I’m taking a journey down the rabbit hole of screenwriting psychoanalysis with Professor William Indick, who is a psychology professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey, professor of psychology executive chair of faculty at Dowling College, and author of Psychology for Screenwriters.
We take a nerdy dig into the world of psychology and how it affects writers, screenwriters, and characters. With some expert contextualization, William psychoanalyzes some of our favorite films and characters while also breaking down character archetypes and themes he has studied.
How did it all start, you ask?
Well, in 2003 he made the decision to incorporate more culturally relevant theories of personality instead of antiquated theories in his psychology classes by sorting references from famous films. Based on his students growing interested and fascination, William researched to find psychology textbooks about films, but none existed. So he wrote one instead.
The book was published by Michael Wiese productions in 2004. Psychology For Screenwriters supports that screenwriters must understand human behavior to make their stories come alive. This book clearly describes theories of personality and psychoanalysis with simple guidelines, thought-provoking exercises, vivid film images, and hundreds of examples from classic movies.
Basically, the book takes general psychology theories and applications and adapts them into helpful tools for screenwriters.
He delves into various genre archetypal characters and themes that are repetitive in screenplays in the second edition of the book which will be out soon.
Just this summer, William published his sixth book, Media Environments and Mental Disorder: The Psychology of Information Immersion. It deals a lot with narcissism, and the notion that all media is a mirror, and how we understand ourselves at a time when we’re constantly being reflected in a million ways. The information environments that modern society requires us to master and engage in are based on literacy and digital communication. Mediated information not only passes through our brains, it alters and rewires them. Since our environment, to a large extent, is shaped by the way we perceive, understand, and communicate information, we can even think of mental disorders as symptoms of maladaptation to our media environments.
This book uses this “media ecology” model to explore the effects of media on mental disorders. It traces the development of media from the most basic forms–the sights and sounds expressed by the human body–to the most technologically complex media created to date, showing how each medium of communication relates to specific mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and autism. As the digital age proceeds to envelop us in an environment of infinite and instantly accessible information, it’s crucial to our own mental health to understand how the various forms of media influence and shape our minds and behaviors.
My conversation with William was one of those discussions that you come out of, more informed than you went in.
We had a blast. Enjoy my very informative conversation with William Indick.
Alex Ferrari 0:11
I'd like to welcome the show Bill Indick. Man, how you doing Bill?
Williams Indick 0:14
Good, how are you?
Alex Ferrari 0:15
I'm good, my friend. I'm good. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Um, I'm excited to dive into the world of psychology and how it affects writers and screenwriters and characters and cycle analyzing some of our favorite films and characters, which I I do on the show often as a, as a non professional, without a PhD, as I'm sure you've run into too much. But before before we get started, what made you decide to write a book about psychology for screenwriters.
Williams Indick 0:47
Um, so it's this is going back to 2003, so almost 20 years ago, and I was just starting out as a psychology professor, and I was teaching classes like abnormal psychology and theories of personality where you have to, you know, get into the nuts and bolts of psychological theory, Freud, Erickson, young, all those guys. And I was finding it hard to sort of get these very old theories to be relevant to my students. And I, you know, my idea was, okay, well, let me take something that's I find fascinating and interesting, and some and use it as an example to apply it to. So I started doing little short film analyses in class as examples of these classic personality theories. And it really worked very well. So I said, Oh, you know, what, I should get a textbook on like, how to do you know, basically a psychology film book, but none existed, there was really none about specifically applying psychoanalysis to film analysis. So I wrote the book. And one of the people that I shopped the book around to was Michael Reese, and Michael Reese productions. And he said, this is great idea. But we write books for filmmakers, we write books for screenwriters, and they wanted not an academic text for more sort of a practical guide. So I said, Okay, take the same theories, the same applications and just turn them into something that would be helpful for screenwriters. So instead of, you know, saying, Okay, as you analyze a film, think about this, saying, as you write a film, think about this in more sort of analytical ways.
Alex Ferrari 2:22
So can you, like do a cycle analysis on a genre? I like it, because I know you wrote another book about, you know, the psychology of westerns and things. Can you break down like general overall psychologies of specific genres? Are there like key things that are in most of films in certain genres?
Williams Indick 2:40
Absolutely. And that's one of so psychology for screenwriters is going into a second edition, and I had to add three chapters. And basically those three chapters are going to be based on these books I wrote about psychoanalysis, for specific film genres. So in any genre, you're going to have basic character types, which in psychology will typically call archetypes after Carl Jung's theory. So in the western, you have this sort of cast of characters that basically reappear in every film, you have, you know, the cowboy hero, who's oftentimes an anti hero, you have a villain character who usually, quote unquote, a dude. The word dude refers to Easterner who was out west, I don't know how it became just a sort of general term for person. But that's so the villain is usually a dude from the east or a banker or a railroad person or evil cattle Baron, somebody who wants to own the land rather than live in it in a more sort of wholesome or holistic with respects to land. Yeah. Oh, yeah. So you have the quote unquote, horror with a heart of gold character, and then the nice sort of virginal schoolmarm character, and all those characters exist as archetypes. Within this specific mythology that we call the West, and the archetypes change, they grow up and they, you know, become darker usually, but they don't really change the same basic motivation, which is redemption, usually for the, for the hero, that stays the same. And you could do the same thing with horror movies and psycho psychological science fiction, musicals, comedies, every genre exists because there are these archetypal characters and archetypal themes that just repeat themselves over and over again. So yes, you can certainly do a psychoanalysis of genre and I've been doing it and do it again.
Alex Ferrari 4:31
So okay, so let's break down, let's say, the action genre, which is probably one of the most popular genres, sci fi, sci fi and action are both very popular, what are you know, actually a very broad genre. But generally speaking, in your, from your point of view, what are some of the kind of like, archetypes that are constantly in their cycle analyzing that genre?
