The telling of story…
Meaning & madness from the Robert McKee Story Seminar
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Robert McKee is a world-recognized authority in the field of story, and his 4-day Story Seminar is nothing short of legendary. Graduates of the seminar are a who’s who of Hollywood, and have won more than 35 Academy Awards. Perhaps most recognizable to Christian audiences, Donald Miller shared his experience in the story seminar memorably in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. McKee himself is a fascinating figure, at once both brilliant and profane, insightful and controversial. He spouts off mind bending insights and breathtaking profanities in the same sentence, using both as tools to spark revelation in his students.
I finally got to attend McKee’s Story Seminar last weekend in New York City. Most of the insights that I gained there are too deep to share in a series of sound bites, so I’m looking cheap car insurance quotes forward to exploring them in depth later in this blog. But going through my notes last night (24 pages, yes, 24), a number of McKee’s one-liners jumped off the page at me, and I wanted to go ahead and share them now:
The telling of story as an art form and as a profession is the hardest endeavor a human being can choose to pursue.
If people went around showing the world who they truly are within, life would be a lunatic asylum. You just don’t show that part of you to the world…you show them the you that you’re working on.
In art, the true cousins of story are music and dance.
James Bond…the thinking man’s Rambo.
Story, like all art, is non-intellectual. It is first and foremost an emotional experience.
All stories express how and why life changes. The more beautifully your story displays that, the more meanings are assigned to it by the viewer, as they are influenced by their specific life experience and point of view.
The only authentic act of love is an act of self sacrifice. Most people can’t do it.
Creationists want to argue the existence of God from flowers? F–k flowers. Michelle Pfeiffer is real proof of the existence of God.
Please don’t think you’re going to change the world with your story. The only thing you can do is put the truth into the world to counteract all the lies.
If a really asinine idea is going to come into the world, it will be born in an American university.
If the story doesn’t work, then what the f–k difference does it matter what you do after that?
Story as an art form is not about the middle ground of human experience, but the limit of human experience.
If you insult a film someone likes, you’re not insulting that film. You’re insulting them. In our culture, people find their identity in someone else’s creativity. In a good story, the audience is actually not rooting for the protagonist so much as they’re rooting for themselves. This is why people get so deeply involved in stories.
What lies on the surface…LIES.
Nothing moves forward in the story
without conflict. Conflict is to story as sound is to music. When conflict lessens, interest dissipates.
One of the reasons for the decline in the quality of story is that we live lives of extraordinary ease, comfort, and lack of profound, high-stakes conflict. The problem is that when you remove conflict on one level it amplifies tenfold on another level. So in our age, the great internal struggle for meaning is the new wellspring for story.
The right wing never has to worry about the left, because the left will invariably shoot itself in the foot.
The modern family, little 8 year old snots running the home. Parents telling them they’re brilliant, they’re beautiful, they’re special. Then they hit 20 and they’re in therapy because they discover the world’s not going to kiss their ass…the worlds going to kick their ass because the truth is – they’re not special.
The words “I love you” are meaningless when they are said. They are infinitely powerful when they aren’t said, but when they’re done.
Eccentricity is not originality. Being self-consciously quirky is no more original than slavishly following cliches.
In all of filmmaking, the only person who starts with nothing is the writer. They are the only ones who have a truly original act of creation. All other members of the team – the director, the actors, everyone else – are interpreters.
Some people believe that all your choices are made by your subconscious mind, and your conscious mind simply exists to rationalize the f–ked up thing you chose to do.
We would not be civilized but for the efforts of the storytellers throughout history who show us how to live.
When I say an author spends years working on a script, I don’t mean they spent years staring at a page. I mean they spent years writing. So where is all that s–t? Where it belongs…in the trash. All that remains is the 10% that was actually good.
Artists are people with full access to their talent, mastery over their art form, and the ability to work well every day whether they feel like it or not.
I think the success of the American colonic irrigation industry – and it is a success – can be attributed to the widespread consumption of Wonder Bread.
Money isn’t everything, but it sure keeps the kids close.
If you write the scene about what the scene is about, you’re in deep s–t. People can’t say and do what they’re really thinking and feeling. It’s not possible. Most of the time, they don’t know or understand what they’re thinking and feeling. When they do know, they just won’t reveal it. That doesn’t mean you cant write a scene where people are desperately trying to say what they’re thinking and feeling. They just cant say it.
A great film is a combination of spectacle and truth.
With just a couple of exceptions, I don’t think I have seen any innovation in storytelling on the big screen in the past 25 years.
The difference between a good film and a great film is the director. The difference between a good film and no film is the writer.
You need to constantly destroy your work. 90% of it is not your best work.
So…did any of McKee’s insight’s rock your world a bit? Or offend you into stunned silence? Or motivate you to engage more deeply in your calling? Which quote hit you the hardest? Let me know in the comments below!Click here to comment