Today on the show we bring the legendary story analyst and best-selling author Chris Vogler. Chris wrote the game-changing book The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. I read this book over 25 years ago and it changed the way I look at “story.” Chris studied the work and principles of the late master Joseph Campbell. His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the basis for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years using what Campbell called the monomyth.
What Chris Vogler did so well is that he translated Campbell’s work and applied it to movies. The Writer’s Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that’s made it required reading for movie executives, screenwriters, playwrights, scholars, and fans of pop culture all over the world. He has influenced the screenplays of movies from THE LION KING to FIGHT CLUB to BLACK SWAN to NOAH.
“I teach sometimes, and always say that Chris Vogler is the first book that everyone’s got to read.” — Darren Aronofsky , Oscar-nominated Screenwriter/Director, Noah, Black Swan, The Wrestler
Many filmmakers and screenwriters believe that the hero’s journey or monomyth is out of date and doesn’t work on today’s savvy audience. Nothing could be farther than the truth. The hero’s journey is the meat and potatoes that all storytellers need to understand. Elements from the monomyth is in every story ever written. As screenwriters, you need to study and understand the monomyth then use it as you wish in your story. Take a look below at some of the monomyth’s character archetypes.
Chris’s ground-breaking book is celebrating its 25-year anniversary so someone is reading it. Enjoy my conversation with Chris Vogler.
- Chris Vogler – Official Site
- Screenwriting & Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
- Myth & the Movies: Discovering the Myth Structure of 50 Unforgettable Films
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
- Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Screenwriting Audiobook
Alex Ferrari 0:48
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, the legendary Chris Vogler. How you doing, Chris?
Chris Vogler 3:51
I'm doing very well. Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 3:53
Thank you so much for coming back. You know, last time you were on the show, which was about three years ago, I think at this point. You know, I said to you many times, then, and I'll say it again, when I picked up the writers journey, as a young screenwriter, filmmaker, it, it completely changed my life. And it was it was my gateway drug into Campbell, in general, which I'm sure you hear 1000 times. It was my gateway drug. And it really, really just changed the way I looked at storytelling. And it is a it is a foundation that every screenwriter and storyteller should know whether they use it specifically or not, whether it applies to every single story or not. It is definitely the it's definitely the one of the building blocks of a good story. So I am a huge fan. And now you are you're back because you just did you're just releasing the 25th year edition, the anniversary edition of the writers journey. And we're going to talk a little bit about the book, the updates. how the how the hero's journey has changed. It's changed at all over the years, and so on. So for people who don't know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about you and the book?
Chris Vogler 5:10
Yes, I made a career for myself in Hollywood as what they call a story analyst at first, reading scripts, and writing reports evaluating not just scripts, but every kind of literary property, even down to cartoons, comic books, epic poems from the ancient past. I mean, you have an army of people like me, in every studio, who are evaluating the material. So this was how I sort of cut my teeth, and got a lot of examples under my belt to compare to this Hero's Journey idea that I had come up with in film school at USC. You know, as a kid, I was absolutely transfixed by movies and certain TV shows, and I just wanted to pull the screen apart and claim in there, you know, I had this desire to be part of it. Growing up in the Midwest, it was a remote possibility for me, as a farm boy from Missouri, but I found my way there and got involved in the studios, and was lucky. To find an answer to my question, I came on a quest to figure out the unwritten rules of screenwriting. I knew there had to be some principles, what we would now call algorithms for how do you decide what to put in what to leave out what to emphasize how to blend all this together, I was looking for that system. And there wasn't anything there were very few screenwriting books at that time. And I was lucky to find it in the work of this man, Joseph Campbell, who was a big influence on Star Wars, and George Lucas and many other films and books since then. And it just hit exactly the right note for me at the right time, when the first Star Wars movie came out. So I had the collision of those two things in my brain. Here's Joseph Campbell's ideas about this ancient form from the theology. And here's a modern cutting edge technology, entertainment that's making use of all that stuff. So the two things slap together in my head at the right moment. And then I had a long period of time, working for the studios to test it out on 1000s, literally 1000s and 1000s. of examples and found it to be really a lifesaver. I don't know how I would have done that job without some orientation, about what makes the story interesting and gripping to an audience. And how does it hook you and all these other things that you get from looking at mythology?
Alex Ferrari 8:00
The Great and then and I remember there was a memo that a very famous memo that kind of brought you to the the forefront when you were working over at Disney, if I'm not mistaken, correct?
Chris Vogler 8:11
Yeah, that's right. I started at Fox worked there for a couple of years and then switched over to Disney. And I've been working there for a while just doing the routine job, but I was getting a little bit more attention within the company and a little bit more responsibility, because they knew I was good at pop culture, things like comic books. I was good at General research so they could throw things at me. And I could respond quickly and give them an answer. I was like Google before there was Google. But we were in a culture at the studio at that time, where memos were were big, and they were being very well written by the head of production at that time, Jeffrey Katzenberg, he would just throw down a memo, and it would like shake everybody up and give it a completely different perspective on how we were going to operate. So I turned this idea from Campbell into a nice tight little seven, eight page memo that I sent around the studio with an intention and I think this was important. I intended for that thing to work like nanobots, like little robots that would go and spread my message around and get people talking about this Hero's Journey idea, which I thought was it's not theoretical, it's not academic, really. It's practical and useful. And like right now, we can put this to work on commercial films, and not just adventure films and fantasy films, but it worked for me for everything. So that memo, spread around Hollywood very quickly, it went viral. Again before the technology that we don't have This was faxes and Xerox machines, but it's spread all over. And I got feedback right away from people saying, Oh, it was mentioned at the top meeting at Paramount the other day, or somebody over at Sony said, Hey, have you read this memo? So it became the flavor of the month for a while. And I watched to see, is that gonna last? Or will it be a flash in the pan, and it ended up sticking? You know, it was something that made sense. It was simple, it was clear. And the memo did its job. And then eventually, I added to it. But part of the legend and this is about branding yourself, which I think everybody has to do you have to think this way. How do you distinguish your work from all the other people who are doing similar things? My brand was I am associated with this material, Campbell, Lucas, Star Wars, Disney. Eventually, I worked on the Lion King because of it. But part of the branding legend is the true fact that the memo was plagiarized. Almost immediately, some executive at Disney tore the cover sheet off with my name on it, and put his own cover on it with his name and submitted it to the highest levels of the company. And there was a big thing about oh, my gosh, this is an amazing system.
Alex Ferrari 11:23
But you couldn't get away with that. I mean, like everybody else in town saw that it was yours like,
Chris Vogler 11:28
Well, this was the value of spreading it because I had salted it around so thoroughly that as soon as it came up in the meeting, people they left the meeting and immediately started calling me and saying, hey, this guy's taking credit for your work. So I did something that was way out of character for me, because as a reader, you're generally passive. And you sort of operate on a doggie door approach where you they slide the script through the door, and you slide the report back again, like a
Alex Ferrari 11:57
like a prison, sir, like a prison.