Williams Indick 4:53
So I would say if we're talking about American films, and that's really I don't know about you, but certainly I'm not particularly comfortable talking about any other rights other than American films. But um, the western was incredibly influential, and really dominated the whole film market for that whole period going from the sort of mid 40s to the early 60s. So what we call the action genre is really just something that evolved out of the Western genre, people saying, hey, maybe we can make an exciting film with guns and chases, and all that exciting stuff happening, but not set in the West. So people started coming up with different types of action movies. But it really basically is the same as the western genre. So you have the same basic kind of hero, this sort of slightly dark character with a good heart who finds it hard to fit in, in his environment, because of his own personal code of honor, that doesn't necessarily mix with the hypocrisy of modern day. And you basically, you take this Western character, and you put them in the city, and you give them a badge, and, you know, a three piece suit. And all of a sudden, he's this the sort of archetypical cop hero, you have the buddy cop movie, that's basically just an extension of the Western genre. And I would say, in this in the 60s and 70s, and 80s, when American culture was getting kind of sick of the Western, we saw a lot more action movies based on this cop hero. archetype, who is essentially the western hero, then starting in the 70s, but really getting a lot of traction in the 80s began to see Action. Action movies based more on classical superheroes, from sort of ancient myth, like people that we call superheroes, people who aren't just regular men, you know, with who are very quick with a gun, but people who are who actually have superpowers, like gods, so Superman, Batman, Spider Man, and that is, you know, a rather different type of story. And that calls upon these ancient patterns of the hero that go all the way back 1000s and 1000s of years, to the ancient Greeks in the ancient Romans, the ancient day ends and Christians, the classical hero, so to understand that character, we really have to kind of study from Joseph Campbell's some Carl young, and move away from the very specific American action hero that basically just an offshoot of the Western hero, the cowboy,
Alex Ferrari 7:30
so the Yeah, cuz I was gonna ask you Next is like, Well, obviously, the the dominant genre in popular movies is superhero. I mean, yeah, it is. It's taken over all other genres. And do you believe in your, in your opinion, do you think what Spielberg said is true? Where we're going to, we're going to get tired of superhero movies, eventually, in the next 15 years, like, we're just going to be like, it's over. Let's move on to something else, just like the western was like the western. But you know, sci fi has always been sci fi action has always been action like there's I don't, but this specific genre of superhero, do you think that that's going to eventually happen?
Williams Indick 8:10
Yeah, you reach a point with any medium point of saturation, where people will have gift had enough and they need something else. That doesn't necessarily mean that the archetypes change. Again, people got sick of westerns in the 1960s, when nine out of 10 TV shows were westerns, and this was something like six out of 10 feature films released every week was a western people got sick of it. And it wasn't as relevant in a time when people were less gung ho about being American in the 60s. So what happened, two things happened, the genre itself became darker and more realistic in an attempt to kind of better reflect the American spirit. And that really kind of killed the western for a while. But the other thing that happened was, the setting changed. And we took the same basic characters and just put them in a different setting. So I would say probably somebody, something similar is going to happen with superheroes, where we're seeing it already, we're seeing the characters get darker and darker and darker. And at one point, it reaches a point where a character gets so dark that nobody wants to identify with that character anymore. It's too dark, like some of the Western characters we saw in the late 60s and early 70s. So yeah, we'll reach that point of saturation, where people just are sick of it. And also we'll reach the point of where the character itself the main character gets too dark, and it's going to have to change. What will it become after that? Well, you never really know. But it's essentially it's the same basic archetype, whether he's in a war movie, or Western or action movie or a superhero movie, basically the same characters with different settings. It take George Lucas, you know, he came around at a time when the western was really dead. And he said, Well, what if I just take a Western and set it in outer space, and instead of lightsaber it's just like samurai swords? Yama. So samurai swords. lightsabers, and he took a state your basic Western plot, mixed a few things in it and came up with Star Wars, which captured everybody's imagination, you know, for decades and decades and decades. And not many people complained, oh, this is just a Western setting Outer Space doesn't matter.
Alex Ferrari 10:16
Right. And I mean, let me he picked obviously he picked he took Seven Samurai and, and hidden fortress specifically, and which are basically, Western semi samurai. Samurai films are westerns, and magnificent, Magnificent Seven and all that stuff. And it's so funny because the this the the success of the latest incarnation of star which was the Mandalorian on the streaming service. It is as Western as you get. I mean, it is yeah, it goes back to the core roots of Star Wars, which was a Western hardcore Western, but in space. And I mean, it's actually I think Mandalorians even more Western than the original Star Wars is,
Williams Indick 10:59
it's a straight up Western, when you see it, you have this character who is the quintessential cowboy hero, he sort of comes in the wilderness, he's in this frontier territory, where everything's kind of dark and scary, yet he has his own personal code of honor. He has this sort of path towards redemption. It's, it's the most traditional Western I've seen in a very long time, and only the setting is different.
Alex Ferrari 11:23
Exactly. And then the whole lone wolf and cub story with him and baby Yoda is also it's just a complete callback to Japanese westerns.
Williams Indick 11:32
Yeah, and the Yoda, the baby Yoda. We've seen that before in westerns, there was specifically there was a film called three godfathers of classic Western that was remade a bunch of times. And probably the classic version was directed by john Ford, with john wayne in it. But the basic premise is you have these three cowboy outlaws, and they're on the run. And they run into a, what he called a wagon train that's been attacked by Indians. And the only survivor is a mother and her newborn baby and the mother died. So now they have to take care of this baby. And yeah, so you have these three really tough guys, like Three Men and a Baby.
Alex Ferrari 12:11
Are you ready? Yeah, you read my mind. I was like a three minute baby.
Williams Indick 12:14
And, but their whole struggle is to you know, deliver this baby to New Jerusalem to this town and a half to fight the wilderness fight Indians, you know, and go through all that and that so uh, yeah, baby Yoda is directly from that. But I mean, when I was watching the Mandalorian, I was thinking, I should probably write something about this show. So not only it's a very traditional Western, but every episode is based on kind of a classic Western movie. Like, like three godfathers or the searchers. You know, it's been a while since I've seen it, but but I was very, very much impressed by Jon Favreau, who's he did a lot of the writing and all the directing, saying, like, this guy knows his westerns, and he's really applying it in a great way. And the wonderful thing about taking a genre like the western, which has very established archetypes, and plots and characters, and just changing the setting is that you don't have to make the characters as dark as they would normally be. Because while people are sick of the sort of a cowboy hero in the white hat in the white horse, perfect character who's so good that he's unbelievably good. People did get sick of that in the 50s, and 60s. But when George Lucas put them in outer space, we have you know, Luke Skywalker, who's again, this classic, very pure white hat, white costume character. Meaning if so, if you change the setting, you can go back to the original home template of the genre. So that's kind of a useful thing to know.
Alex Ferrari 13:46
And it really when you set the whole white hat character in the superhero superhero genre, arguably is the the godfather of all superheroes, which is Superman is very difficult to write for, because he is that white hat character. And at a certain time in American history and world history. That was acceptable in the 70s when Christopher Reeve showed up, it was fine. You wanted that kind of, you know, apple pie kind of character. But as time has gone on, he seems so unrealistic that they had to, like try to darken them up. I'm like, but that's not the character you can't. That's why Batman has been he just days because he's, he's such a realistic character. I mean, to a certain extent, obviously, but much more realistically, dark character. He's a realistically dark character, and he's very vulnerable. And all this stuff. When you're writing for Superman, you're writing for a god. And that was the problem with ancient Greeks. You know, in the myths of ancient Greece, like, well, they had to give them human fair frailties, to be able to write a story about him because if they're just, there's no power in there's no power that can stop them, then why are we watching this? There's no conflict.
