IFH 190: Understanding The Hero’s Journey with Chris Vogler

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We have all heard about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey by this point but what is it really. Chris Vogler, the author of [easyazon_link identifier=”193290736X” locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers[/easyazon_link] and the man who brought the Hero’s Journey into the film industry, breaks down the ordinary and special worlds of the hero’s journey. Enjoy.

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 [easyazon_link identifier=”0061791431″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Writing Screenplays That Sell[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”1932907203″ locale=”US” tag=”whatisbroke-20″]Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read[/easyazon_link]; 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.

Alex Ferrari 1:14
So guys, today on the show, we have Chris Vogler who is the writer of the writers journey, which breaks down Joseph Campbell's hero's journey for filmmakers and screenwriters. And I wanted to take an excerpt from his amazing course that he did with Michael Haig called the screenwriting blueprint, the heroes, two journeys. And Chris and this, this clip that I'm sharing with you guys, goes through the breakdown of the ordinary world versus the special world in the hero's journey. And it's an act, it's kind of a part of the hero's journey that is not discussed in detail very much out in the world. So I wanted to kind of bring this to you guys, give you guys a little bit of a taste of the kind of killer information that's in this course. And it has over I think, 4000 students and is one of the best selling screenwriting courses on Udemy. And of course, because you guys are part of the tribe, I will give you a special discount code at the end of the episode. So sit back, take some notes, and enjoy.