Chris Vogler 12:01
You never see them, except maybe the tips of their shoes, you know, you don't really deal with the brass. But I stepped out of that just a little bit. And I wrote a letter directly to Katzenberg over the heads of many department chiefs in between. I jumped the the track there. And to my amazement, he responded immediately, he said, I know what happened, I got it. I see you're the guy who wrote this, and I have something for you. Because I had asked, I said, I want something I want more. If you think this is good, I've got plenty more. And I want deeper involvement in the company. And he said, Yes, I see that. And I think where you belong is over with the animation guys, because they were just ramping up. They had done. They were working on Aladdin and on Beauty and the Beast and so forth. And they threw me in on Lion King,
Alex Ferrari 12:59
which is not a bad, not a bad film to get thrown in.
Chris Vogler 13:01
That's right, although nobody knew that at the time, was kind of amusing thing. They, we really thought of ourselves as the B team, you know, because the bigger productions we thought were, you know, further along, and we were just this little experimental thing that was something something a little bit different. In part because it was based on no pre existing thing. It was an original creation and almost everything Disney does is based on some legend or myth, although there were things in it like a little bit of Hamlet, a little bit of Bambi that gave it some some support. Right. And
Alex Ferrari 13:45
I have to I have to ask you there was that one Japanese animation movie that everyone brings up with Lion King is that I mean, you were there. Is that real? Like I don't know if you could say it over the over the mouse come and get you
Chris Vogler 13:56
know, I don't think anybody's going to police me about it. I was not aware of that myself. But I did hear the animators talking about it saying isn't it This was their take was isn't it an interesting coincidence that we picked up this thread of lions in Africa we started working on it and we ended up developing something you could put the two things side but yeah, oh yeah. There's Kimbo here Simba. And you know that there were there were there were these similarities. And animators love this. they they they love paying homage. They say to other filmmakers, they put in jokes and references. I worked on a Japanese style comic book a manga comic book and I was just amazed by how many times they inserted salutes really to other artists and other other comic books. So it was just part of the culture there but I I don't feel I didn't see any signs. Got deliberately you know, ripping anybody off but that's not a matter for us it's for the courts to decide.
Alex Ferrari 15:07
Exactly, exactly now so we you you jumped in at Lion King and I think this is during the the Renaissance Katzenberg brought in the renaissance of the animation Renaissance because Disney animation was pretty much in the doghouse for for a while it has been a long time since any majorly hit big hit and come out and I think it started with little mermaid and then jumped to the beauty the piece was a monster hit then Aladdin came out and I think was a lot of before a lot almost before Lion King, right? Yeah,
Chris Vogler 15:36
there was Yes. Right.
So but then Lion King exploded. And then I think that was the peak of that Renaissance. And then there was still a lot of good movies after that as well. A lot of if you go back to Disney Animation, you can apply the hero's journey to it and you can apply the hero's journey to a lot of movies pre Star Wars. Sure. How do you how do you like how is that no one really was taking the the hero's journey blueprint and going okay, this is how I write the screenplay. But yet when you go back to Casa Blanca, and you go back to Citizen Kane, you go back to Hitchcock films, there are Hero's Journey elements in those How is it just because it's literally programmed inside of our DNA?
Yeah, I think it is. I think it's hardwired. It's baked into the human nervous system. This is what Campbell said. He said that we are wired to respond to certain scenes and images and ideas. And we respond in the organs of our body unconsciously they just respond. When you see a fireman carrying somebody out of a fire, or a mother holding a baby cradling the baby in a triangular composition, like those Virgin Mary things and ISIS holding the baby in the Egyptian mythology, you just go off you respond, you see an animal with big eyes looking up at you, you go off you just you can't help these physiological
Alex Ferrari 17:07
Yeah, I mean, you look at you look at boots and track, and then you just go, you just gotta go. It's like, it's like, it's a feeling inside. You can't even if your heart is a rock, you go inside. That's cute.
Chris Vogler 17:19
You know, I thought it was it was brilliant, really, that they they may use it at all that cat does is turn and look at you in the eyes get huge. And you got you can't you whatever he's just done, you forgive him. It's
Alex Ferrari 17:31
so so Campbell is tapping into these images. And these kind of scenarios that are hardwired, like you said, If someone's saving somebody else, you're going to feel something in real life, or in a film or in a story. If someone if someone kicks the dog that is a specific field. Like if you're hurting an animal, if you're hurting a child, if you're hurting someone that's weaker than you instinctively in our core, we we generally feel the same. We all feel it, unless you're a bully too. And you go, hey, that's great that you kick the dog. But generally speaking, normal human beings have those innate feelings. And I think what you're saying in the writers journey, as well as what Joseph Campbell was saying is that if you can tap into those images, that kind of storytelling and incorporate it in your, in your films in your scripts, you're just tapping into something that is universal?
Chris Vogler 18:29
Yes, I think, you know, the answer to your general question here has to do also, with levels of consciousness. I think that the hero's journey was present and operative in filmmakers and storytellers from the very beginning. I mean, you go back to the Odyssey, and to Gilgamesh and you know, the earliest things written are gonna you can open them up and you find there's that this, that and the other element of the hero's journey, but people were not openly conscious of. And I think that's the difference of the time we're living in that because partly, my book and Campbell and the notoriety and notice that those things have gotten has moved these patterns up into consciousness a little bit more. So that even the audience is aware of them as meta patterns. And they kind of have, what's turned out is that people have a certain pleasure in finding them. And going Oh, yeah, I know that that's the thing they did in Star Wars, that that's the thing they did in Superman. And there it is, again, that people like to spot those patterns. So all of that even the language of it has come up more into consciousness. And for me, that's actually a bit of a danger, because I don't want it to be completely conscious. I don't want the audience. Oh, yeah. Step 13. Oh, yeah, yes, there. There's the blah, blah, I don't want them thinking that and I don't even want that, when I'm watching something. I mean, I get a certain workman's pleasure in identifying step 123. And you know, saying, oh, they're three minutes late, on revealing something. But what's really fun for me is going to the movies and having no idea what's going to happen next. And not knowing what's happening internally to my organs in my body. Just just responding is wonderful. And then I might go back later, and analyze it, but I like to be just swept away by a story that's unpredictable. And, you know, looks maybe looks rough when you analyze it by these standards, but, but it's still it still can sink to you,
Alex Ferrari 20:52
isn't it? I mean, it's so much tougher to be a writer today than it was five years ago, or 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, because the audiences are so much more educated in the process. I mean, I mean, in the 80s, when I was when I was coming up, you know, when I was working in my video store, you know, I couldn't find behind the scenes of movies, there was no DVD extras, there was no YouTube, there was nothing. So the information about the filmmaking process, let alone the storytelling process was there was just nothing there. But now, you could just go on YouTube and find 1000 different, you know, people talking about the hero's journey, or the or multiple different storytelling techniques and things like that people have become so much more educated about the process, you know, how do you how do you suggest screenwriters working within that world? Because it is so much more difficult to do it? I mean, my feeling is that if you can execute the hero's journey perfectly, really well, it doesn't matter. That's my feeling. I don't know. What do you think?