Williams Indick 14:53
Yeah, well, when you have a character who's super powerful, the only person who can defeat them is themselves. Eventually, eventually, you have to come to a point of either such darkness when the character is destroying himself, or you have to change the setting, or it changed things around a bit. But yeah, we see. So we see, the same thing with superheroes that we did with the Western characters is at a certain point, we reach point of saturation. So two things happen is one is people start messing around with the setting. And the other thing is people start making the characters themselves get darker and darker, so that they're more interesting and more identifiable. But then you get, you get to a certain point where the character is too dark, and something has to flip, there's a reversal. So like, just to sort of wrap up what we've been talking about with westerns and superheroes, you have the western, the western gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And then to the at the point of saturation, it turns into the anti Western turns into a very dark scenario that people are interested in seeing. At the bottom point of it is people are going to the movies to be entertained, not to be edified, or not to be lectured at, and not to have a dark, dismal time with a character who's just completely reprehensible. So, so what happened was, you had a flip reversal, you took the exact same genre, you just change the setting, like Star Wars, or Superman, and now you have all of a sudden, you can have this character who's totally pure and perfect again, because people don't recognize it as the western. But then over time, again, saturation gets in characters get darker and darker and darker. And then there's going to be a flip or reversal, where all of a sudden people like oh, like we have a brand new movie genre, but it's not. It's just,
Alex Ferrari 16:39
it's just, it's all fun. We've been recycled, we've been recycled, the same stuff since the beginning.
Williams Indick 16:47
Well, one question that's relevant is, well, why can't anybody come up with something that's completely original? Why do we always have to recycle the same characters, the same basic plots, the same basic scenarios? And the answer is, life isn't as complicated as you think it is. And in terms of identifiable struggles that characters can have, there's not that many, you know, you have the sort of classic struggle for redemption, the classic struggle for revenge, those are the two classic themes in westerns that we see in action movies, as well. You have love the search for love, the search for connection, the search for community, the search for some type of meaning, meaningful connection with others, beyond and then there's the fight against evil, or whether evil is embodied by you know, enemies, or by, you know, a wilderness or by some type of danger. Those are the classic themes, and you can't really get away from them, it's hard to come up with an idea for a movie that's going to be dramatic and have conflict and keep people's interest, if you don't touch upon one of those key themes.
Alex Ferrari 17:51
Yeah, in a lot of young writers, a writer starting out, they always like, Well, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna go to any of them, I'm going to come up with something new. I'm like, Listen, you've got to build a house. And there are there's basically about eight or 10 blueprints, you can use. And within those blueprints, you could go crazy. I mean, obviously, look at all the beautiful buildings have been created throughout the world. But at the core, the structure still needs a floor, still needs walls, still needs doors still needs windows in one way, shape, or form, to make this work. And within that scope, within that structure, you could do whatever you want. And that's why I think a lot of young writers fail because they just go off not thinking that they're not being original.
Williams Indick 18:32
And it's and the house is a good metaphor, because the most important thing a house must have is a strong foundation, which nobody sees, you don't see the foundation. So when people think, Oh, you know, I'm going to do something completely original. They're possibly going into the process thinking I don't need a foundation. But we all need a foundation can't see it doesn't make it any less important. In fact, it makes it more important. And that's what the psychoanalysis and psychology gives you. Because if psychology is a study of human behavior, and if film essentially is just human behavior projected onto screen, well, what's underlying all of that behavior? What are people's motivations? What are their both their conscious and their unconscious motivations? There's nothing more interesting than a character who thinks he's doing one thing, but it's actually doing something else and then has to realize at a certain point through an epiphany or revelation, you know, why they're doing what they're doing? Um, that's part of the foundation of any character is what is the secret foundation to this characters issues? And how can it be revealed in a way that doesn't reveal the foundation? Meaning How can I make people understand what this character is going through and what their real inner struggle is by providing symbols and metaphors through some type of outward plot or since it's an external conflict. So the idea is, there's internal conflict. That's what the character is dealing with. That's what we as the viewers identify with, but it all because it's film, it all has to be visualized. It has to be externalized. And objectified in a way that everybody can get, even though they're not psychologists and they're not necessarily doing film analysis.
Alex Ferrari 20:18
So let's let's let's do an experiment here. Can we cycle analyze? One of the more famous heroes of all time, Indiana Jones. Let's Let's psychoanalyze Indiana Jones because because then yeah, if you mean everyone listening, this has if they haven't seen Indiana Jones out there, you got some homework. You've got some homework to do, but he's one of the most, at least if I like the third one. Come on. The third one's pretty good. Yeah. Sean Connery. Yeah, yeah, that's the first three, first three, the fourth one who knows what happened there? But anyway, um, now we can search for more money. And they're doing an apparently that's they're just continuing. Because I think Harrison I think he just broke a hip or something. doing his ad. Now he's doing the next one. But, you know,
Williams Indick 21:01
I hope they're casting him as the mentor character and not the hero, because that's got to be the hero.
Alex Ferrari 21:06
I mean, he's just I mean, at a certain point, I mean, unless you're, unless you're a character like Clint Eastwood and Unforgiven, then you can be the old ie the old hero, but it's different. Yeah. Much, much, much, much, much different. Sorry. So talking about Indiana Jones. What How would you psychoanalyze him? And and can you pinpoint why so many people love that character? It's an adoring character in a time when there's a lot of characters, and there was a lot of copycat, you know, archeology, you know, adventure films made after Indiana Jones. But for whatever reason, and you could say, it's Harrison. And you can say it's the writing and the directing. But for you as on a character cycle analyst cycle, cycle analysts way, what do you think?
Williams Indick 21:51
I think it's the producer, I think it was George Lucas, who has this sort of wonderful eye for archetypes. And he and he saw, he got off and he read the comic book, or however, he saw that character and said, Oh, okay, I see this character, he's a cowboy. He's your classic cowboy hero, but he's in a different setting. And, you know, I, I'm sure George Lucas recognized and said, Oh, I did that with Star Wars. And it worked out really, really well. I took it took the classic Western hero, change the setting, change the scenario a bit. And everybody immediately identifies with his character who's very American, who's very sort of action oriented at but but also has a very basic sense of honor. And also is very American in the way he does things, which is he does things primarily by himself, and does not ask permission or forgiveness, he just does whatever he thinks he should do, tip it oftentimes in a very, very violent way. So we as Americans can identify with that character. So he is that classic hero, and even even dresses, like a cowboy does, with his hat and everything. But there's also, um, you know, so George Lucas took the Western and put it in outer space for Star Wars. For Indiana Jones, he took the western, and he kind of took these superhero character characteristics and put them in with him. So first of all, you have this guy who's super good looking, and, you know, adventure hero, who can do all this stuff. But he's also this brilliant archaeologist, which is, you know, rather unlikely even in a sort of fancy fantasy scenario, can he does seem to have the sort of miraculous powers that Western heroes don't have. So he he is a little bit more of the classic hero, and he's kind of also an Arthurian hero, he's a knight errant, going off on these journeys, to find things like the Holy Grail.
