BPS 091: How to Use the Monomyth in Your Screenplays with Chris Vogler

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 WritersI 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Many filmmakers and screenwriters believe that the hero’s journey or monomyth is out of date and doesn’t work on today’s savvy audience.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.

Right-click here to download the MP3



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet 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
That's great.

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.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 041: Ordinary vs Special World’s on the Hero’s Journey with Chris Vogler

We have all heard about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey by this point but what is it really. Chris Vogler, the author of The Writer’s Journey – 25th Anniversary Edition: Mythic Structure for Writers and the man who brought the Hero’s Journey into the film industry, breaks down the ordinary and special worlds of the hero’s journey. Enjoy.

These videos on screenplay structure are from his best selling online course (available on IFHTV): Story and Screenwriting Blueprint – The Hero’s Two Journeys.

Right-click here to download the MP3



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Before we start today, guys, I just want to lay out something very clearly, is that the matrix is a documentary, not a film, and I'll explain what I mean, in this episode. Now, the title of the episode is why filmmakers are programmed to fail. And I wanted to go deep into this because it is something that is affected my life dramatically. And I really hope that this episodes, clarify some things and bring some things to your conscious mind in a way that hasn't before. I want you to understand something that our lives are ruined by our subconscious mind. And I'll prove it to you. Did you drive a car today to work? Or any time? Did you brush your teeth?

Did you think about walking to the kitchen and making breakfast? All those kinds of mechanical operations? Who's running that? Who's running the code driving the car? Who's running the shop when that was going on? Because your mind was somewhere else you were thinking about problems or stress? Are you thinking about why this movie that I'm working on is not getting made, or I can't find the money, or and this is happening while you're driving a 2000 pound piece of metal down a highway or you're walking down stairs, or you're brushing teeth. Or you're running or jogging, or any of these other kinds of things, even sometimes while you're talking to somebody else, or listening to somebody else for that matter. These operations are run by your subconscious mind. It is not run by your conscious mind, you don't have the mental cognitive energy on a daily basis to run your entire system, if you will. And I'm going to use a lot of computer terminology because I think it really makes things a lot easier to understand. If you had to actually consciously think about getting yourself out of bed, putting your feet on the floor, thinking about lifting yourself up, coordinate how you're going to walk and think about every single step while still watching everything around us and nothing hits you or bump into you then go to the bathroom. All these things all these morning rituals, I'm just talking about the morning rituals, let alone your daily rituals. All of that is run by your subconscious mind. That is all hardwired operating system that is run by your personal operating system. The problem is that many of us are still running Windows 95. And we really should be running that brand new Mac iOS. I don't want to get into a Windows Mac thing. I'm just using it for an example guys, everyone calm the heck down. Now I want to I want you to listen to this very carefully. That same operating system, that same subconscious mind that runs your day to day business your daily operations also keeps you where you are in life and on your filmmaking or screenwriting path. Let me repeat that. Your subconscious that same operating system is What is keeping you from what you are trying to obtain in your life and in in your filmmaking in your screenwriting, I want you to understand that the construct that your subconscious has built, has a need to protect itself in its own mind. Your subconscious does not like change or want change, change is scary. Uncertainty is scary. But understand from an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense. stability and predictability is safe, change is uncertain, change my open you up to be eaten by a tiger, or knocked over the head by a competitor while you're trying to, you know, get food or or survive. But these mental models don't serve you anymore.