Chris Vogler 22:06
Yeah, well, I think the key to all of this is to be aware that the audience does know a lot, they are very well educated, as you say. But you can still work with that. And sometimes set them up, you know, okay, I'm going to show you, here's a wizard, alright, and the wizard is nice. And he or she is going to help the hero. And they're going to give the here all this is doctrine, according to the hero's journey, and then reveal, not what you thought, the this person who seems to be helpful is actually working for the bad guy is trying to undermine the hero, jealous of the hero, you know, some other unexpected twists so that it's always new again. And this is what I tell people is you are obligated as a filmmaker to know this set of instructions or patterns. This and many others, this is not the only one. And I, in my own work, I don't exclusively use the hero's journey. There's lots of other ways to do this. But you know, to know the patterns, and then deliberately break them somehow do something unexpected, do something that that jumps out of the pattern, like, you know, in referring to the mentor figures that I'm talking about. The pattern sort of predicts that somewhere in the first act, one of these figures is going to show up, reassure the hero when he or she is afraid, give them something that helps them and then they're wheeled off. And that's the end of it. But what if there isn't any figure like that, and the hero is completely on his or her own. And they have to go to internal sources. That's a different kind of dynamic. And it leaves a hole sometimes that's one of the key ways to make this fresh and alive again, I think, is to leave some gaps. And there's a wonderful thing that I see filmmakers doing which I'm very interested in this, which is sort of narrative compression. Where they take it for granted the audience is quick and they can catch up and you can throw stuff in a series you can start and I've seen this on shits Creek for example, shits Creek will sometimes start bang deep in the middle of something and you go did I miss an episode because now they're talking about the baby. The parents are just making this up. But maybe the parents are talking about getting a divorce and it starts with the son and daughter going, Oh, I'm really worried mom and dad are talking about getting a divorce. And you go What? I didn't see that. Did I miss an episode and then you realize no They're, they're trusting you as an audience that you can catch up. And you can imagine those scenes that they left out. And I think that's a healthy way to approach things is to kind of push to the edge of what the audience can keep up with, and throw them some curveballs.
Alex Ferrari 25:21
Now, do you I this is my feeling. I love to hear what you think that the reason why the hero's journey has been so long lasting in our existence, I mean, it's going back to is as the oldest stories ever written, or recorded. It is basically an analogy for our own lives. It is, you know, we are all on our hero's journey. We are always the, you know, everyone, no matter if you're the good guy or the bad guy, You are the hero of your own journey. I always like people like, Hitler didn't wake up thinking that he was the craziest madman in the world. He thought he was good. He thought he was the hero. So everyone has a perspective. So we're all heroes in our own journey. And there are the tricksters, the mentors, the the all these character archetypes that come into our lives and and and there are obstacles, and we have our own dragons, and we have our own things, sometimes internal sometimes external, all these things is that do you think the reason why the hero's journey has lasted? in our, in our existence for so long?
Chris Vogler 26:25
Yeah, I think so I think that it's a useful metaphor, it's one way to look at it is it's a kind of a lens that allows us to look at somebody else's situation, but read it back as reflective of us. And I think this is a real deep thing, that people are looking for themselves in their entertainment, they want to see something that in some sense, is about me, because people are profoundly self centered, and they want to take in everything around them. You know, somebody walks into a room and they're dressed a certain way, you can't help it, you compare yourself to them, Oh, she has better shoes than I do, oh, they just got their haircut, oh, they have a nice bag, oh, there, you know, you, you measure all this stuff. And you just do it unconsciously did that. It's like a mathematical formula that runs through your head. So we compare our behavior to that of other people. And what I've observed is if you are not hooked up to those characters, in some way, either they're like me, or their plight is something I can relate to, or they desperately want something as I desperately want things, then I just check it out. And I back away, almost literally back away from the screen. You know, I've learned a lot from watching audiences and how, when they're involved in the picture, they're more or less absolutely still, and they're leaning forward. And if they are bored and detached, they start shifting around and they back away. So you know, I think this is part of the The key is to give people things in the characters that you want us to relate to, that a lot of people can identify with that they are victims of misfortune, undeserved, that they are striving for something wanting something. A good example is there's this new show just just coming out, called Emily in Paris.
Alex Ferrari 28:34
Yeah, heard about that. I haven't seen it yet.
Chris Vogler 28:37
And it's a beautiful show. It's lush, it's gorgeous. It's you know, superficial, beautiful salute to Paris, and, you know, young ambition, so forth. But in every show, every new show that that I look at, I'm trying to decide, am I in this for the long run? Or am I gonna let it go after one or two episodes. And with that one, I had very little impulse to continue, because they didn't do one essential thing in the first episode, which is telling me what that character wants. And you know, she didn't want anything. She was given a trip to Paris, and she never expressed a desire to travel, a desire to go to Paris, a desire to, you know, we never saw her ambition to rise in the company. She just was like, flooded with these gifts from heaven and his walking around in about about Paris. And you could guess that she had the general desire every young person to succeed or to have an adventure, but if she never said it wasn't expressed nobody around her said it. So I found myself not not really involved. So I think this this is, you know, important to let people know what what does the character want, as soon as I know what They want, I want it for them. And I have now almost merged my personality with theirs. Even if it's a villain, and the villain is trying to undermine society, I'm kind of going Oh, he, he almost lost this chance to undermine society. You know, you automatically plugged in.
Alex Ferrari 30:20
Now, in a lot of the a lot of the concepts that you talk about in the writers journey, and Campbell talks about the hero's journey are very, you know, broad, meaning that the hero, like let's take, you know, you identify with Luke Skywalker, because you know, all the things that Luke Skywalker wants to do and things like that. So it basically appeals to a very broad audience. In today's world where that works wonderfully for a studio film, but not as much for independent films or smaller projects, how can you apply the writers journey into a niche, so like, you were saying, I want I want to see myself in it. So I, in my book, I talked about the power of the niche in, let's say, instead of making a romantic comedy, so which is just about generally to people like the general feeling of falling in love or not, you know, losing love all that stuff, I say, use the vegan make a vegan chef, a romantic comedy, where a vegan chef falls in love with a barbecue pit champion. And, and now we can target that movie to a much more powerful, deep, deep and focused audience, as an independent filmmaker can as opposed to abroad because as abroad, I can't, I can't, as a filmmaker, independent filmmaker with a 345 million dollar budget, unless I have some major stars, and even the major stars is gonna be very difficult. So as a storytelling element, how can you apply the writers journey into more of a niche model? And do you suggest what I do agree with what I just said?