Alex Ferrari 23:45
I was about to say, literally,
Williams Indick 23:47
he's very much the personal hero, meaning he's impure character, or at least pure in his intentions and his motivations. And he's, he's on a good quest. He's going out there to do something good to redeem himself, but but in doing so he redeems the world. Um, yeah, so an interesting sort of amalgamation of these classic heroes you have, you know, the western hero in his costume and his actions and his general kind of approach. And then you have the sort of very classical superhero type of person who has who has all of these superpowers. And then you also have the Arthurian Knight who's who's out on a quest. And he's in he's either rescuing a maiden or he's finding a relic that can save the world or he's defeating some evil enemy like the Nazis. Typically, he's doing all three at once.
Alex Ferrari 24:40
Yeah, and I, I always found that if we're just analyzing just the three Indiana Jones films, the first one and the third one were quests, were the second one was not a quest. It was it was more of he fell upon this scenario, and he's like, I'm gonna go save these kids and I gotta stop what's going on. It wasn't a quest. And I always find in my indie stories, I like a quest, because that's what he's at best at. Is that a fair a fair statement?
Williams Indick 25:09
Yeah, oh, well, he got back to Joseph Campbell. And he would say, you know, there are, there are lots of ways in which the hero finds himself in an adventure. And sometimes it is a quest. And Harold comes and says, look, the Nazis are gonna get this Holy Ark, and we have to get it before them, or something like that, or the Nazis are gonna get the Holy Grail. So that's the very traditional beginning. But then there's also a very sort of classic type of tale, where you have the hero and the hero sort of doing his own thing. And then maybe something like a deer or something, you know, an apparition comes and he sort of follows it into the wilderness. And it's twists and turns, and all of a sudden, he turns around, and he's in the realm of adventure. He's like, how did I get lined up here, but now all of a sudden, here I am. And there's people asking me to help them and they're in desperate need. So it becomes a quest. It wasn't looking for it wasn't directly sort of addressed by a herald character saying you need to do this. But he just sort of finds himself as Joseph Campbell would say, in full career of an adventure. And that's very much, you know, Indiana Jones number two. And I love the beginning part, because it's very exciting. Oh, I love it. And it's a wonderful, Steven Spielberg in sequence of action, action, action, action, but it's also fulfilling that part of the story, meaning the hero gets lost through no fault of his own. And then when he sort of stands up and says, Where am I? Well, you're in intervention. You know, you've got you've got he's got the maiden, you've got the quest, and you've got the villains, and it's all there for you just, you know, just have at it.
Alex Ferrari 26:46
Exactly. Now, so what is someone like Sigmund Freud, have to teach us about character and story?
Williams Indick 26:56
I think probably the most useful stuff we get from Freud, is this notion that we don't understand ourselves, we think we do. But we really don't. And, and when we get frustrated in our lives, it's because we're doing what we think we should be doing. And we have the, what we think is the proper motivation, yet, things aren't turning out the way we want to, and we're not happy the way we think we should be. And Freud said, well, you have to look much deeper into yourself. And you have to look at yourself, like a problem like a like an algebra problem. It's your circumstances. Well, what's going on? Why am I doing these things? And not finding happiness? And what what, why don't I seem to understand myself. And Freud gave us all these tools to try to understand ourselves. So so for example, like defense mechanisms. defense mechanisms are things that we do constantly, all the time to defend our egos in the face of either negative information about ourselves or just negative information in general. And we're constantly defending ourselves from this negative information. But in order for the defense to be effective, we have to be completely unaware of what we're doing. So say a defense mechanism like denial, when there's an obvious problem, but you're not aware of it, because you're in denial. That's something that translates to film very, very well, where you can have a character and we, the watchers, we the viewers are looking at this character and saying, dude, this is there's something horrible that's about to happen, you have to be aware of that. And it's pretty obvious to us, why aren't you seeing it? And it's because they're in denial. And we understand that might not put it in Freudian terms, but we understand Oh, something horrible is gonna happen, and his character is totally unprepared for it. And it's like a train wreck about that happened, and we're watching it, we can't unlock it. Because we've all been in that situation before. And we've all kind of had that wishes. Oh, I wish there was somebody watching me who could Hey, you know, look, look what's gonna happen, you need to prepare yourself. You know? So things like denial and repression and some of the more fancy defense mechanisms like reaction formation are very very very interesting when you put them into characters because the viewer can see where they're going wrong. And but at the same time, they're powerless to help that character kind of like in the movie theater, sometimes we say Hey, watch out. We want to warn them that's an effectual they have to learn for themselves, which is another reason why we identify with these characters is they have to figure out their own weaknesses and then deal with it on their own just like us.
Alex Ferrari 29:35
Now the, you know, with characters they many characters are most characters work on a conscious level, but we as humans, work on a very subconscious level. There's things that motivate and drive us that we honestly in many ways don't even understand why we do things other than when you do that deep dive and psychoanalyst, psycho, you psychoanalyze yourself or You get therapy or you work it out, or it comes out in one way, shape or form through somebody else or another character in your life. Let's say he points it out to you like, Don't you understand why you're pushing everybody away? Because you were abandoned as a child? or something along those lines? Yeah. But to the cut. So can you talk a little bit about the power of using subconscious motivations within character in a story?
Williams Indick 30:23
Sure. Um, so again, it, there's nothing more powerful than seeing a character who's blind to himself. And he, he has to desperately become self aware, in order to save his life. We're in order, you know, to save someone else's life or in order to complete this quest. And again, we identified with that character could we're always in that same situation. So we, it gives us the ability as a viewer, it gives us a certain amount of power, right? Because usually, we're completely blind to our own issues. But when we have somebody else's issues right there on the screen for us to see, we're all you know, we don't know we're doing it. But we're all psychoanalyzing that character. That's why psychoanalysis and film kind of goes along really well together. Because the viewer by default becomes a psychoanalyst, as they're watching this character, they're privy to information that that character doesn't have. Because only we can see that character, objectively, nobody can see themselves objectively. So take, for example, a film that I use as examples of like, Freudian defense mechanisms is a American Beauty, because it's literally they hit everyone. But there's just one scene which is very, very powerful. There's a lot of powerful scenes in that movie. And the power all comes from this revelation of having a character that doesn't know himself. So when he does or says something that makes him momentarily aware of his own issues. It's like a huge revelation. And we if the viewers are like, oh, wow, that's pretty, pretty cool and pretty deep. So there's this one scene. So you know, the film is one scene where he's having a bit of an argument with his daughter and his daughter calls him out on being a perv on perving on her teenage friend, and he says, Jan, you better watch out, you're gonna turn into a bitch, just like your mother. And it just comes out of his mouth. And his daughter is mortified. And he's mortified. He can't believe he said that to his daughter. And he realized how much he hates his wife. And he didn't really I don't think he realized that up until the moment where he said those words. Plus at the same time, he realizes my hatred for my wife, and my hatred for myself, to certain extent for being with with this person that I hate and hates me. It's rubbing off on my daughter. So the worst thing we're doing in this relationship is we're really hurting her. So he has that revelation. And it's all done in this little bit of dialogue. And I say it's mostly done through the just the expression on Kevin Spacey his face after he says that he realized, Oh, my God, I hurt. It's one person who I don't want to hurt. What am I doing? Where am I going? When I you know? And so yes, that's a great example of a defense mech. In this case, the defense mechanism is displacement when you're angry at one person, but you shout at somebody else, a safe outlet. We all do that all the time. But in film, it's so much more powerful because it's it's it's all there for us to see. You know, we set up we're all very aware of it, even if we're not talking about terms like displacement and defense mechanism. We know Oh, he's really angry at his wife. But he took it out and daughter because she touched a nerve by calling him a perv. Because he is a perv. Yeah, so yeah. That's where I think psychology comes in very, very useful for the viewer. But even more useful for the screenwriter, because the screenwriter is the one who has to be very, very explicitly aware of what's going on for their characters. And how these little this little bit of information can come out bit by bit in ways that seem both real to the viewer, and also entertaining and, you know, keeping them engaged.