And once you understand this, this is really life changing career changing stuff. When you're about to embark on making a movie, let's say, and you haven't done it a million times before, that's scary. And your operating system is not happy about it, and it will kick in to protect you. In its mind, it's there to protect you on an evolutionary level, it's there to protect you in any kind of change, or modification in the code will kick in the agents Agent Smith will come in and start sabotaging you and making things hard, because it doesn't want you to go down that road. Now I'm going to throw another thing at you. Your operating system or programming is installed within the first seven years of your life. Now this is scientifically proven. Hell, the Jesuits have been saying this for over 400 years. They said give me a child for seven years, and then I will show you the man that he will become, because they knew that this seven year period is when all the programming all the O 's is installed into you. Now let me explain. In order to survive on this planet, your brain needs to build an operating system. When you come in your your fresh hard drive. You got nothing in it. You don't have any any beliefs. You don't have anything in it you have you have basic basic basic operating systems, how to breathe, how to cry for food, very basic stuff. But in order to survive in the on the planet, you need to upgrade that operating system. So how do you do it? You watch your surroundings, you watch your parents, your siblings, your community, people that are around you. So whatever is going on around you in those first seven years, that is getting imprinted into your operating system. The ideas that you pick up in those first seven years set you up for life, that is what's going to run you for the rest of your life. If you don't believe you can be successful, if you don't believe that you're worth it. Or if you don't believe that whatever you don't believe on a subconscious level, then you will create habits that will stop you from creating the things that you might want on a conscious level and sabotage yourself. That's what I've seen so many times with filmmakers that I'm like, Why is that guy or that girl? Not moving forward? They're so talented, and they're so experienced, but yet something seems to be stopping them. I don't know what I'm not going to write it off as bad luck. But I'm just curious why that happens. I've seen it so many times, in my experience working with filmmakers, 1000s of filmmakers over the course of my career, that I kept seeing it again and again and again. And I wondered what that was. This simple reason is why poor people stay poor and rich people stay rich. It's because of the programming. Now think about it for a second lottery ticket winners lottery winners, right? How many times have you heard somebody that has never had money in their entire life win $100 million? What happens? The majority of the time they lose the money or they self destruct because they don't have the programming to handle that kind of money. It's just not something that they know or how to deal with or even how to handle. Why is it that 65% of professional athletes lose a lot, if not all of their money within five years of retiring? How many times have you seen athletes at signing table somewhere? Years later when they were making $20 million a year? And years later? They're signing for 50 bucks 150 bucks a signature? Why is that? Not in every case. But in some cases? It's the programming. If you think life is a struggle, if you say this film business is just too hard, they'll never let me in. I'll never be successful. I'll never get my movie made. Guess what? If that's what you're saying to yourself, then you're right. Period. If that's the thoughts that are going in your head, you're programming yourself to fail. For years, I did this. For years, I was the angry, bitter filmmaker, who was so upset at everybody else and looking at everybody else around me, you know, getting a leg up, and I wasn't getting those opportunities. I'm like, why is it? Why is it? Why can't I get my shot? I'm sure many of you listening to now, right now have had that conversation in your head, maybe even this morning? Why am I not getting the shot, I'm good enough, I feel that I can do it. But yet, I was programming myself on spinose. To me, I was programming myself

to fail. And only when I made a change, only when I decided to just completely override my operating system did things change, when I finally got to a place where I could not take it anymore, I decided to make that change. And that's when I made my first feature. This is Meg, or from the moment I said, I'm gonna make the movie, it took me 30 days to shooting that damn thing. And when I did, I didn't give my operating system time to even react. I was there I was in it, I was doing it. And I just said, I'm not going to stop, I'm going to keep going and I overrode my programming. I stopped those horrible mental constructs that I was creating for myself, these limiting beliefs that I kept repeating to myself, again, and again, and the subconscious was listening. And all of my habits, all of the things around me that I was doing, the people that I was attracted to, in the business, meeting people that would bring into my inner circle, all were reinforcing those negative, those bad thoughts that I was putting in my head, that bad programming 95% of our lives comes from these programming in the subconscious. Only 5% of your life is being lived consciously. Even if you think that you're at the driver's seat, you're not in all areas of your life, health, career, love, money, creativity, relationships, every area of your life is run 95% by your subconscious mind, by that Oh s by that operating system that programming. So what is the solution? What can you do to change this? Step one, recognize where you are struggling in life. Just look at your life and ask Where am I struggling? Because if you're struggling in an area that the programmer that Oh, s is not supporting, guess what, you're gonna have a problem, it's gonna fight back at you, the agent Smith's are gonna come at you, and you're trying to be Neo, and you're trying to create new programming, change the system, change the matrix. And I'll give you an example. I've spoken about this a little bit before, but I'm going to talk about a little bit more detail. Now. I've always had issues with my weight. And I know a lot of people out there listening because I've heard you guys message me and you know, and talk to me about this, that I've had issues with my weight all my life. Why? Because of the programming I had when I was a kid. You know, unfortunately, I had family members who were obsessed about their weight. And even though I wasn't when I was born, ask a baby, what its thoughts are on its body fat, or how their weight is or how they look in jeans. They don't think about things like that, that is all implanted. That is all programming based around what's around you. So I was programmed with this, that weight is a struggle. It's going to go up and down. I will never be thin, I will never be in shape. I will never have a six pack. All these thoughts were in my head. And I decided, you know, within the last six months, I said that's it. The same way I changed my mind and change the programming about my filmmaking career. I did the same thing with my health. And I said that's it, I'm going to change. I did the same thing when I was when I went vegan. I said enough's enough. I don't like the way I feel. I don't like what's going on in my body, I'm going to change. And for me, that was a good choice. Not for everybody. But for me it was. So when I decided to change the programming about working out and change my habits. All of a sudden, I was the guy that wakes up at four o'clock in the morning to go work out. I am the guy that works out six days a week and is happy to do it in like jumping out of bed ready to go work out. I'm the one that watches what they eat and how they eat. They make good healthy choices. Am I never gonna eat a piece of cheesecake again? Of course not. I Of course, I'm able to indulge. But the point is that that programming has been shifted. And now it's such a habit that I can't go back, it would hurt, it would actually be very difficult for me to sit down and just pick out like it would be difficult in my head to do it. Because my programming is now shifted. I reprogram myself, I am my own Neo, in the matrix of my life. I'm so sorry, with all the matrix bonds, I apologize, but I'm just using it, I think it's a good, good way to illustrate the point. So that's step one, recognize your struggle