Chris Vogler 31:57
Yeah, I do, I think that that's actually a growth area, carving off, maybe increasingly smaller slices of life. And, you know, I think, always continuing to lift the cover off things and look deeper into corners of society we haven't looked at before, so that itself has a value. But then there is the general human condition. And that's where general and and these Hero's Journey things do come into play. Because as different as people are, they are driven by, you know, the same list of, of drives and needs, no matter what their conditions are. So there's, there's a pleasure I think the audience has, in going, I'm gonna educate myself about a new walk of life. I don't know anything about we're watching Ricky Gervais show, I think it's called Second Life where, where he is a guy whose wife has died, and he basically is suicidal. But he just says, I'm going to do whatever I want. Because what difference does it make, and we're watching on two levels. One is the general problem, anybody losing someone they love. And then on the specifics, he's opening the door into this little town in England, that has all these different levels of society that you get to see and it's so enlightening, I just feel educated in a painless way, about the way other people live. This is a lot of the appeal of literature throughout time, of course, it's that it gives you that vicarious experiences somebody else was running because the basics are still there.
Alex Ferrari 33:58
So with so I want to talk a little bit about the, the concept of the niche and kind of starting to, to go a little bit deeper in that world. Because, you know, when you do a, when you're a writer, you you you have an audience you're trying to go after, generally speaking, so even Star Wars is going after a sci fi audience. It did. transparent, it did grow out of that and turned into a broad market, like everybody watched Star Wars at the time it came out. Obviously, if Star Wars shows up today, it wouldn't even see the light of day really, no one would really care because it's Star Wars already presented. It's that that that whole introduction into the world, it is definitely a movie of its time. It's time and its place. And that's why it exploded the way it did. But moving forward with as a writer, as a screenwriter, the different genres that you write, focusing on a niche that eventually has those common elements like my romantic comedy, there's love lost love you Romeo and Juliet, all of that stuff. But with the way the world is going, which now is becoming much more curated, where before it wasn't curated, like HBO was HBO. But now HBO has a flavor to it. Disney plus has a flavor to it, Hulu has a flavor to it. And before all these companies were trying to maybe even be more broad for everybody, but now they're just like, that's not where the money is, the money is less specialized in this world. So as writers as screenwriters again, I think we think we're saying the same thing, working within the the more curated niche worlds, but, but keep those elements that are universal in there. But if you're focusing as a writer on a universal, broad topic, it's going to be a difficult sell. Would you agree? Yes,
Chris Vogler 35:56
yeah, I think things have to be specific, you know, this is something I've confronted a lot because I work sometimes in very abstract thought forms. And and think about, you know, a big epic subject, for example, but or a fantasy, but it doesn't really land either to sell it or to present it to an audience, until you've narrowed it down to this takes place in Chattanooga, Mississippi, in 1952, you know, and you, you have to anchor it in something real. To to get that, that double residence of the big, general thing. And then the specific thing. So yeah, I think there's nothing new about this development, which is very interesting, what you've said about how these producers of content are developing personalities. And there's, as I say, nothing new about that, because this happened early in the studio,
Alex Ferrari 37:00
Warner Brothers films Disney film Warner
Chris Vogler 37:02
Brothers was it was distinct. You know, and, and down to detail, like the gunshots in a warner brothers film sound different. And you can spot a Warner's film from the 30s 40s 50s, because they were using the same gunshots, the same pieces of tape. And, you know, it was distinct, and they were appealing to people who liked bubbly musicals and gritty stories of crime in the streets, that sort of thing. And then they got into, okay, Errol Flynn, and we could do these swashbucklers, they developed that whole site, and then other studios were doing other things. So and I, I've always loved that, I've always loved the fact that the companies I worked for had personalities. And it it paid to know the personality of your studio, what was possible at Disney, what had been before Disney and what could be again, this, this was part of sort of the institutional knowledge that I tried to encourage, I sort of held myself up as a champion of the, the personality of that whatever studio I was working for, and I tried to find opportunities to, to feed that, in working at Fox or Paramount or whatever I was, I was always a curator, in a way, looking to, to find where that heartbeat was, and to feed it with, you know, more of that kind of content or expand on so
Alex Ferrari 38:51
it's, it's really interesting how the business is changing so, so dramatically now, and in that curation aspect of storytelling is, is a survival mechanism, I think because, I mean, did you just read that article that came out that Disney is reorganizing their entire company to focus on streaming? Oh, no.
Chris Vogler 39:09
Well, yes, actually, I do know what you're talking about. I mean, that was a buzz in the last couple of days. That Okay, we're gonna turn like that. And that's
Alex Ferrari 39:18
a huge that's that's a bomb going off in our business, because Disney is essentially the biggest studio in town. And for them to say, you know, theatrical thing is not where it's at, that we were going to start moving towards streaming, and why it makes all the sense in the world. And I agreed. We're getting a little off topic, but generally speaking, it was going to happen. We all knew this is where it's gonna go. It's just that COVID really amped everything up and sped everything up.
Chris Vogler 39:47
That's right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it was it was that that odd accelerant that, like I say about developing this way. Communicating was something that was there and not appreciated for its value until we really needed it. And then all of a sudden, Oh, I'm so grateful that we already had zoom and all these other things. So I think same thing, same thing here that people have been talking about all these evolutions, but it wasn't necessary. Now the trigger is here, and people are going with it. And like wonder what will happen in the long run about, I don't think going to movies even going to drive it has come back a little bit. I don't think that's going to die. But it's not you, we're going to go back to a normal, but it won't be the same norm, there'll be a new normal, just like with COVID. And there will be experiences where you go to a theater, but it'll be different somehow.
Alex Ferrari 40:55
And now and and I'll end this conversation this this this topic, because we could I could talk for about another hour just on this. But I agree with you 100%. I don't think that movies will ever go away, the theatrical experience will never go away, just like Broadway is taken over plays. I mean, it won't go away, I think it will be a different experience, I think that it will never get back to 2019 levels just on the screens level. And on people going to the movies, again, it's going to take a while for this hangover, the COVID hangover, as I call it, because people are just, you're used to not going into a crowded room. I mean, it's it's gonna take a minute for your mind to kind of wrap yourself around going back to the theaters, and doing all of that but also the screens are going to be less regal, just shut down. I promise you, Amazon is probably going to buy AMC or regal all these all these big streamers are going to buy these theatrical components, and then start doing them in a completely different way. Because if you own the theater, and you own the content, well, that's a different business model than just selling popcorn. So and this is all first for screenwriters and for storytellers to understand what you're what you're doing as a story. As a storyteller, you need to understand where your movie your script is going to go. If you don't think about the audience, if you don't think about what Who are you trying to sell this to? at every level, from the point where you write the script? Who am I gonna? Am I selling this to a producer? Am I trying to sell it to a studio? And I try to sell to an independent filmmaker? Like who that and then from there going, Okay, now, who is the audience for this film? And I think that's where so many screenwriters fail is because they do they just write because I'm gonna write. But unlike a novel, which you could just put out, because you just want to write a screenplay is that blueprint that could be millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars? blueprint. So there's a lot of pressure on that art. And if you don't really think it through, you're not going to make it Is that a fair statement?