Alex Ferrari 34:05
Now, what is dream work?
Williams Indick 34:08
The dream work is just a Freud's term for the process of analyzing dreams. And he had, he created a very specific model for doing it. But it's really relatively simple as you can, if you could break it down to two ideas. You have the dream itself that we experienced while we're sleeping. So dream work isn't really for, like daydreams. Those types of fantasies, which are semi conscious, and can be explored just in a sort of regular psychoanalytic way. Because dreams, true dreams are completely unconscious, and they happen while we were asleep. And by the way, 99% of our dreams are never analyzed because we never have any conscious awareness of them. So Freud believed that dreams were important. It was our unconscious minds way of dealing with things IDs and issues that we don't deal with during our waking state. And the two basic principles are that there's the manifest content of the dream, manifest, meaning the clear that what we actually see, which typically doesn't make a lot of sense, or dreams tend to be very illogical. And then there is the latent content. latent means hidden or disguised, meaning the true message of the dream, the true sort of idea that the unconscious is trying to deal with or expressed to ourselves. And, and by analyzing the manifest content by taking the dream as we experienced it, and finding associations for each symbol in the dream, we can uncover the hidden meaning, and then hopefully apply that to our lives in some kind of meaningful way.
Alex Ferrari 35:48
Now, what is normative conflict?
Williams Indick 35:52
Okay, so you're jumping to a different theory, but um, so we have to take one step back to Freud. So Freud believed that dreams, express some type of neurotic conflict, neurotic conflict. So neurotic coming from neuro or the brain, what he means is sort of internal conflict. So there's something we want to do, let's say for Kevin Spacey and American Beauty. what he wants to do is he wants to nail his daughter's teenage friend, which knows, is completely inappropriate, and which she probably doesn't even completely register with himself. It's sort of unconscious desire, that nevertheless is motivating him at every stage in the movie. He's, that seems to be his primary motivation is to become more attractive to this teenage girl so he can seduce her. So this is neurotic conflict, meaning there's one side of him that knows this is wrong, and knows that he's a bad person and a bad father for wanting to do it. Yet there's this other equally strong side of him, call it the end call it the libido that desperately wants this and cannot give it up. It's a fantasy that he knows who's wrong, but it persists because it's has this unconscious power. So so that's what we might say is going on in terms of neurotic conflict. What is normative conflict? Well, Erik Erikson studied really with honor Freud, Freud's daughter. And he wrote when he when Erik Erikson moved to America, from Vienna, in the 40s, he realized that most people didn't really and most people in America didn't understand Freud, that almost everything was lost in translation. And one of the main reasons things were lost in translation why people didn't understand Freud was because it was such a sexual theory. Everything was sexualized. So and in Freudian theory, there is no neurotic conflict without some type of libido without some type of sexual drive, because that's in Freudian theory. That's where all energy comes from. It comes from this basic life urge this libido this need to reproduce, and therefore this need to have sex. Erikson Erickson said, well, all that stuff is true for it in theory, but if people in America can't talk about sex, this is like 1950s. If Americans can't talk about sex, how are they going to understand the theory, they're just going to reject the theory outright, which is what people were doing. But he said, you know, what, you can take the same basic issues that Freud was talking about, and you can unsexual eyes, and you can talk about them in less sexual ways. So he said, you can take neurotic conflict, this internal conflict, and instead of saying, Oh, this is about libido versus guilt, or ID versus super ego, and he's very technical ways, you could say, everybody is always struggling, everybody is conflicted. Why? Well, we want to be normal people and lead normal lives. And we want to be true to ourselves. Yet at the same time, everybody in our environment is putting these demands on us. Our parents want us to be one thing, and our teachers want us to be another thing. And our siblings Expect us of us and our wives and girlfriends and boyfriends, and everybody expects something from us. And those expectations mean that we have to become the person that they want us to become. But we also want to stay true to ourselves. And that's a true conflict, and there's nothing necessarily sexual about it. So that's what we mean by normative conflict. It's neurotic conflict, same exact thing, but not in sexual terms. And it is also more about self identity. How do I understand myself? How do I define myself, while at the same time, satisfying other people's expectations for me?
Alex Ferrari 39:29
Now, I'm not sure if we've covered this or not, but what are some of the archetypes for plot according to a guardian?
Williams Indick 39:36
Okay, well, it'd be really be more to have, according to me, because color you'll never really wrote about movies or anything. Sure. And he wrote about archetypes, but not necessarily archetypes of plot. So but it's the same idea meaning if you have a set of character traits, for, for a certain type of character, and we call the amalgamation of those character, those characteristics, an archetype then we can Do the same thing for a theme meaning basic, the basic characteristics of a theme, become an archetypal theme or a classic theme. And so if we take that and apply that to movies, I mean that if you have a character who audience needs to follow and identify with and be engaged with for 90 to 120 minutes, possibly longer nowadays, we have, you know, a television characters that have, you know, 1000 hours, you know, how are we going to? How are we going to stick with that character? And it's all about motivation. It's all about what is motivating this character? What is holding? And what is holding them back? What's their conflict, what's your struggle. And if we think about it that way, there's only a handful of archetypical plots. There's the revenge plot. And we and we all can identify with that. There's the redemption plot of the character did some bad things in the past, or has led a life which was not completely pure, but now they have a chance to redeem themselves by doing something good and pure for others. There's the love plot of simply character, a character who's in love, but there's some type of obstacle that they have to overcome in order to win the person that they adore. There's the classic quest motivation. You know, so so there's, you know, if you think about it, there's only maybe a half a dozen different plots, different types of motivations that work and can can extend interest in a character for more than, you know, 100 minutes yourself. So that's what we mean by the archetypical plot. And it really ties in with the archetype of the character meaning, an archetypal character is going to have an archetypal theme or not archetypal plot that's driving them along. The two aren't are inseparable. Now,
Alex Ferrari 41:48
I love this. I saw this in your book, I just had to ask you about it. What are some archetypes in the age of narcissism? Because I got we are in the age of Narcissus.
