Theme and Events: What is your story about?

Producer Richard Gladstein  (Reservoir Dogs, The Bourne Identity, Pulp Fiction, Finding Neverland, Ciderhouse Rules and many others)spoke at a recent gathering in Los Angeles.  He touched on many aspects of production and his personal history in the industry.

The words that struck me as a writer were, “Create events to service the theme.”  In other words, what is your story about?  Not the scene sequence but the crux of what the protagonist must work through.

The reason you want to create events to service your theme is not to have exploding helicopters, or windows blowing out in thousands of shards of glass, or the villain trapping the protagonist in a box canyon but to illustrate the essential problem that faces the hero not the external events.

Because…when you are looking a producer in the eye and want him excited about your story it is not the events that grab his attention it is the essential challenge the protagonist must overcome.

Your presentation—how you sell the story—is the core of the problem.  Explain why the theme is a challenge to the protagonist.

For example:  an ex-spy is haunted by the fact that he does not know who he is, and the very people he worked for try to keep him from claiming his identity is better than

A guy wakes up on a boat.  People threaten him.  There is a fight. He escapes.

The theme sells your story, not the sequence of events.

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