Chris Vogler 42:50
Yes, I'm really big on this idea of having the audience, whether it be an agent, or the producer, or the actor, or ultimately, the audience itself. Having that in mind, and opening up a conversation with them, I think, is very important. It just makes me think about a time when, you know, before I got to film school, I was in the Air Force. And I made documentary films about the space program and so forth. And I wrote the script one time, and I showed it to one of the old editors. And he said, Well, you've got you've got some good information here. But you have to remember one thing, you've got to make it so simple that even the general can understand it.
Alex Ferrari 43:38
Chris Vogler 43:40
You know, I knew I had to adjust to the ultimate audience for this, which was going to be some general in the Pentagon. And I had to make it clear enough. So it was communicating with him. You know, that's, that's, I'm very strong on that, that you really have to cultivate this sense. And I've always thought of myself, as an evaluator of material. As you know, I'm a specialist, and I've had my training and background and all of that. But basically, I'm just a movie goer. And I think I think of the way most, most audience members do. I know what I want to see and don't want to see. And I trusted that.
Alex Ferrari 44:25
Now there's a there's a section in your book I'd love to talk to you about because I'm not sure if it's a new or if it was in the last edition or not. But can we discuss the rules of polarity?
Chris Vogler 44:35
Yes, this is in the earlier editions as well. You know, this is a thing that became obvious to me in the very first week, I started reading scripts for the studios. They operate on a sink or swim basis, and they just hand you once they've read a sample of your work. They say okay, I think you can do this Here's seven scripts, come back on Friday and give us the reports. And I noticed right away on the first two or three scripts, that they were polarized, that every universe that the film writer was creating was divided into two camps, it would be the men and the women in a romantic comedy, it would be the upper levels of society, the lower levels, or the cops and the robbers or the Indians or the Calvary or some other oppositional frame would be created. And then it became a dynamic process where it seemed the filmmaker was presenting you with like a court case with the Okay, here's the arguments for it, here's the arguments against and then that somehow invites the audience to take aside or to evaluate, like an undecided voter, you know, like, I'll listen to all those arguments, I'll listen all those arguments, and then I'll make up my mind. And it seemed that it was an engine that drove the story forward, that the opposition of those two polarized forces really got the story, rolling and created this kind of tension, and made it made it have a heartbeat, like, tic Tock. And then I started thinking about more specific rules. And this was a little later as I worked at Disney, and especially as we were getting scripts, intended for animation, where they would take an old fairy tale, and try to like Rumpelstiltskin, or something and turn it into a feature like 90 minute or so screenplay.
I started seeing that there were some rules about the polarity. And also, this comes from observing, especially the buddy comedies that we were doing a lot of at Disney on the live action site at that time, this was in the 80s and 90s. And those operated on a strict polarity, there would be one style of living of a cop from Detroit, who was of the streets I'm talking about Beverly Hills Cop. And, and he was rough and tumble and almost a criminal himself and irreverent. And then he'd be clash together with somebody who was the opposite who was at by the book, strict button down just as different as possible. So those two things clashing together, made an interesting dynamic, a lot of conflict and opportunity for comedy. But also there was a mechanism in it that I detected, which is that at some point, the polls would switch. And the person who was wild and crazy, would be forced to put on a disguise and look like he was buttoned down and clerical, and, you know, more West Point. And then the other guy who was rough who was by the book, would be forced to change clothes and be in the wild position. And they would experiment with that for a while, but then come back again, to their comfort zones. It's like, well, that's your basic nature, you're a wild man, and you're a buttoned down guy, but you've had a visit to the other side, and you aren't going to land right back where you started, you're going to come out somewhere a little closer to the middle, not smack in the middle, because that would be paralyzing. But a little closer to your opposite. So that you can experiment with it, you can take advantage of some of the good things about that other way of living. And yet, you're still close to your comfort zone. And if you get scared, you can run back there. So it served as a model. And then I found it validated by things that were happening in my own life in relationships of men and women marriages and things like that. I saw these the same forces at work. So I tried in the chapter to think almost like I was dealing with some force of nature, like magnetism or something. That magnetism has some rules and polarity is like that. You turn one of the magnets so that they're both negative poles, they're gonna fly apart. You turn it the other way. So it's negative to positive, they're stuck together. And polarity. And stories can work that way. Two people seem to hate each other at first, and then something shifts and now they're wildly attracted. Yeah, so fly apart again, but to come back together.
Alex Ferrari 49:48
Yeah, so like the bodyguard with Whitney Houston. And Kevin Costner has characters that that was a perfect example of them hating it or not wanting to be with you and then eventually coming together. So I remember stir crazy with Jim Wilder and Richard Pryor, 48 hours, lethal weapon, all of those have everything you're talking about.
Chris Vogler 50:05
Yeah. And it's funny because just mentioning the titles and this idea, it comes into your mind right away. And you can see the two sides, even on the poster, sometimes they're looking at nose to nose, you know, and just as different contrasting by casting, if nothing else, they, they carefully choose who's going to embody these opposites, that's automatically attracted. That's one of the rules of polarity is that if you put up two things that are the same, that has very little value, in attracting the eye, but if you put something it just did a piece of art in a drawing, if there's a heavily shaded area, and then one little area of light, you're attracted to that and you are interested in the contrast, so yeah, so
Alex Ferrari 50:54
so if lethal weapon was two white guys, it wouldn't be nearly two on a visual standpoint, as opposed to Danny Glover and and, and Mel Gibson. Yeah, just the guy remember the poet cuz I worked at the video store. So I remember that cover. So clearly, it just grabs your eye or 48 hours, Eddie Murphy and McNulty like to complete opposite looking gentlemen, bring you and they were also dressed differently and ones like, you know, funny, and the other one was like, you know, like, like you said, almost, literally, he was a prisoner. He was literally a criminal, and and mean, teamed up with a nose. no nonsense, not straight by the book, but just like a no nonsense cop. Yeah, the hated criminals. I mean, it's, it's really, but you're absolutely right, the more contrast you can create in the characters, visually, as well as thematically, it's more interesting of a story, if it would have been too if it would have been two criminals in 48 hours, if it would have been tuned technologies. Like Imagine if there were Danny Glover was suicidal, as well as Mel Gibson and lethal weapon. If they were both crazy man like that would that's that nobody wants to see that. It's like, well, they're just gonna die.
