – The Hero’s Two Journeys.
In more than 4½ hours of lecture, discussion, and Q&A, Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read; and Christopher Vogler, story analyst and author of The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers, unite to reveal the essential principles of plot structure, character arc, myth, and transformation.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Screenwriting and Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys
- How to Pitch Your Screenplay in 60 Secs
- IFH 055: Michael Hauge – Writing a Screenplay That Sells
- IFH 061: Chris Vogler – Screenwriting & The Writer’s Journey Blueprint
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Rev.com – Closed Caption Your Indie Film ($10 off Your First Order)
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
- VideoBlocks.com – (IFH Discount SAVE $50)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
If you liked The Six Stages Character Development with Michael Hauge, then you’ll love:
How to Write Screenplays That Sell with Michael Hauge
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Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Book: Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
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– And that brings us back to this six-stage structure. Now, I used to think the character arc just occurred in its own sweet time wherever it was. I think if you read my book, I sort of refer to it that way. I say there’s a structure to the plot but not to the character arc, and I was wrong. I think there’s a very clear structure to the arc for the character because each of the six stages I gave you before correspond to a stage of the hero’s inner journey. Even though through the movie there is a constant tug of war between identity and essence. That’s why they call it an arc. It’s a gradual transition or transformation. In the setup, remember that first 10%, this is where your hero exists completely and totally within her identity. Shrek is just an ogre who keeps people away. Rose is just a woman who exists in all of this protective wealth. Mitch McDeere is just a guy who is going after money. He says to Abby, “Did you ever believe that I’d be able “to make this kind of money?” And she says, “Sure,” ’cause, of course, she sees his essence. We’re gonna get back to her in a second. Then, an opportunity at 10% is presented to the hero and for the next 15% of the film, in that new situation, not only are they getting used to the new situation, your hero is going to get a glimpse, a peak, at what life would be like living in his essence. So, not only does Rose start getting acclimated to the Titanic, starts to get a sense of what the other thing might be ’cause she sees Jack making these passionate drawings. And she looks and then he catches her looking and she looks away. She has this beautiful art that nobody else understands. But it touches her. In Shrek, there’s this very pointed moment which also is, to me, a very subtle form of, it’d be interesting to see if Chris agrees ’cause I haven’t talked to him about this, but it seems like there’s a very subtle but obvious sense at which Shrek is refusing the call. Because he steps out and he says, “All I want is privacy,” living in his identity. And then what’s the opportunity? All these fairy tale creatures. And he says, “Oh, no.” And he says, “I want to get you off my land. “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get you back.” And he thinks they’re gonna just run away and instead they all applaud. And somebody comes up and drapes a robe over him. There must be some name for a royal robe. It’s like he’s being crowned, “You’re our hero.” And he shakes his head and immediately shrugs it off. He’s getting a glimpse of what it would be like to be accepted but he wants nothing to do with it. He just wants to be in his identity. But he’s still getting a picture of it. Then what happens? Stage three. That leads him into the new situation. Same thing happens when he goes to Lord Farquaad. It’s preceded by him fighting off the soldiers who come after him and it’s like a mock wrestling match, like a WWF match. And when it’s done, there’s this scene just for a joke where he’s going like this. He says, “Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here ’til Thursday.” But it’s also, look at this, now he’s starting to accept the possibility of being a hero, getting more of a glimpse. Then, of course, at the 1/4 mark, Lord Farquaad says, “Okay, you want your land back? “Here’s your goal, rescue the princess, “bring her back to me.” That’s the outer motivation, that’s the visible goal. And it happens precisely at the 25%. So, now what happens? For the next stage, the hero is straddling the fence or straddling something. One foot into essence, one foot back. Not fully