Always be watching! But for what? Submission opps? Well yes, do that, but today I want to talk about something a little different…
I have two children, they are 5 and 3. They love watching movies and will basically watch anything that's animated on repeat for hours and hours. I try not to let this happen, but if I'm being honest there are days when a lot of television/movies are consumed.
My daughter, the five year old, loves princess movies. And since she pretty much runs my house we often watch princess movies. Most of the time I'm napping, cleaning, or I put on headphones and write while the movies are one, but sometimes I get sucked in and can't help but sit and watch with them. Last month we watched the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid.” I hadn't watched it in in years (since I was a kid), and I was horrified at the terrible message that film gives to children, especially girls. I mean, Ariel basically gives up her life, family, friends, and voice, and alters her body permanently for a man. And what's worse is that the Prince falls in love with her when she can't talk, because that's not really so important. Yuck. Disney's “The Beauty And THe Beast” is slightly less offensive, at least Belle can read, but that movie has SO many plot holes that it makes me scream for much different reasons.
The rare times when my daughter doesn't pick, I usually select a Miyazaki film, because I find them to have much better characters, themes, and messages… But one can only watch “Spirited Away” so many times… Last week my son got to select a movie and he picked Disney's “Winnie The Pooh” (from 2011). I wasn't expecting much, in fact I think I've snored through this more than once. But something that day kept me awake and I sat and watched it… Holy crap! What an amazing script! They had a really strong foundation to go on, seeing as the stories are so full and charming, but we all know that Disney can ruin good stories.
In the movie Pooh has a very strong objective, he wants honey. His secondary and third objectives (to find Christopher Robin and Eeyore's tail) come in to direct conflict with his main objective (the honey), and this creates some fantastic inner conflict for Pooh. All of the characters are as interesting and developed as the world that the movie creates. I also love how while they have a narrator, Pooh repeatedly breaks the 4th wall (is it even called that in movies?) and speaks directly to him, and Pooh also interacts with the words that the narrator is reading. It's engaging, and funny, and it doesn't include corny, terrible songs either! If I have anything to complain about it would have to be the lack of female characters (there is only the one), but since that's how the it is in the source material I don't see how they could have fit any more in. And as much as I love seeing more parts for women, that can't be every story, every time.
My point with all of this is that being story tellers, its good to know when you find a good story. And it's better to think about why it's a good story. Also, it's just as important, I think, to think of this on the other side, what makes stories bad, or uninteresting. Yes I think that doing this specifically while watching plays is especially helpful, after all I'm writing theater not animated children's movies. But structure, theme, character development, worlds, these things cross over mediums, and recognizing how others use these to tell stories whether it is successful or not, helps us develop the way we tell our stories.
So watch things, and think about them, write about them, and talk about them! In the end it will make you a stronger story teller, and that's what it's all about! So happy watching!