Chris Vogler 52:10
Well, this is actually what happens in this dynamic I'm talking about is that the naturally suicidal one, or the one who was suicidal to begin with? is shown in contrast, but then maybe the other one develops the one who is all Hey, Pepe for life and don't kill yourself. It's crazy. suddenly, something happens. And now they're both standing on the same base. And that's crowded. So that might make the one who was originally suicidal, have to go to the other side, and try and talk the other guy out of it. And say, you know, I know I want to kill myself, and I've made a good case for it, but you can't kill yourself. So you know, it allows that movement. It's like a sort of sliding scale, and you want to slide back and forth a number of times.
Alex Ferrari 52:58
I remember that. And by everyone listening, spoiler alert, only the weapon. Sorry, after 20 odd years or 40 years or whatever it was. 3030 years, whatever. But I remember the end was so specifically because obviously, Riggs had no problem killing people. Like he killed people left to right. And Glover was like, why are you killing everybody stop killing everybody. And the last fight with Gary Busey in the in the in the lawn? He has the moment where he's about to kill. Oh, yes. He was about to kill Gary Vee Gary Busey. And he decided to let go and not so the the rigs at the beginning of the movie would have killed them in a heartbeat. But he decided not to do it and let him go. Because Danny Glover's character Murdock infected him with this. Like he pulled them closer to where he was. And then there's other scenes in the movie where Murdock definitely starts moving towards the crazy man that Riggs is in the movie. And then at the end, you know, obviously, you know, Gary Busey decides to go up, and they both shoot them. And they both kill him, which is like both of them literally coming together. To to, I don't know what the term would be to not rationalize. But I've got actual allies, their characters, finally, and at the end, they're both they're both a lot different. But yet they're they're still Riggs is not Murdock, Murdoch's not Riggs. But they're definitely closer to each other than they were before.
Chris Vogler 54:30
This, this brings up a larger point, which is, you know, the question of, what do people want from entertainment, they want to be taken obviously, out of themselves. They want to go to a different world. They want to experience it some of the some of their life vicariously, and people will say, Don't lecture to me, don't give me a moral. I don't want that. I'll make up my own mind and so forth. And I think that's absolutely wrong. I think people want to Murrell essays, they want prescriptions about how to live better. They want examples, and they want to see people learning. And and this is all kind of subterranean. Their first thought is, okay, show me some explosions, car crashes, sex, interesting stuff. But so so I say they come in for all that stuff. But they stay for the learning for the lesson for this thing that sticks with you afterwards, where you take, maybe it's just for a fleeting second, but you take a look at your own life. And you say, you know, I've been a little bit too much of this, or too much of that. And I need to shift a little bit. This is one of the beautiful things about this work we do is that, you, you, you can't really change people 180 degrees, but you can shift them shift their consciousness a little bit. And that's fantastic. That's incredibly powerful. To make sometimes these little increments of awareness, that's really deep actually. Now, there's
Alex Ferrari 56:15
a there's a chapter in the book, I'm dying to ask you about the vibes chapter and talking about chakras and, and how to use that, those that concept in your storytelling. So can you please explain a little bit about vibes, the chakra element that how you apply it to storytelling?
Chris Vogler 56:32
Yes, this is a new chapter for the 25th anniversary edition. It's kind of the meat of the what makes it new. And this is the result of several years of traveling around, and sort of shyly tentatively bringing out this side of me, which is, I grew up in the Midwest in the St. Louis area on a farm. But I came out to California in 1971. And I ate it up. I mean, I landed in the middle of the hippie era. And that was just great for me. And I absorbed a lot of ideas. And that was one of them, that we live in a universe of vibrations. And we talked about it, you know, we had the Beach Boys, song Good Vibrations, and we'd say, you know, did you feel the vibes in that room last night, and oh, my God, I got such a bad vibe from the guy at the meeting. And, you know, we, we had this idea that everything we touch and feel and see and hear is his vibration, you can hear my voice right now, because I'm vibrating a column of air in my throat in this room that's making this element in the speaker, go to the mic, go back and forth and so on, transmitted down to the vibes in your ear. So everything's vibration. And this also came from, you know, I went on a course of study of spiritual things, and the art called and, you know, mysterious mystery religions and all that sort of stuff in my 20s. And I studied the chakra system, which is this idea. From India, basically, it's 1000s
Alex Ferrari 58:09
of years old
Chris Vogler 58:10
1000s of years, a very, very old thing that even you know, is probably well understood before anybody discovered how to write. But the idea is that up and down your spine, you have different spiritual centers, and they're pictured as lotus blossoms that are either just, you know, in imaginary form, but imagined as flower blossoms that are either open or closed. And as you develop spiritually, you open higher and higher centers until, you know, theoretically, everything is open, and then your Buddha. But most people only experienced a couple of those things being sort of turned on or open at at any particular time. But how this all came together, was that when I worked for the studios, I went up a ladder, and got away from the doggie door, part of my career, where I actually was now going to the meetings, this was at Fox on my second term at Fox. I was part of the team that decides on Monday morning, we we talk about the scripts we read over the weekend, and we argue and defend or attack everybody's projects. And if three people say, I think it was good, it gets bought, and it gets made. So those are very, very important meanings. And I noticed most other people were commenting on the scripts in a kind of a numerical way, by saying well, that we think it hits this demographic and it's probably gonna hit 30% of the male audience and, you know, they had it sort of rigged almost mathematically, and I didn't do anything but to different parts of my body, I said it got me, it choked me up, and it made my heart race or it tighten me up in the guts, and then I just lifted the top of my head off in the last act. So I realized that I put it together, I'm pointing to the chakras. And I began thinking about these as potential targets, for your emotional effects. So that I, because I think everything is or should be intentional in this business, you should lay down an intention. And maybe the audience interprets in their own way, and they go off your attention. But you know, you really need to be thoughtful and conscious and intentional. And so why not study the different areas of the body and think I want this to reach out from the page from the screen and hit him right in the gut. And I want them to be thinking about their guts right now. Or I want them to feel protective of their heart at this moment, or just feel a stab when somebody betrays someone on the screen, or this wonderful moments in movies, like in the King's speech, where he struggles to speak and he's got all the heart in the world, and he loves his people, but he can't get it out through the stroke chakra. And eventually, he does make the breakthrough. And it's such a big moment. That, you know, everybody loves that. That kind of scene where somebody speaks their truth, and and was able to hook up one or more. And that was another aspect of it is that I realized the good scripts that I was describing on Monday morning, were hitting at least two of these centers and creating a kind of a circuit between them. So the heart and the throat, the heart and the throat were connected. More people say about Hitler, he was very open in the power chakra down in the guts, he was closed tight in the heart chakra had no compassion for other people. But he was very open and powerful in the throat. So he hooked up the power from his guts and use it as a microphone through his throat and was able to you know, move the nation. So these connections of one or more centers are I think necessary to whether you're aware of it or not. This is what you're doing is you're you're triggering reactions in different places in the body.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:45
So is there any character in movie history that connected more than four or more of those chakras or God forbid, all of the chakras were were opened up in the course of that story or hit all of those energy points?