Williams Indick 41:59
Yeah, well, I mean, so in in psychoanalysis, we have the metaphor of the mirror. Now, you know, the idea of looking at oneself. And we, and oftentimes we get confused, because we think we're looking through a window, we think we're looking at other people, but we're looking at a mirror, we're looking at ourselves. And I would say that sort of confusion, which is narcissism. So what was narcissist is a mistake while he looked at a reflection of himself, and became hypnotized or entranced by that image of himself. But he had no idea that he was looking at himself, he thought he was looking at this beautiful young man. And the thing that he was unaware of the reason why this image was so hypnotizing was because it was him. But in a way, it wasn't him. And that's what was hypnotic about it. And we all find ourselves in that situation, right now, with modern media, we all carry around these things, these phones, and you look at it, when it's not on, you're like, Oh, it's just a mirror. We turn it on, but when we turn it on, that's when we lose the accuracy of what it really is. Because we think we're looking at the outside world, we think we're looking at other people's webpages and other people's comments and other people's opinions. But it's all in reflection of who we are. I don't want to get too far off the point. But the the one basic question everybody has is, well, if all of this media is helping us to be informed, helping us to learn about what's going on in the world, and what's going on with other people. Why is why are we the most confused we've ever been? Why do people seem to not understand when a person say like the president of a certain country, is a complete a complete narcissist and only cares about himself and has no real sort of personal morals or virtues of his own? Like, what why does the majority of the country seem to not either not care about that, or not be aware of it, or just accept it and be like, well, that's okay. Everybody's like that. And it's because we're, we, we think we're getting more information, but we're getting less information, because all we're doing is just looking at ourselves, looking for validation of our own opinions, looking for people who repeat what we already believe. And, and this sort of, we're existing in the echo chamber of our own reflections and our own thoughts, and the fact that other people reflect what we're saying what we're thinking or what we want, that doesn't make it less of a mirror, it just makes it a more powerful mirror, a magical mirror, because it really does create that illusion of I'm looking outwards. But in reality, we're just seeking our own reflection. And that's why we have less information because nobody is looking for the truth. We're just looking for what we think we already know. And for validation, confirmation about that. Alright, so how are we plays that apply that to the age of narcissism? Well, the age of narcissism has to do with a modern time when the things that we used to revere what Alfred What's it Adler
trying to think it was Otto ronk, I believe. He called a call that the object of devotion. And he believed in existential psychology, the psychology of existence. He believed that we all need an object of devotion, we need some something outside of ourselves, to devote ourselves to something pure, something good, something to motivate us, and something that we can aspire to. And for all of human history that has been the spiritual that has been God and the different versions of God, you know, just like the hero has 1000 faces, so too does God have 1000 faces. So for most of us, we found that in the heavens, we found that in God, but then we get into the 20th century, and we have all these smart people writing books, and we have Nietzsche saying God is dead. And we have a movement away towards spirituality, because it's not logical. It's not rational. It's not based on what we think we know what we that the narcissist think we know and understand about the world. So we need a different answer. It's kind of like similar to what we were talking about archetypes, like the western hero, super superheroes, meaning when a culture reaches a point of saturation with something they need to move on, they have to change it. So our culture is to a certain standard with either saturated with God, or for what for various reasons found God, no longer meaningful in the way God used to be meaningful. So we have to find other things. And we sit we search outwardly, we search outwardly for heroes, we search outwardly for causes we search outwardly for virtues and issues that we can identify with. But we're fooling ourselves, because we're really just looking at mirrors. We think we're looking outwardly, but we're looking inwardly. And anything that's anything that's a screen is ultimately a mirror, because the only way we understand those characters and those stories, is by associating it with ourselves. So the age of narcissism is this age, when lots of people think they have the answers, and they understand why they're right and why everybody else is wrong. And they just live this life of solipsistic self satisfaction, where they think they have all the answers, they know, they have all the answers, and they're frustrated with everybody else, because they don't seem to be respecting the fact that they have all the answers. But at the end of the day, they're just Narcissus. And they really don't understand other people. And, and they can't, because instead of really trying to understand others, they're just getting more and more reflections of themselves
Alex Ferrari 47:38
as a as a person, a student of psychology. How do you see the society as we've got as the last 120 years that we've had media, as we kind of know it today from the beginning of the film industry, and, and radio and television, and now? computers, internet and all that stuff? How do you think our stories are affecting our society, as far as where we're moving towards? Because we just talked a bit about the age of narcissism. And you can you can kind of start seeing you can see this in the set, 60s and 70s. Were the stories from Hollywood were dark, taxi driver, easy writer. I mean, these are you couldn't even couldn't even conceive of something like that being released today by a major studio. Where do you think this is going for us as a society and also in, in just general American films?
Williams Indick 48:40
It's interesting. Film definitely turned darker in the 60s and 70s. Part of that had to do with the rating system. So prior to the rating system, every movie was was a family movie, family, people went to the movies as families and they sell movies together. So you know, a movie like psycho was seen by tons of, you know, two year olds, and people started to realize like, oh, okay, well,
Alex Ferrari 49:03
this is probably not right.
Williams Indick 49:05
If we want movies to sort of progress as an art form, we are going to have to segregate, you know, children from it. And at the same time, if we want movies to keep on capturing people's attention and make it more interesting, it has to be different from television. Television is a it's for the family. So we have to create movies that aren't necessarily for the family. So the idea of making very dark movies, very dark themes and adding lots of curse words and nudity and sexuality. A lot of that had to do with the struggle to you know, to keep up with television or to compete with television, and cinema trying to redefine itself as an adult art form, as opposed to sort of just mass entertainment, which television had become. And at the same time we saw in America, certainly a much more critical view of America itself. So the old westerns where you had this classic character, who was maybe a little bit dark, because he was violent, and he used violence for his own means, and he used violence in a unilateral way, didn't ask permission. He just killed, killed everybody who thought he should be killed. Um, people in America became a little bit dubious about that. I mean, because at the time, you know, we were in Vietnam, and what the hell are we doing there, and nobody really seemed to know for sure, all we knew was that we, as Americans went there, and just started killing everybody left and right, because we thought that was what we should be doing. And that reflected not just on American society, but on the thing that represents American society. And at that time, certainly by the 60s, it was the western hero, there was nobody, there was no other character that represented America more than the western hero. And that's why the western hero became darker. Because in again, if we apply the notion of narcissism, that when we look at a screen, we think we're looking at something else. But what we're seeing is a reflection of ourselves. If that mirror is not an accurate reflection, know if our feelings about ourselves are dark, and dubious. And we don't know if we're doing the right thing. In fact, if we're pretty sure we're doing the wrong thing, then that mirror reflection in the cinema has to change, it has to reflect that. So that Western hero who best represented America became darker and darker and darker and darker, until it reached a point where nobody wanted to see it anymore. And that was why, you know, it became the superhero. And then the same thing is happening with the superhero, coming darker and darker and darker, until we reached the point where we're not going to recognize that character anymore. It's going to flip and change. So cinema, like television, is this reflection of ourselves on a societal level. And it is very, very true that if you want to get a sense of where a country is where culture is, look at their media, Look at, look at the mirrors that they're using to reflect themselves and see what that tells us. And I would say, you know, right now, our media, certainly for young people is telling us, you know, well, the only way we're going to get out of this mess, is through some type of superhero intervention, some type of divine power needs to come and just change everything. Because we can't rely on people. If you look at the typical super superhero movie, the people that represent average, adults tend to be either corrupt, or downright evil, or just completely helpless and uninformed. They don't know what's going on only the superhero, and usually the adolescent characters that are allied with the superhero who understand the danger, who understand the limits of society, and who know, well, the only thing that can save us is some type of superhero. Possibly, that's why you know, and not our last election, but the previous election, we weren't really looking for a realistic leader for our country, we were looking for some type of fantasy or some type of non person who's who fulfilled fantasies of you know, of being this powerful superhero who's going to change everything didn't work out.
