Character Development

Just a short topic today.  In my vast travels (meaning I was surfing the web this morning), I stumbled across a transcript of a story meeting with Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasden discussing their RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK script.  Please check it out, courtesy of the “Mystery Man on Film Blog”  ( Thank you, kind sir.)

Indiana Jones - thief, murderer, all-around good guy!

First of all, this transcript is fascinating simply from watching the creative process.  I’ve been in countless story meetings, and I still love the procedure – the give’n’take – the off-the-wall suggestions – the “Ah-hah!” break-through moments.  That’s a real treat, and I highly recommend you find someone that you trust bouncing ideas off when you’re developing a movie or a show.

Secondly, I was kind of astonished to read this Trio’s interpretation of Indiana Jones.  I think all of us view Indy as a bright, wise-cracking, pro-active hero with a lot of guts and humor.  However, I don’t think I ever really looked closely at what he did for a living.  Oh sure, in the film Indy’s profession is softened by the fact that he teaches archeology and that he grew up in an academic household.  But at his core, Indy is a plunderer – a grave robber – an antiquities mercenary – a “tomb raider.”  Yes, he is very “pro-museum” when he digs up his goodies, but he’s still a thief, nonetheless.  He’s not above raiding (right in the title!) someone’s final resting place, destroying centuries old architecture (The Well of Souls), and killing those who get in his way (countless Nazis & Commies).  And even still, we LOVE him!  That to me is the real trick of character development – to create a hero that can do despicable things, but he’s so clever, charming, and honorable that we overlook his wrong-doing.  (And it doesn’t hurt that he’s juxtaposed against an army of super baddies.  As a Marvel Not Brand Ecch comic book cover once posted, “Bad Makes Good Look Better!”)

Heist films

This is why “heist” films are popular.  We become so invested in the crooks and their elaborate schemes that we wind up rooting for them to succeed at their crime.  “Go, Danny Ocean!  Rip off that casino!”  Or “Yay, Jonathan Hemlock just earned another illegal painting by killing someone on the Eiger!”  Or “I hope Bernie Rhodenbarr doesn’t get caught burglarizing that apartment!”  These stories work for three main reasons:

Character "development"

1)   The protagonist is terribly charismatic and fun.

2)   The folks s/he is killing or ripping off are usually dastardly and wicked and deserving of being killed/ripped off.

3)   The protagonist (like that female Indy… Lara Croft) has big boobs.

Hmm, maybe large mammary glands is not character development.  OK, forget that last note.  Anyway, you get what I’m saying.  Now go read that transcript.

Peace out.



One thought on “Character Development

  1. Tony Soprano is a great example of your “Heist character” category. I was actually thinking about this the other day. For characters like that, I’ve also noticed that for Number #2, the victims don’t always have to be dastardly or wicked… if they’re just pathetic in some capacity that’ll work, too.

    Another key is if the anti-hero is in a situation we all can relate to (like Seth Gecko surviving an onslaught of vampires), he almost becomes an “everyman” character with baggage.


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