and focus on it. That's step one. Step two, it's time to upgrade your operating system. The conscious mind is creative. And it can learn from an audio book, a podcast, an online course. And you can learn information that way and you can bring information in. But the subconscious mind does not work like that. The subconscious mind does not pick up those things. There's only two ways to program the subconscious mind to change that operating system. The first way is within the first seven years of life. That's one way. The second way is repetition. Practice, practice, practice. You didn't learn to drive a car in the first seven years of your life, but you learned how to drive a car, didn't you? You learned and you practice until it was installed in your operating system. Now you don't even think about the process of driving. Look at any 16 year old driving a car for the first time. One it's hilarious unless you're in the car or around the car. But secondly, all their mental energy is focused on the task. They're a wreck. They're nervous, they're anxious. Why? Because that operating system is going haywire. Their urge their want their desire to drive is overriding their operating system. Their their their desire for freedom in that car is overriding their operating system and their operating system is trying to handle it is trying to deal with it. But they do it so much. That finally becomes hardwired and now it's cool. If you've been driving for years, like I have been driving since I was 16 years old. It I don't even think about driving again in a car and I go there's never nervousness. There's never anxiety about driving. I don't care. It's amazing. It's amazing once you start thinking about it. That's why Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer can jump in a pool and just swim without even thinking about it. Why? Because he has done it 1000 times. Do you think that Steven Spielberg or Chris Nolan or David Fincher walk on the set and is nervous about the day? Or is nervous about the people that they're working with? Or about the process? Generally speaking, no. They might be nervous about new elements have been added in like story or actors, or getting the performances that they want specifically about this, but the mechanical processes of directing? Do you think Spielberg gets nervous? They think Scorsese gets nervous. Of course not. That's home for them. That is the pool that Michael Phelps one jumps into, it's their home. So when you jump on a set for the first time, you're a nervous wreck. Because you don't know what's going on. You're trying to figure things out, you haven't done it before. So your operating system is going haywire. It's trying to stop you, but your desire to make that movie, your desire to write that screenplay is overriding your operating system.