Alex Ferrari 53:20
that's a that's a Yeah, that's a really interesting way of looking at it. Because you're right, right now we are if we're looking at if media is our mirror then superheroes are the dominant force of media that we have in our stories. Right now, and especially in cinema. I mean, if you go back and look at the 80s I mean, Jesus you got you know, Arnold, you've got sly, you got Rambo, you've got commando, you've got you know, Chuck Norris, you've got this America kick ass kind of energy. That was throughout the 80s. You know, that's, that's where the action hero as we know, it today kind of was born. But even then, they were super, they were almost cartoonish versions of like, even now today, you know, you know, Liam Neeson is an action hero, you know, you know, but in the 80s, there would be no way of Liam Neeson or let alone a female action here. And we're now that's doable, but back then it was all muscle bound, cartoon versions of human x, exaggerated versions of ourselves.
Williams Indick 54:26
And I, for whatever reason, that was something our society had to go through. The Western hero as we know him became very dark. And he came to represent the things that we hated about ourselves, you know, the violence, the salep system, the inability to see other people's point of view. And so we had to sort of that hero had to be reborn in a new setting. And it became very, I think, one of the reasons it was very militaristic character, was because in a darkening the western hero we did it in a way that was very reflective of what was going on in Vietnam. And in doing so we kind of cast a pall upon another type of hero, the soldier hero, the warrior hero, which is even more ancient than the western hero. And I think as a culture, we needed to sort of recover from that I need to say, you know what, soldiers are good. The American soldier is inherently a good person who wants to do good things. And yes, he's frustrated by officers who want him to do the wrong thing. Or by you know, the government, you know, there's always that represents that representation of corruption. But the US soldier is a good man, he is a Rambo, he is a what was this Schwarzenegger? Well, commando,
Alex Ferrari 55:43
commando and predator? And yeah,
Williams Indick 55:45
although the American soldier is good, and we can trust him to do the right thing. We needed to reaffirm that to ourselves after Vietnam, and after, you know, that whole period dark period of dark self reflection.
Alex Ferrari 56:00
And officer and gentlemen as well, not as a superhero, but but definitely a positive light on a on, you know, the military deal with Tommy Jesus Top Gun. I mean, that's, that was, yeah, there's, there's as much testosterone and one in one movie ever, is Top Gun and probably 300. I mean, there's just so much testosterone. Through those films, it's not even funny. And a lot of the 80s action films, lethal weapons and all that kind of stuff. It was it was, it was an interesting time, but those films wouldn't play today. Not in the same way. Society has changed. I noticed their Top Gun too, is coming out. But he's the mentor now, but he's the mentor now.
Williams Indick 56:44
Okay. Yeah, I would think I would think so because he's a bit old to be playing that hero character. Yeah, so I'm curious to see how it does. Because I think we are in a bit of a different place. We're not really as open to these unilaterally good American heroes as we used to be. So I would be curious to see you know how that movie does and how it handles the problem of American identity.
Alex Ferrari 57:07
And also don't don't ever underestimate the power of nostalgia. That illness that we have is because I'm like, I was there when Top Gun came out. So I'm the first in line to see it, because I want to go back and relive my youth. And that's I think Hollywood's been doing that now for 34 years.
Williams Indick 57:28
Yeah. I mentioned before the problem with originality that there is essentially no truly original character type. And there is no essentially new original type of plot. But at the same time, you got to use something, something original, it's a new setting a new idea, a new catchphrase something. And it does seem that Hollywood has just gotten stuck in just our recapitulating regurgitating its own archetypes over and over and over again. Possibly, because the foreign market is so important now, and arguably is the foreign market is more important, important than the American market in terms of, you know, making a big film successful.
Alex Ferrari 58:09
Right, and I think comment combining genres genre, you know, crashing genres together, like the Western and the science fiction film with Star Wars. And that's when you start, you know, mashing up all these kinds of different genres that does make things a little bit more interesting. Like, what was the god, there's just so many, but like, when when you bring the superheroes down watchmen, when you're like me, watchmen, you brought the superhero down to the to the ground level, and they have problems. And they're, some of them are assets, and some of them are rapists, and some of them are really good and drunks. And that was a comment that made it a very interesting, made more interesting than just Superman. I'm here to save the day.
Williams Indick 58:58
Yeah, I mean, the good thing about the maturation of any genre is it gets more complex. So like, like when food starts to spoil, the beginning of that process is a complexity meaning it becomes more complex, like, you know, a dark cheese, or complex and interesting than hard cheese or a light cheese. But that's because it's beginning to rot. The first sign of rot is the darkening of the characters. And the and the plots becoming a bit more wiring meaning a bit a bit more sort of complex and over all over the place and unexpected things happening. And that's a sign of genre beginning to beginning to rot beginning to the audience's getting saturated with that. So they're trying to figure out ways of making it more complex and more interesting, but it is the very beginning of the end.
Alex Ferrari 59:52
Interesting. That's I love that analogy. I love that writing analogies like this, the beginning starts to get complex and then it just you can't eat it anymore. surfpoint I'm gonna ask you a couple questions ask all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in your industry or in life?