Chris Vogler 1:03:02
Yeah, I think so. I think you know, first of all in religious areas
Alex Ferrari 1:03:07
like Buddha, Jesus, yeah,
Chris Vogler 1:03:09
you know, Buddha, Jesus, etc, have have hit most of those marks. But it comes up in films every now and then. There was one little film that I kind of cherish called phenomenon with.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:24
I love it. Yeah. With with john travolta. Yeah, yeah, I love that movie.
Chris Vogler 1:03:29
Absolutely ordinary guy kind of down to earth, even a little selfish and unaware. And then something happened to him. I forget what the trigger was.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:39
It was a light from the from the sky came and hit him and gave him these phenomenal, if I remember it was his mind. He just became insanely smart. But he also had powers, some sort of telekinesis of some sort.
Chris Vogler 1:03:54
He was like an angel. There was another film he did called Michael, I think, yeah, it was an angel, but, but he had these kind of unusual powers. And I remember a couple of things. Although my memory is very dim about most of it, a couple of things stuck with me. And one was that moment when he received this information, and it was done so simply and elegantly, and yet it touched those chakras, which was they simply hand up to a tree and you saw maybe a little slow motion, the leaves of the tree addling and can feel it, like my hands are doing now a little bit of light, dark, light, dark, and that is intensely stimulating to the eye, the whole chain of to the brain from the eye. But it just said without anybody saying anything. God is present in this scene, and, you know, or some other worldly force, because they didn't name it. And and it transformed him and then he was operating as a fully realized human being And all those things were were open and functioning for him. You're absolutely
Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
you're absolutely right. Yeah, his his character became almost, you know, godlike or guru. Like, on Earth, he was essentially walking, you know, the Christ Consciousness path, the Buddha consciousness path. I haven't seen that movie it since it came out, I gotta I gotta go back and revisit that movie because I remember loving, that was the same year of goodwill hunting and that that whole I think Titanic 97, if I remember correctly, was a great, great film. Now when it asks you, can you apply the hero's journey into arguably the most profitable place for a screenwriter to be in? Which is television? How do you apply the hero's journey in a series in a season and a complete series? How does it do it? I always like using Breaking Bad as an example, because I consider it one of the best television shows ever created. But what would you do? How do you do it?
Chris Vogler 1:06:03
Well, I think this is where awareness comes in, that the hero's journey somehow operates what I would say holographic. And what I'm referring to is when you make a hologram of something, you can say you've got it, you've taken a picture of a penny and and you load that somehow onto a piece of glass. And with a light with a laser light shining through it. If you turn it around, you see the backside, it's just a piece of glass, which you turn it around, you can see the backside of the penny. And that's remarkable enough, but they say if you smash that glass, the image of the penny is there in every little piece of it. And so that's one of the qualities weird qualities of a hologram. And so it is something that seems to operate at every level of magnification. So an individual shot can express a hero's journey element or the whole hero's journey. When somebody's fighting a dragon, just that's all you need to see. And you kind of can infer all the rest of it. So it, it operates it at all those levels all the way up to the arc of the entire series where somebody's soul is at stake as it was in Breaking Bad, or their way of life is at stake as it was in Downton Abbey. Where you know, this question hangs over every episode. And this is the real answer here is that it's a series of questions of different sizes. And there's one giant question mark over the whole thing is Tony Soprano gonna live or die? Is Walter in Breaking Bad, gonna survive or be redeemed or whatever happens to him. And then in the individual seasons of let's say, a five year show. Sometimes I've noticed they will carve out a certain aspect of the hero or the heroes world and say, okay, for this season, we're going to look at the family dynamic. And the next season we're going to look at building the business and the next season we're going to look at competitors coming in and messing up our plans. And that over five seasons can be a hero's journey. And you can plot where the highs and the lows would be and so on down to the level of the individual episode. There's a question mark over every episode. And then there are sub questions in every scene. I've looked a little bit in this respect at Downton Abbey. Downton Abbey starts with a telegram that says somebody has died on the Titanic. And now the police is up for grabs, basically. And it could go any, any way. And meanwhile, there's a servant arriving whose little question mark is, will they accept him even though he's lame from the war? He's got a war injury and he can't be as effective. So you're looking at the big picture? Will the whole thing fall apart? Will the the beautiful princess get married in? Maybe that takes a whole season to develop? Will the servant be allowed to stay despite his infirmity and so on down to the individual scene? Will the master overhear something or will will, the person who has the information betray somebody else? So you're working basically with sliding scale of questions
Alex Ferrari 1:10:04
when you just said, when you just said, Will this the princess get married by the end of the season or whatever that is. It brought back two shows that played with Will they ever sleep together? which drives a lot of shows. moonlighting, which was Bruce Willis, his big thing with syllable shepherd. They were just like, will they won't they will they won't. They will. They won't. They will. They will. They hate each other. But they want to get together with hate. And when they finally got together, the entire show cratered. It just cratered. And it never never recovered. Then you got to show like friends, which had Ross and Rachel, which was another? Will they ever get together? Will they ever and they held that on for like two or three seasons they held? Till finally they get together? And then that's death a lot of times because that's why you're watching, you're like, Okay, finally got together. Now what do you go from this? Well, then you rip them apart. And then they get huge, and then you're constantly ripping, and then that that relationship becomes so much more complicated over the course of whatever 10 years that they did that show to finally, you know, again, spoiler alert, they finally end up together at the end, because that's the only place they could end up. But they were able to keep that going for such a long time. So that is a very powerful tool to throw that question over a series. So the thing is something that that screenwriter should really think about when constructing a story and constructing a series and applying the that that little tool is so powerful, like will the like will Tony Soprano live? Will Walter White survive? You know? Or will Downton Abbey? Like will? Will we lose our way of life? It's such a powerful thing.