So this is where affirmations come into play. If you want to be a successful screenwriter or filmmaker, repeat every day, I'm a great writer. I'm a great filmmaker. I have the abilities needed to tell stories, I have the abilities needed to direct this film. Say it again and again and again to yourself. And the secret sauce to making this really, really transform your life is adding feeling. If you feel what you are saying, if there's an emotion attached to it, it will supercharge what you're doing in your subconscious feeling is so so powerful. Think about a great time in your life and then how that makes you feel in your body. Think about a bad time in your life and see how that makes you feel in your mind and your body. When you add positive feeling when you add real emotion to a thought that really in truly supercharges your transformation that will begin to change your operating system that will begin to change your subconscious mind. Doing this with a combination of educating yourself on what you need to do or be is a game changer. during your life, I'm not saying you're gonna sit there and look in a mirror and go, I'm a great filmmaker and never pick up a book. But if you start to do that, that programming will start kicking in, and then all of a sudden, you're going to notice that other habits are going to start coming in, you're going to want to listen to audiobooks every day, you're gonna want to listen to more podcasts, you might even want to start taking more online courses and start maybe, I know it's crazy, setting up time every day out of your busy day, to educate yourself, to learn your craft, to add those tools in your toolbox. But it all starts with the subconscious, because you could take a thout look how many people here listening? And I know I can't, I can't get any hands up. But I'm sure that many people who are listening have taken an online course, taught by some of the greatest masters of all time, but yet, it hasn't moved the needle. Why is that? Why is that? How many 1000s of podcasts have you listened to? How many online courses have you taken? How many audio books have you listened to? And yet, if you're not moving forward, in what you're trying to do, what's holding you back? Could it be your operating system? Could it be your subconscious mind that is holding you where you need to be because that's where it wants you to be because it's safe and predictable. On an evolutionary level, you've got to break through that mental barrier, you've got to break through that mental construct, it serves you no longer if you want to be happy, repeated again. And again, when your subconscious mind gets it gets that programming update that you won't have to say it anymore. Just like driving a car, just like learning your ABCs How many times did you sing that darn song until you can sing it off the top of your head now, not ever have to think about your ABCs once your subconscious, or operating system gets it, that is when you will start to create habits that will change your life and will change your filmmaking career, and your screenwriting careers in ways that you cannot even imagine. It has in my life. And like everything on this show. As I go through the journey of my filmmaking career as my creative career, my life, I try to share it with the tribe. If I find value in information that I'm finding, I want to share it with you guys. Because these concepts that I've just laid out, have changed my life for the better. I am healthier than I've ever been in my life, I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, even when I was in my 20s. And even when I was working out with a trainer back then I'm in better shape. Now. I can do things now that I was never able to do then. And this is less than six months, guys, I haven't been doing this for years, in less than six months, I've been able to drop almost 40 pounds. And I still got about another 15 or so that I want to get rid of. Because I got to get that six pack. Why not because of ego. Because that's where I need to be. On a health standpoint, it allows me to do more for you guys, for my tribe, for my business for what I do with my family in my life. That is what I've changed my programming to be. And it's changed my filmmaking career,

I've done two movies, where the first 40 years of my life, I haven't done any, in the last couple years I don't do and if I really wanted to, I could have probably done four or five movies this last year. But I had other fish to fry I was writing a book we're building up the you know, the podcast doing all the things I had to do. But if I wanted to, I could have easily done that. Because I changed my programming. Now I also don't want you just to write down on a post it note in your bathroom, that I'm a good filmmaker, I'm a better filmmaker I am. I'm happier. Whatever that is, that is a suggestion. You need to repeat it to yourself, in your mind, or out loud every day. So your subconscious gets it and it will make a difference. I promise you it will make a difference in your life. Because it's made a difference in my life. I cannot tell you all the things that have changed in my life because of this bit of knowledge, this knowledge bomb that I got months ago. I want you to understand something that I'm about to release a book. I am a published author. Now, I never in a million years had a program in my head that I was published. I could be a published author. Why? Because I didn't have anybody around me that I knew that was one. I didn't know it was something that somebody else did. But when I decided I'm like I'm going to write a book, and I'm going to do it and it's going to get released and I'm going to get it published. And that's exactly what I did. Now Now all of a sudden, I've got three or four books lined up that I'm writing. Why? Because my programming has changed. My program is now telling me oh, writing books is safe, you can do that. And when I come across new programming that I want to change, I will change it. It's all within your power guys. I want you to understand that the freedom for you to change your life, to change your filmmaking career, to change your screenwriting is all within your own power. It's in side of you. I just did an episode a little bit ago about meditation. It took me years of trying back and forth to be a meditator. Because in my mind, in my programming, I didn't have anybody around me that was a meditator. I didn't have any good role models, I didn't have any, any programming that could reinforce that. So I was like God, something that somebody else does. And I was just talking to a tribe member today, actually, who will remain nameless, but you know who you're who you are, sir. Where when they saw that episode, title, they're like, oh, meditating, that's, that's for somebody else. I'm just gonna keep hustling harder and harder. And I'm gonna just keep working harder and harder. Because their programming told them that meditation, that's, that's something new, that's something scary, I don't want to go into that world. And they just wrote it off. Now, mind you, I am a guy who has a company called indie film, hustle, I wear a hat that has hustle period on it. I'm all about the hustle. I'm all about the work. It's about being smart about it. Using that energy properly, hell just even be able to get energy to do it properly, which starts with your health, and your mind, and your mental health and your spiritual health, all of that stuff. That's where you have to go in order to move forward. Once again, guys, you have the power to change your life. Nobody outside of you, nobody anywhere else. If you're waiting for someone else to make you happy or to make your dreams come true. You're going to be waiting a long time. You're going to be waiting and waiting and waiting. It is a recipe for nothing but pain. Understand that