committed. He’s still talking abut onions and layers and he just wants to go in, get the princess, take her back and be done with it. But he is starting to pursue something that is gonna make him more of a leader, more popular, more accepted, and he’s starting to get closer to Donkey. Which takes risk because he’s never really had a friend before. Then at the midpoint, he gets the princess, they come down the hill, precisely at the midpoint. What happens? He takes off his helmet and tries, there’s that wonderful moment when he smiles that sort of toothless smile trying to look his best. And, now, he realizes, “Wait a minute, “I’m starting to fall for her.” And that’s the point of no return. Especially because the scene that follows, this also runs parallel for the princess, but the princess has been talking in this artificial language. “Thou art my prince and doth thou want to save me? “Thou musteth carry me and give me a kiss,” and all this malarkey. And that’s her living in her identity. The opening shot of the princess is her in a tower. A perfect image of identity because towers are both protective and they’re prisons. Exactly the same opening in Shakespeare in Love. Opens in a castle so she’s perfectly protected. She’s there and safe and apparently well fed and stuff. But she can’t leave. She’s stuck. And, of course, her identity is she is defined by others because she’s defined by fairy tales. She knows all the rules, you know? “You’ve gotta carry me away “and then you gotta give me a kiss.” He says, “You’ve had a lot of time to think “about this, haven’t you?” Because he’s saying, “This is your identity,” but he sees her as something more. Later when they have the Robin Hood encounter and she shows that Charlie’s Angels parody kick, he starts to respect her as something more than this hot house flower that he’s rescuing and they start to fall in love. So, that’s the point of no return. He starts pursuing her until he overhears her. He gets too frightened when he hears her talking about ogres as too ugly and you can’t have a relationship with an ogre. He doesn’t know she’s talking about herself because she’s also retreating, at that point, to her identity. But that’s when major setback. Typical for a romantic comedy, which is what this is, the two people will separate at that point. In Sleepless in Seattle, right at the 3/4 mark, Annie, the Meg Ryan character, declares, “I’m back, I’m going back to Walter. “Sleepless in Seattle is history.” Of course, then the audience thinks that all is lost because what’s happened is on the inner level, once the character passes the point of no return, they fully commit to living in their essence. Shrek is gonna open up and risk doing that and now the outside world starts coming in. The conflict in the first half of act two, and someone was asking about that first half, the conflict comes obstacles inherent in the goal. The moat and the dragon and all the things we knew he was gonna encounter. But now what happens is the other world’s coming in. He doesn’t think she can love him. Lord Farquaad comes in and takes her away. So, the hero retreats. The hero gets finally, so frightened of risking this new thing that they make one last try at retreating to their identity. And that really is the major setback at the end of act two. So, they run away and they go back. It’s when, remember, she jumps on the lifeboat. It’s the lifeboat for the rich. She’s gonna make one last stab at being rescued in Titanic by her identity. And then she says what all heroes must then say in stage five. That is, “Wait a minute, this sucks. “This may have worked for me at the beginning “but I’ve had a glimpse, “I’ve had a taste of who I truly am. “This doesn’t work for me anymore. “I can’t do this. “I have to go after who I truly am. “I have to be myself. “And I certainly have to find my destiny.” Which, in a love story, is the other person. And so, that’s the final push. It’s saying, “I don’t care what it takes, “I will risk death because I already experienced it. “My identity is already dead, I can do this.” And they take every last ounce of courage they have until they reach the climax. And the climax is the moment, not only of achieving that visible goal, it’s the moment of fully realizing the character’s essence. And that takes us into the aftermath. The aftermath is the part of the story where we say, “This is now the new life the hero is going to live “having fully realized who they truly are.” At the end of Shrek, we see him leaving the swamp that was his protection and leaving behind the fairy tale creatures. Because the fairy tale creatures were her identity. This is really a movie about getting rid of the fairy tale definition of the way you should be or the way life is and defining themselves. So, they ride off into the sunset and they’re fully living their essence. Or when