Chris Vogler 2:27
Now I got my terminology, mostly from Campbell, I've adapted it a little bit, and I've edited here and there because he wasn't talking about movies, he was talking about myths and legends, fairy tales, and folklore. And they're similar, but they do have their distinctions. And I urge all of you to think this way, as you listen to these ideas and anyone's ideas about writing, I think you find there's Oh, there's a useful idea. And that's, that's right. I agree with that. And that, oh, I never thought of that before. But at some point, I think you make up your own. And you you create your own lingo and your own shared language with the people that you work with. And I think that's what you must do here is absorb it and, you know, take notes or pull out a piece here and there that sounds right to your observation of the world. This is all about how you perceive things as an artist. So you've got to make it your own. And that's why Campbell called his book, The hero with 1000 faces not the hero with one face. He could have said that, because in a way it's true. There is one general human story that keeps being told over and over. But he said, No, it's 1000 faces because it shifts with the point of view of each person, and especially each culture. So cultures have some distinctions here. Now, the four movements, Campbell gave names to and I have stuck by those, by and large, the opening movement, he just called separation. Separation, because that is the act or the action that is happening in that first act. There is a lot of wordplay in this system. In this way of looking at things and I find often you have to look at the words and their origins, or understand two or three meanings for them to really get the full package. When we say an act in a script or a play, we mean a division of time. But we also can mean an action that's being performed. And what's the action of the first quarter of most stories? It is to separate from something from that ordinary world. So think about your own stories as we go through this and see does this apply? Does this make sense? It's no problem. If it doesn't, because we're flexible here, but I think this is what you must do is try to plug it into your own your own story. But I find most stories have this, this general action going on for the first, say 2025 minutes, it's all about pulling up your roots and breaking the apron strings and getting out of one environment and into another, sometimes with difficulty. And sometimes with great eagerness. I mean, for example, in the firm, the character is separating from that old world. And in fact, he's running from it, you know, running from the fact that his mom is in a trailer park, and that he has an unacceptable brother. He doesn't want to face any of that. So he's running headlong into this. That's one condition, other heroes are still clinging to their ordinary world and have to be yanked out of it. But the act of separation is the key verb there. The second movement takes you across this line that separates the two worlds so you're entering this new world, and Campbell says, most likely, what's going to happen is some avocation of the feeling of the sense, that's the act is to descend. Now, there are many ways to describe this. And I would point out to you that my way of looking at things is poetic. I'm all about metaphors. Because Campbell said, That's what a story or a myth really is. It's a metaphor. So when I say something like descent, it may be well, they're not descending. In my story, they're actually climbing at that point. You know, don't be so literal about it, don't get hung up on the specific verse, think about the intention behind them the idea of leaving something and taking a plunge in a figurative sense, into some new world. We talk, for example, about falling in love. And in a love story, you will maybe separate from a former love or from some condition where you can't love or be loved. And then you begin to and it has that feeling even in the language of falling, falling in love. Now, that takes you around to roughly the halfway point, Michael's 50% are what Sinfield calls the midpoint, very important moment in my way of looking at things because it gives punctuation to the story, it gives a signal to the audience that a section is done, the work of one part is done. Now something really big usually happens in roughly the middle of the story, it may be delayed, to maybe 75%. But some major event has to be confronted here. And that has usually a characteristic of death and rebirth. Now, this is the key of my whole approach. And Campbell's whole idea is that all the myths and legends are replaying some kind of symbolic scene for us, that represents the mystery of death and rebirth, that in order to go through the stages of life, the idea is that to live fully, and to fully express yourself and fully experienced these various stages we all go through the old life has to die, you can say the ego has to die time. And again, you know, and this isn't just a one time thing in your life. It happens over and over. So there is that sense in all literature and art of re presenting this Tableau of death and rebirth and the ancient myths, the Greek drama, all of the art from the ancient world is somehow expressing this idea of death and rebirth in the actual legends themselves, the myths, the heroes often go into some cave and fight a dragon or they go into the underworld and face death, or they actually die, and somehow, by a miracle are brought back to life. And we see this in religions around the world. And it's a very, very common and well understood thing. And it seems to work at all levels, even down to jokes, and comic books and the most silly sitcom or Kids Animation show. They all somehow touch a corner of this idea of death and rebirth. So you're descending towards that death. And then the next movement, the third part of the circle, third quadrant of the circle is what Campbell calls initiation. And it's a little strange to have an initiation three quarters of the way through the story because initiation doesn't mean beginning a new beginning. What is meant here is that yes, you are beginning again, with this new life. You've the old life has died in the first After the story, now you have survived this ordeal of death, and some part of you has died or you dealt with death somehow. And now you are initiated into the new life. This is the beginning of that rebirth process. And there are many ups and downs that can happen here. Sometimes you have loved scenes, as people earn the right to be loved by shedding and sacrificing the old ways. You may also have problems like ego inflation, because, hey, we've faced death, and we've conquered the devil. And we've stood up to the forces of darkness. So aren't we as powerful as they are, you know, and this is what happens sometimes in war stories, or in police dramas, where the hero sort of gets slimed by the struggle with the opposition, and they take on some of the qualities of the enemy. So there are possible pitfalls here. But the main idea is one of just getting your bearings and experimenting again with the idea of this new life. Now, the final movement, the last quadrant, Campbell calls return, because in most stories, there is a sense of closing the cycle, and coming back around to a beginning point. Sometimes it's very literal, and geographic and architectural, you go back to the same building, or the same room, or the same town, and revisited that place having changed, you see it differently. Now, your attitude and your performance is different, because of what you've been through. But there are some special cases that I should mention. One thing is to keep in mind, and I think we have some examples that touch on this, that we'll be discussing today. But there is a mode, the tragic mode, where the hero makes a mistake, either early on, they are in denial about something, as in the case of notorious, there's denial of love, of the evident fact of love staring them in the face. They're two movie stars, after all, I can't they see that they're meant for each other. So there, but there's denial about that. So the whole movie is tending to disaster, but it's rescued just at the last moment. And then there's another tragic case where the hero may do everything right. But then below it at the end by sliding back to old behavior or denying, you know, the wonder of everything that he's learned so far. So the tragic cases one sort of subset of this, where they may not return or they may not complete the thing, and that's the tragedy is that they failed. The other interesting exception is something you find in foreign films in Australian movies, in movies from Asia, sometimes, it French films like to do this in student films like to do this, they don't have this conventional closed structure. This is this close structure on describing is the fairy tale form. And Hollywood movies are a lot like fairy tales, they have the same sort of parental attitude of putting you to bed. After scaring you a little bit with a story, they put you to bed reassured that, you know, all your cultural values are just the same. And so we return and nothing really has changed. But there is this other pattern where instead of returning and closing the circle, it's open, open ended. And the story may loop off into some infinite direction or new turn, it may hook into another story if there's going to be a sequel. So you complete part of the journey, but leave some things open like the villain gets away as in Star Wars at the first Star Wars movie. I mean, we killed the Death Star and we rescued the princess. But Darth Vader spun away and we know he's going to come back someday. And there's also a wink between Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. So we know something is going to go on between them later. incest if I'm reading it, right. But that's, that's left to be discovered. So this open ended possibility is there. I think it's creeping into American movies, a little bit of more awareness or acceptance of this, where you don't resolve every question, and you leave some mysteries and question marks. And again, this is about punctuation. Most American movies and with very emphatic punctuation, and exclamation point, we won Hooray for us. Hooray for our side. You know, Top Gun is like this. Yay. We killed some Russians that have families at home and wow, aren't we great. We killed those Russian fliers. So, you know, we end most have our American films this way or with a period that it's definitely over. That's the end, that's all. But there is this other possibility that things can go off into the ellipsis of dot dot dot. Well, then who knows what happened, you know, and the attitude is a little more mature, and less parental. And the idea is, I'm not God here as the filmmaker, I'm a participant in the art just like you are. So let's all together figure out how this ends, you go home and keep talking about it. So there's a sense that the story goes on in the creative discussion that's been stirred up, or it may end with a question mark of did they? Did they get together? Did they make love? Were they meant for each other? Is it a happy ending or not? And in this open ended form, often they will end with with this hook of a question mark. I think it's interesting. Just even the shapes of these things, the question mark, is shaped like a hook. And the questions are very important in both the inner and outer journey of setting up at the beginning, some problem or question, will he achieve that outer goal and will he or she overcome this entire thing that we're going to talk about later?