you need to take control of your life. You need to start making these decisions and these changes in your own life. And you have the information, there's no excuse anymore. The information that I've laid out in this episode can change your life, your filmmaking life, screenwriting life, your creative life, and just your life in general. I really hope that this episode has helped you guys again, a lot of this information has helped me out dramatically in my life. And as I continue to find and discover new things, I will continue to relay them to you guys. I know you guys have been, I mean getting given me so many emails lately, I can't even tell you so many messages about these new series of podcasts that I'm doing that you guys are really digging it. So please, if you love these podcasts, please share them with as many people as you can. I want this information to get out there. I want my community I want the tribe, I want filmmakers and screenwriters, and people at large to get this information because it is just kind of earth shattering kind of stuff. Because when you're able to change your life, then you can change lives around you. And when you can change lives around you, they can change lives, and so on and so on and so on. So I really hope this helped you guys out a lot. I'm going to put a couple of books in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com Ford slash 306 That might help you understand a little bit more about this process. Thank you guys for listening, and I'll leave you with this. This is your last chance. After this. There's no turning back. You can take the blue pill and nothing will change in your life and you will stay exactly where you are. And you will not move forward or towards the direction you want. Where you can take the red pill and you can truly see how deep the rabbit hole goes. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors

BPS 013: Chris Vogler: Screenwriting & The Writer’s Journey Blueprint

If you have seen Star Wars then you know Joseph Campbell‘s work. If you ever have seen The Lion King then you have seen one of Campbell’s best students, Chris Vogler, work.

Related: Michael Hauge: Writing a Screenplay That Sells

Chris Vogler wrote the game-changing book  The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for WritersI read this book over 20 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 bases for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years.


What Chris Voglerdid 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

Pretty high praise from one of the best filmmakers working today. In this episode, I ask Chris to break down a bunch of concepts of the Hero’s Journey, why it resonates with people around the world and what makes an amazing hero and villain.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Vogler.

Right-click here to download the MP3


  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Screenwriting Audiobook

Alex Ferrari 1:24
So Chris, thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate you taking the time. I'm very glad to be here. So So you know, just so everybody knows in the audience, I read Chris's book, the writers journey. I don't want to date anybody but over 20 years ago, and it definitely changed the way I look at story. So for that, I thank you very much, sir.

Chris Vogler 3:01
Hey, you're welcome. Yeah, I was a very hungry young, youthful author.

Alex Ferrari 3:06
very youthful, you must be 30 now, so you did it when you were 10. Fantastic. So um, how did you start in the film business? Well,

Chris Vogler 3:16
I had a path that led me through journalism school first, back in Missouri, where I'm from, and then I got into the Air Force, and they sent me out to Los Angeles, I was lucky, it was the middle of the Vietnam War. And instead of going to Vietnam, they sent me to LA and I worked for an outfit that made documentary films about this space program, and so forth. And after that, I got to go to film school on the GI Bill, and went to the USC School. And, and that's really where things came into focus for me, because I encounter the work of this man, Joseph Campbell, who wrote The Hero with 1000 faces and was a big influence on George Lucas and many others. And that kind of, you know, focus me on my quest to find out what stories were all about. So that and also, there was a class at school that was important called Story analysis for film and TV. And that was like a career pathway for me, because it showed me that, you know, thinking critically and writing about stories and reacting to things intelligently was, you know, a way I could make make a path for myself into the business.

Alex Ferrari 4:35
Now, what um, what about Joseph Campbell's work really kind of drew you drew you in and what was the revolutionary part of his work that kind of, you know, really sparked something in you?