he says at the end of The Firm. “We’re going back to Boston.” It was interesting when Chris was talking about the elixir ’cause sometimes it’s very subtle but I think the elixir in that movie is the law. He’s saying, “We’re going right back where we started,” which is, I mean there’s a circular pattern if you ever saw one. But now he’s going back to the law because he says, when he’s talking to Ed Harris in that movie, the FBI guy. And he says, “Here’s the tape of our conversation “where you tried to bribe me, “where you forced me to do this.” He says, “I could get a lot for this,” or something like that. He says, “Well, why are you giving it back?” He says, “‘Cause it’s against the law.” And then he says, “You know what you did?” He says, “You made me remember the law.” He said, “Four years of law school didn’t do that. “But you made me remember the law,” meaning, “You put me in touch with who I truly am,” which is someone who stands up for what’s right. Then when Abby comes back, there’s that wonderful line where he says, “Did I lose you?” And she says, “How could you lose me? “I have loved you since the moment I knew you. “And before I loved you, I loved the promise of you. “And you have now fulfilled that promise.” That’s what brings two people together. She says, “I see, I have always known who you truly are. “You just had to step up into it and you’ve done that “so, now, you cannot lose me “’cause that’s who I was always in love with,” not the guy who was scared of the trailer park who had forgotten a lot, the guy who lived his essence. So, the elixir that they take back is he has found his ideals and now he’s gonna go back and be a lawyer that stands up for what’s right and goes serve the law or society or whatever in a different way at the end of the story. One last thing before I open it for questions, which you may or may not want to hear, but as I said at the top, this is very much about real life. Everyone in this room has a visible goal. Might be slightly different but you either want to finish a script or you want to get an agent or you want to finish your novel or you want to get it published or you want to get your movie produced, you want to finish your film, or you have some brass ring you’re after because you long at a deeper level to be a part of making movies. And you are pursuing that goal because it’s part of your longing. That’s the good news. But here’s what I gotta tell you. We all pay lip service to what we long for. There’s a part of all of us that we always have to go back and revisit. That you can say, “Yeah, I want to make it in Hollywood.” But what you also have to ask is, how would you fill in the blank? “I’ll do whatever it takes to sell my script “just don’t ask me to blank.” I did this as an exercise in a class with one of my students and I said, “Would you be willing “to go through this process?” So, she got up in front of the room and she said, “The thing is, I can’t figure out “why I can’t sell my script.” She says, “I’ve written a number of scripts.” I said, “Well, have you read books on screenwriting?” “Yeah, I’ve read books, I’ve taken classes.” “Well, do you have a regular regiment?” “Yeah, I write everyday.” I said, “God, it sounds like you’re doing “everything you can do.” And she said, “Oh, yeah, because when I grew up, I was taught if you want something done, “you do it yourself.” I thought, “Ah-ha.” So, I turned into the sort of shrink/asshole that I sometimes am prone to be and I say, ’cause she was making an identity statement. “Oh, this is who I am. “This is how I was raised.” So, I said, “Let me ask you something. “When was the last time you phoned somebody “and asked them to help you sell your script?” And you could practically see her melt. It was like the Wicked Witch of the West. “No, no, no,” because when you touch somebody’s identity, it is, you’ve, like, slapped them upside the head because that’s what her wound was. She was raised to believe you can’t ask for help. And I said, “Let me ask you something.” And I said, “Why not?” She just got very frightened at the prospect. But I said, “Let me ask you something. “Why do you want to be a screenwriter?” She said, “‘Cause I love it. “I just love movies and I love taking that story and–” And I said, “If I could promise you “you would have that experience every day of your life, “would you be willing to risk calling people “and asking for help?” And she said, “Sure,” because that’s the solution. You’ve got to get in touch with your inner conflict. You’ve got to get in touch with your identity but the answer is find your longing and live in that space, risk going into that space because that’s what heroes do. They want so badly to get that, that finally it’s worth the danger and worth the risk of dying, of letting who they thought they were, die and resurrecting at something much more.