Chris Vogler 1:11:45
And then, you know, episode or season by season, they'll look at the sub questions like will he? Will his marriage survive in either case? Will their relationship with their kids go south? Will you know the competition come in? Will they be undermined by some mistake that they've made? That's a very strong and kind of almost Shakespearean thing that was operative in the sopranos that he tripped over some moral trip wires. And then you were in suspense? Is this going to come and get him eventually. So I enjoy watching those. Watching the question, as it unfolds, people will ask me, where's the best place for the love scene of the sex scene. And there are several answers, I can say, get them together in bed or kissing, before they go into the big ordeal in the middle roughly. That's one way because then they go in to get their joint or you have the intimacy in the actual ordeal in the middle and the difficult test, they're grabbing each other or they maybe that's the test is can they get together and survive that. Or after just after is another nice place because we've been through something dangerous together. And so it's natural to hug each other and become intimate, but the very best place is after the story is over. That's when you want to let the audience imagine what it's like for them to to get in bed together because the audience is better at constructing sexiness than the best feeling in the world. They their imagination to do a fine job.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:36
Yes, and Hitchcock. Hitchcock knew that very well with don't show the murder, show them let him hit listen to a behind the closed door. And that's terrifying
Chris Vogler 1:13:46
and don't answer every question. Because that makes room for the audience to participate. I think that's a basic distinction you can make about Hollywood versus independent or European style. Hollywood is a little more parental and cut and dried. And so we're going to resolve every plot and answer every question and there are many more question marks at the end of an independent or basically European story. They they don't sit in God's chair and they're more speaking adult to adult and leave room for the audience. You know, Hitchcock doesn't answer everything. One of my favorite of his stones is notorious. And there's a mystery that from the beginning, which is Cary Grant is weirdly nervous about intimacy. And he's got this beautiful woman Ingrid Bergman right in his lap, but he can't pull the trigger. And he's, you know, hesitant about it because he's torn with his duties. And you wonder, why is he so weird about women that first of all, it's his God but Yeah, there's that. Also, there's room for you to enter in which I did. And I made up my own backstory for him that he was weird about women because he was in love with a spy. During the war, she betrayed him, he had to kill her. And, you know, he doesn't trust love anymore, because he figures eventually they're going to be training. So, and that's not in the script. But it's in my, you know, expanded version, in my mind. And, and I think that's great. You want the audience to do some of that work for you. So a wonderful thing, even on the microscopic level of scenes and dialogue, there's a wonderful thing you can do, where somebody says he's talking about his mother, they're meeting for the first time getting to know each other, he talks about his mother. And the girl says, I noticed you don't talk about your father. And the guy doesn't answer he changes the subject. So Wow, big arrow points that the relationship with the Father is really screwed up somehow. So that's probably going to pay off later or it means something. And that's one example of how you can invite the audience to participate. And of course,
Alex Ferrari 1:16:15
and when, my last main question, I know so many screenwriters who think that the hero's journey is a very dated concept, and that everybody knows about and all the audience knows about it already. And it really doesn't apply in today's world. Does the hero's journey have a place in modern storytelling?
Chris Vogler 1:16:37
Yeah, I, of course, I'm gonna say that it does. models based on that. But I do believe it, because I think the audience is programmed that way. And they actually like it and enjoy it. When they see it, they feel ownership, they feel possession of it. And I think that it's extremely difficult for a filmmaker to tell a story that doesn't touch a quarter of it somewhere. Because it's as prevalent as air or color, you know, like, I, I'm going to make a painting that doesn't have any colors in it. Or I'm going to make a composition without any sound, you know, no notes, you know, that that's how essential these things are. Even, you know, you can make a composition where all the notes are sour, or where all the notes don't make sense. Or they don't have a sense of rhythm. And that would be maybe an interesting composition, but it's still using the notes, you really can't escape these things. It's a frame. And the only thing you can do is say, I'm out of that frame. But you're still saying there's a frame. And, you know, you you you can judge me by how far I distance myself from it. But I'm still stuck dealing with that Frank, very hard to escape.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:07
And now I'm going to ask you a few questions as well. My guests? What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?
Chris Vogler 1:18:13
Ah, yes, very interesting. First thing that comes to mind is the script for risky business. Yeah, which was Tom Cruise, one of the pictures that put him on the map. That's a script I read at the studio and I wrote the shortest response I'd ever written. Just buy it. Do it. Make it it's near perfect. Don't mess with it. Don't screw around with this. Just make that that script. It was a near perfect screenplay. I think along those lines, let's see. Gosh, I'm stumped on. Other other great screenplays that I've read. I think the shape of water, which I wrote about in my book would be an interesting one to look at, from the point of view of how do you put in the fanciful things into fairy tale things. It has wonderful eccentric dialogue. That's one of the beauties of that script. And I don't know because I haven't looked at the screenplay, per se. But I suspect it was written in there's a kind of a halting, I don't know, what's it. I've always tried, you know, with this kind of erratic rhythm. That is in Richard Jenkins dialogue, particularly he's, he's the, the friend of the girl who takes on the monster. And I appreciate that very much. And then I'd go back and look at which I did look At some Hitchcock, look at the script for notorious and see how economical they were, and how they wove things into the threat. It's a it's a tapestry. And what I mean is that Hitchcock would use dialogue as musical. And he would introduce themes through his screenwriters. Like if you look at, you did just a word search on notorious, you would find the word trust comes up, probably more often than a lot of other nouns that have to do with feelings. You won't hear much about love, but but trust comes up often. So I think looking at classics is probably the best Avenue.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:49
What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?
Chris Vogler 1:20:54
Well, again, read a lot of screenplays. And, you know, no substitute at all, for just general reading and knowledge. That was sort of my calling card, that at the studios was that I had broad, general knowledge, because I was interested in a lot of things. And, you know, in your career, almost anything is going to come your way, and you have to become almost an instant expert on everything. So reading, and, you know, for me, I sort of take the pulse of the of the world every day by reading the New York Times and the LA Times and looking at Facebook. And from that comes some kind of picture of where the consciousness of the world is going at that time. And then that feeds back into my writing sometimes. So just was pretty well informed.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:56
And what is the lesson that took it? And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Chris Vogler 1:22:03
Let's see. I'm just I think it's a personal thing, that I am probably my own worst enemy, and I set my own limitations. And largely, they're baloney creations of my own mind. And it's really Mr. Fear of talking. It took me a long time to learn that fear was actually an ally. If it's acknowledged, if you realize I'm not going where I want to go, I'm not getting where I want to go. Why is that? Oh, it's funny, Mr. Fear. I know him. I've dealt with him before. So I just have to go. Hello, Mr. Fear. I acknowledge you're there. I know you're there trying to protect me from being hurt. But I'm okay. So step aside, buddy. And let me go ahead and take the plunge. So it took me a long time to figure it out that fear was both an enemy and an ally.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:05
And where can people find the new book and more about the work that you do?
Chris Vogler 1:23:10
Well, the greatest sources for that, I think, would be Michael weezy. productions, which is m wp.com. They have the full list of books, not just mine, but a really good library of all kinds of books about filmmaking, independent filmmaking, and then Amazon. I also have a WordPress WordPress blog, which is Christopher blues writers journey. And those are the best sources I think, for for hunting. Be down.
Alex Ferrari 1:23:46
Chris, thank you so much. This has been such an enlightening conversation. And I just I just love talking to you because you're such a wealth of information. So thank you so much for for writing this book 25 years ago, and now giving us an updated version. For today's world. I really appreciate what you do in the work that you do. And thank you again for being on the show, my friend. It's been my honor.
Chris Vogler 1:24:07
And thank you very much. Your questions are great, and I love the work you're doing so keep it up.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:14
I want to thank Chris for coming on the show and dropping the monomyth knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, Chris. If you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, including his amazing book, and his course the screenwriting and story blueprint, the heroes two journeys, which is of course available on indiefilmhustle.tv, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/091. Thank you so much for listening guys. I hope this episode was a value to you on your screenwriting journey. As always, keep on writing no matter what, stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.