Chris Vogler 4:47
Well as as a kid and just a pure consumer of movies and TV from the Midwest. I grew up on a farm. It was, you know, wonderful and mysterious to me. How They sort of hypnotized me with these great images. And all that night, I was on a quest I was trying to figure out, I was looking for the book, where's the where's the the, the rules of this? Where's the physics of it? where's the where's the color chart of the periodic table or the the theory of how they do it. And you know, I got to film school and I found out well, there really isn't anything like that. And then just sort of by accident, I found the work of Campbell. And he wasn't thinking about movies. But he had thought long and hard about mythology and these patterns he kept seeing about heroes, and how that related to you know, current findings in psychology, especially the work of Freud, but more Carl Jung In school, so he was combining the patterns of old mythology with modern psychology and kind of handing it back to us and saying, Okay, here's, here's what's hidden inside all the stories, advice for how to live. And that turned out, I thought, to be a great blueprint for telling stories and communicating with an audience. So that was my, my breakthrough about it.

Alex Ferrari 6:14
Now, can you talk a little bit about what the hero's journey is?

Chris Vogler 6:18
Yeah, you know, this is a pattern that Campbell found in the ancient myths, he kept seeing the same sort of signposts over and over again. And he had, you know, somewhere between 16 and 20, different events, psychological, mostly events, that would occur in almost every story, I worked with a little refined it down to 12 things, but the essence of it is, you know, everybody at some stage in their life has an ordinary world that they know, and then they're going to go into something new and different, and you know, a new relationship, new job, a war starts or a catastrophe happens, or a health crisis, whatever it is, there, you're going to be in a new world. And so it's about exploring that world, and how the difficulties of it can almost kill you, that's sort of the essence of it, that this is Dane, you know, change in life is dangerous. And it can be threatening, but that can also change you and make you stronger and more resilient, and, you know, more more alive and conscious in humans. So that's, that's the basic essence of it, people started an ordinary world, they go out, you know, either because they're itchy inside, or they are being forced to it by outside circumstances, and they explore something new, there's often a mentor who helps them that's an important part of it, the presence or absence of somebody who can guide you and be a role model kind of, but you know, that that's, that's the essence of it, that you were transformed by an intense experience of going through a change and entering a new stage of life and you're not the same you come out as a different person. So that's kind of the, the essence of the idea.

Alex Ferrari 8:16
So would you agree that for people who are not familiar with the hero's journey, a great movie to illustrate this would be Star Wars The original one? Episode Four, then you hope?

Chris Vogler 8:28
Yeah, yeah, that that was, you know, it's always been the easiest way to show where the signpost star because George Lucas was very conscious of Campbell's work he had read about it even before film school he was aware of Campbell because he had you know, studied anthropology and various other things and and found Campbell that way and had the same I think inside I did that Jesus would be great for plotting stories and giving them a little bit of this mythological resonance in psycho psychological reality. So yeah, it's it's easy to see that signposts because he made them big he made all the turning points. Very clear, and obvious. You know, the, the pattern calls for a call to adventure and there's the Obi Wan Kenobi literal, your literal call for adventure. Yeah, there's literally this call to everything is literal like that. There's supposed to be the handing off of some kind of relic of the past that that's going to guide you and help you and so he gets his father's lightsaber from Obi Wan Kenobi. There's supposed to be a mentor, there's Obi Wan Kenobi, and so forth. You know, when they when they come to the, to the cantina. That's a typical situation in the stories that you go to a bar or a saloon or a watering hole or something and you find out what the new world is like and then boom, you take off and that's an important part of the pattern to that that sense in the audience that we know, there's some preparation that needs to be done to meet the hero and figure out what the problems are. But then we want the story to take off. And that should happen, you know, ideally, maybe 20 minutes or so into the film half an hour and maybe, but

Alex Ferrari 10:18
going when he jumps on when he comes on the Millennium Falcon, basically,

Chris Vogler 10:21
yeah, when they go off, it's it's very, very clear. And, you know, there's, there's other things too, that I think check it easy to see the yearning of the hero, you know, when he looks out at the twin sons on the planet, you know, he wants to get out there, and you know, but he's stuck. He's a farm boy, but then boom, this rush of events, takes over and then meets all kinds of monsters and you know, almost dies a couple of times. And that's, that's par for the course, on this, this hero's journey deal.

Alex Ferrari 10:53
Now, can you break down, at least just give a basic understanding for people who don't understand the basic three act structure? And how that might also translate into a trilogy? As well, like, cuz I know, I'm going to use Star Wars again, you know, star, new horror, Empire and return, all that kind of stuff.