Williams Indick 1:00:11
I'm thinking probably has to do with my process as a writer. And I did I, you know, I was interested in writing screenplays for a long time, and I wrote novels. And now I took me a long time to find a voice and to find what I'm good at. And it wasn't, it's not really what I originally wanted to do. I originally wanted to be a, you know, what I would consider a creative writer to write screenplays, novels, stories, things like that. And it took me a long time to realize that my voice really is in nonfiction. And I think probably that's relevant to anyone who's a writer, we begin the process, thinking, Oh, I'm going to be doing this, I'm going to be doing that. But I think for most of us, it's a process of self discovery. And the thing that is revealed to us is that what we thought we were good at, or what we thought we wouldn't be good at is not it. Kind of like a typical hero's story where a hero goes on sort of adventure after adventure after adventure. And in the process, they learn about themselves, so that by the end of the process, yes, they've had a victory, they did what they set out to do. But the journey was by far more important and more elucidating than the end. So whenever I'm working on a book, now, it's not so much about me thinking, Oh, is this gonna bring me to the level of success that I'm looking for? But it's more about? Am I being as creative as I can be, even though this is nonfiction? Because my goal now is, is to say, well, there's nothing there's no rule that says you can't be very, very creative in writing nonfiction. In fact, you know, if we look at Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, their nonfiction was incredibly creative. And I think yes, so that might be useful, hopefully, for other writers, or filmmakers, or anyone really, in creative pursuit, is you have to give yourself time to find your voice. And then when you do find your voice, you have to be accepting of that you have to get say, like, Well, you know, I don't want to be that type of writer, I don't want to be that type of director or I want to do stuff that I think is cool. Is that really you? Is that where your strength lies? Is that the type of story you're good at telling? Or is that the story you want to tell? You know, it's a process of self discovery.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:34
Right? I mean, I wanted to be a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, but that just not a thing.
Williams Indick 1:02:43
Yeah. And, again, we go back to this idea of the hero, you know, we have heroes in movies, but we also have heroes and mentors in real life. And I think, you know, most young people starting out, they find someone like, Oh, I want to be Steven Spielberg, or I want to be George Lucas, or I want to be, you know, this famous writer. And we we use these heroes as templates for our own lives. But our choice of selection is not very comforting. We're looking at the most talented and the most successful people ever. And we're saying why can't I be like them? And it takes a long time for us to, for me to look, give ourselves a break and be like, well, you're not going to be Steven Spielberg. You're not going to be even Steven Soderbergh. That's not who you are. But you can do great work. And you can, you know, love your work. And you can do great interesting things. If you find your voice, if you and if you allow your voice to be heard.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:37
You know what the funny thing is that I think George Lucas and Spielberg wanted to be Kurosawa. And, and quote, unquote, they wanted to be Kurosawa. But he's like, I can't be corsage. Well, I guess we'll just be ourselves. And it worked out, okay, for them.
Williams Indick 1:03:52
It's a part a part of growing up is figuring out who you are, where your strength lies. And it's a bit sad. But yes, resigning yourself to the fact that you're not going to be this dream character based on fantasy that you were trying to be when you were 13 years old. When you're 23, you have to find a new hero and find a new mentor and redefine yourself. And we have to do that at every age of life. Or else we're just going to be constantly, you know, defeating ourselves,
Alex Ferrari 1:04:21
and what are three of your favorite films of all time? Okay.
Williams Indick 1:04:26
First one that always comes to mind is just searchers in that job for 1936 john wayne, and I love that movie for so many reasons. One reason is what we were talking about before, we were talking about how westerns, certainly in the 50s 60s, represented the American character and was a mirror to American society. And in the searchers, john Ford did something that was really fearless. He took john wayne, who was identified as the American hero so strongly that people Like every everybody thought that john wayne was a war hero. He was a warrior. His career was just taking off. He didn't go to war he stayed behind, while everybody else but But nevertheless, he was on all these war movies and people always considered him the quintessential American hero of his age. But he wasn't. So john Ford said, I want to tell the story. It's a classic American story, but it's very dark, because we have a character who's a racist. And when his daughter not done it when his niece is abducted by these comanches His goal is at first to rescue her. But then it's the killer. He wants to kill her because she's living among the Indians. She's, you know, she's gone native. And the only way that he could rest with that, if he killed her, by his own hands is very, very dark character. quest is to kill a little girl, who is his nest? Who's nice? How do you tell that story? And how do you cast the quintessential American hero in that story, very difficult. But john Ford was able to pull it off, and one of the greatest the most visually stunning movies ever made, and one of the most powerful movies ever made. So, you know, I always go back to the searchers, and say, like, wow, hard to make a better movie than not match to art art, like people like what's the greatest movie ever made. And of course, you know, Citizen Kane, whatever, whatever you like. But the searchers is john Ford, arguably the greatest director of all time, john wayne, art, certainly the greatest Western hero of all time. That's a pretty strong pair. Okay, another film. Let me think for a moment, after the surgeries, it gets a little bit harder. And I don't want to say john Ford again. Mmm hmm. Well, just because, first of all, this list of like three greatest things, it's always going to be changing. Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:06:52
of course. Just right now, just today. Yeah, today.
Williams Indick 1:06:56
Right now I'm thinking about the movie Pan's Labyrinth. I'm writing about it. And classic movie by guerra, Guillermo del Toro. And again, he's doing something somewhat similar, where he's taking a fairy tale, the story of the fairy tale about the young girl who's coming of age, and she has a wicked stepfather. And there's a, you know, a sort of a fairy character, and we don't know whether it's good or evil. So it's a classic fairytale. But he, rather than avoiding the darkness that we see in the sort of classic grimms brothers fairy tales, he delves into the darkness, darker and darker and darker. But at the same time, he never loses that fairy tale quality of it. And we never lose the sort of innocence of the girl and we never stopped identifying with her. That was just a wonderful thing to pull off. Where How can you How can you tell a fairy tale that's true to fairy tales, but at the same time, is excessively dark, and terrifying. And, you know, really, really sort of, you know, brings up these questions about, you know, human nature and things like that. So you know, when a film can do can be dark and light at the same time, that to me, it's kind of like an impressive thing to pull off. So I really enjoyed that. When we try to think of another film. Well, I'll just tell you, again, this is just stuff that I've recently seen and was impressed by. But I was very impressed by 1917, which was just visually stunning. So it has that sort of spectacle aspect of cinema. But it tells a simple story, where you're basically following these two characters, and then this one character to the end, and it gets darker and darker and darker. But because there is a basic heroism to the character that we all can identify with. And he's just a man who's given a mission, and he needs to get it done. It's very simple, simple motivation, a very simple story. But it gets very, you know, it gets into the complexities of the characters in a way that you know, wonderful. And again, it's mixing a darkness with light in a way that can be inspirational for the viewer. And I was very impressed by that.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:11
And now where can people find you and your books?
Williams Indick 1:09:16
Well, my books are all you know, out there, go to amazon.com or McFarlane pub comm, you'll find a most of my books. Me personally, I'm a psychology professor William Paterson University in New Jersey. And looking forward to going back and teaching regular in person class. This fall, everything was online for a while, um, I do have a book that just came out, and it's called media environments in the mind. And it deals a lot with you know, when I was talking before about narcissism, and the notion is that all media is a mirror, and how do we understand ourselves at a time when we're constantly being reflected in a million ways? So that's the sort of academic book that I just came out, but I also am just got a contract for a second edition of psychology for screenwriters, which will have a lot more information about writing for genre.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:11
Bill, thank you so much for coming on the show. It has been. It's been a journey down the rabbit hole speaking to you today. So I I do appreciate you man. Thank you so much for being on the show.
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- William Indick – IMDB
- Book: Psychology For Screenwriters
- Book: Movies and the Mind: Theories of the Great Psychoanalysts Applied to Film