Alex Ferrari 16:15
Understanding the hero's journey is is like basically 101 screenwriting one on one you have to understand that concept, you have to understand that whole process and Chris is the leading expert in the in Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. If you want to know more about Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, the writers journey by Chris folder, or about the course, head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/190. And as promised, the discount code is IFHDIS. That's IFHDIS doing the checkout. It normally retails for 175 bucks. But I'm giving to you guys for 15 bucks. So it is if you're a writer, or filmmaker and wants to understand more about the hero's journey, definitely check it out guys. Now on a side note, I told you guys I was going to be doing a whole bunch of new stuff on YouTube and that stuff is happening now. We're gonna be releasing three episodes every week for the foreseeable future. On Tuesdays will be released a new episode of The director series, which is a series that is a video essay series that follows the entire careers of David Fincher Stanley Kubrick, Chris Nolan, PT Anderson Coen Brothers, Terrence Malick, and, and so on. And currently we are in Christopher Nolan, as of this recording, just released that one yesterday. On Wednesdays we're going to be releasing indie film hustle Film School, which are going to be lessons from many of the many courses that we have and upcoming courses that we have as well. And just film school tips, things about how to create films. And then on Thursday, we're going to be doing rebroadcast of the podcast on YouTube as well. And I do have a show that I'm going to be doing in the near future I got to just work around the schedule when I can actually shoot it. And there'll be little videos here and there clips quotes inspirational stuff that I'll be uploading but the indie film hustle YouTube channel will become much more active. And if you want to go check it out, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/YouTube and subscribe Guys, please subscribe and you'll get updated as soon as new videos are uploaded. So thank you guys so much for listening. I hope you got something out of this episode. And as always keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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