Chris Vogler 11:10
Yeah, you know, there's a beautiful thing going on with all of this, the current study that people are doing of story structures, and narrative and so on, which is, at first, my competitors, and I were doing seminars, and workshops, and writing books, all hated each other, and we're jealous. And then, you know, and said, that other guy's system is stupid. And mine is the only one that works, you know, that was procedure. But we got over that. And we all mostly realized it, we're all talking about the same thing. And it's human. And it's kind of hardwired. So these things beautifully start to overlap. And, you know, sort of parallel to my 12 Stage pattern is something called the three act structure, which was really pioneered by a man named Syd field, who was a wonderful man, of course, last year, so and was a real pioneer, because he laid out this unwritten rules of storytelling, that he sort of put together as what they call the paradigm of three act structure. And there's nothing all that earth shaking, he knew about it, but just like my idea with the hero's journey, this can be traced back easily to at least Aristotle, who taught, you need a beginning, a middle and an end. And the energy I think of this is what's important to grasp about the strict the three act structure, it's to use a metaphor, it's like, drawing a bow, you know, you're you're, you're pulling back in the first act, you're, you're loading that bow up with energy, and then you're taking aim and the second act and dealing with the wind and all the other challenges, and then you fire it. And in the third act, and your intention, or the situation of the hero, you know, finally goes to some kind of target, and either hits or misses, you know, and if it misses, it's a tragedy. And if it's a hit, then, you know, you've got a comrade happy. And so, you know, that's one way to, to look at it. And there's, you know, many metaphors that you could, you could use on this, but that, but but that's a good one, that you're, you're gathering energy, you're building tension, then you're, you know, really zeroing in on critical things, and then sort of launching the whole thing in the final act. And that overlaps with my pattern.

Alex Ferrari 13:44
So like a movie like Pulp Fiction, which does has a it's a very unique structure. Can you kind of break that? Because it's genius, because it follows the hero's journey in its own structural way. Am I wrong in that or keep you break that down a little bit?

Chris Vogler 14:00
No, you know, that's a really interesting and challenging one to analyze. Because it's so ambitious, first of all, those guys, the writers of that we're trying to Roger Avery and Tarantino we're trying to deconstruct things and tell multiple stories, and that's very challenging, and they chose to do them out of sequence and, you know, play around with our expectations of what will happen in order, you know, and that's refreshing, but you can and deconstruct it, you can reconstruct it, and sort of lay it out in a linear way. And it's, it's a very, in some ways, conventional storytelling that they're that they're doing the heroes on all the different threads of the story, have an ordinary world they all go through some kind of drastic challenge and change and enter into, you know, some new situation and it And again, they either hit or they miss. I mean, that's the beautiful thing, especially about the main story with John Travolta and,

Alex Ferrari 15:11
and Sam Jackson it,

Chris Vogler 15:13
it Samuel Jackson is is that one of them Tarantino sees this they have this miracle happen where they're supposed to all be shot to pieces and in a drug shootout and miraculously, Sam Jackson says they're missing and he says that's that's a clear sign from God, we were spared for a purpose. And so my life has changed now. And Travolta says, that was just a coincidence, it doesn't change anything. And, you know, the story sort of sits in judgment of those guys. And at the end, the writers give Samuel Jackson eternal life and say you you're going to go on and be like, the guy in cockayne travels around, who travels around righting wrongs and doing good in a nice, Zen kind of way, doing little harm and little bloodshed and revolt is killed getting off the job, you know, he's he jumps off the toilet, and Bruce Willis shoots him to death. So

Alex Ferrari 16:12
spoiler alert,

Chris Vogler 16:15
the story and the story. The writers, you know, sit in God's chair kind of and give their their judgment. So I'm How do you react to this new thing? That's, you know, in the in the second act, the challenge, and then how does it land in so to speak, the third act, although it's all messed up, you know, in the editing process, actually, it's, you can still make that kind of clear moral sense out of it.

Alex Ferrari 16:45
Now, in your opinion, what makes a good hero and a good villain,

Chris Vogler 16:51
this is, this is great, they're sort of, you know, mirror images of each other, sort of reflections of each other. A good way to look at all the characters is that in some way, everybody else in the movie is like a another possibility of the hero that that even the love interest, male or female, is like your opposite side or your opposite possibilities. The villain is the the dark possibility of you the clowns, and tricksters around you, those are the funny possible versions of you. So the villain is some kind of mirror image first. But what makes a good hero is somebody who is complex, and they're broken somehow, that seems to be really deeply essential in all the way back to the mythology is that the hero will be strong and powerful, and you know, maybe, like Hercules stronger than everybody else, but he's got problems, and something broken or something wrong with him. In his case, it was dealing with women, and sometimes He misjudged situations and would go off on people or, you know, caused a lot of problems because he was so impulsive. So, you know, all the way back in the mythology, this idea is planted that the hero is more believable and more human because they're imperfect.

Alex Ferrari 18:22
With that said, I don't mean to interrupt you. I don't mean to interrupt you. But I just wanted to make a real point here. A good hero, like you said, all those flawed heroes, is that one of the reasons why it's so difficult to write for a character like Superman, who's essentially a God, with the movie coming out this weekend. Just curious on your take on that, like, that specific character and how difficult sometimes it is to make those kind of characters work as a hero?

Chris Vogler 18:49
Yeah, yeah, that's certainly a very interesting franchise, to me, partly for those reasons. That it is a mythological character. And as you say, he's got some semi divine potential. I actually was called in at one point by one of the studios to, you know, sort of put Superman on the couch and shrink him and put him through my mythological process. And, you know, this is I think, at a point when they were trying to decide are we going to do Batman versus Superman, this was many years ago. That was considered the this current film has a long, long history. They they asked me to sort of shrink Superman and it was all about the flaws and the limitations. That that's what makes him interesting is that even though he's invulnerable, most of the time, they're still conditions like kryptonite and red and green, right, that have different effects on him and then he's emotionally kind of a train wreck in some ways, and that You know, charming that, that when he puts those glasses on for some reason, he becomes shy and bumbling and can't say what he really thinks and is, you know, very, very easy to identify with. So, you know, you kind of get the best of both worlds is a superhuman set of possibilities, but with some realistic limitations. And then

Alex Ferrari 20:24
that's why I've been Batman. Well, that's why I like that, like Batman is such a relatable character, because people, because people can identify with him, he's, and he's much more popular than Superman, in many ways,

Chris Vogler 20:37
very, very interesting. How we use these characters as meditation devices or something. And we think through the stories about, you know, different developments, what does it mean to be a man, what does it mean to be a patriot, you know, even look at the colors of Superman's costume or Batman's costume. And it just, you know, is sort of a mirror reflection of what's going on in society at the moment, or what society thinks is important. So, you know, Batman, for some reason, that one seems to be a laboratory to experiment with all kinds of different kind of dark brooding thoughts. But is there such a range within Batman that people can just turn the dial to comedy and, you know, grotesque silly things and, and get a big kick out of it, and even find meaning in it. But then turn the dial the other way to Batman is a complete lunatic and, you know, a reflection of the nuttiness of our own society. So it's, it's really fun to see how the writers do this, but also really how the consumers are, are using it to figure stuff out. It's it's just entertainment, you know, they say, it's just cotton candy for the mind. But there's much more going on in even the silliest things.

Alex Ferrari 22:11
And you were continuing with the villain, what makes a great villain.

Chris Vogler 22:14
Yeah, just, I think, you know, very much along the same lines in the kind of fundament, that there should be, you know, a lot of powers, but also limitations. And especially when you are dealing with magical figures, who have, you know, vast magic powers, one of the things that helps is to make a rule, it costs something that every time you do something bad, or something magical. It's not free, it costs you something you may lose, you know, you may become partially partially paralyzed, you might become blinded, you know, every time you use your X ray vision, or whatever. And that just makes the game so much more interesting that he can do anything. And then for the kind of more every day, villains, I think it's useful to realize they don't think they're villains, they think the hero of your story is the villain, that they're, they're totally convinced they're right. They, they have built their whole life is built around their view of the world. And so, again, they're the mirror image of the hero. And when the hero is up there down, when the heroes happy, that doesn't make them happy. And vice versa, you know, they're when they're happiest, the hero is the most miserable. So they make diagrams, they make waveforms, and they're they're perfect mirrors of each other, sometimes.

Alex Ferrari 23:51
They balance the yin and the yang, they

Chris Vogler 23:53
balance each other and, and then there's the whole idea of archetypes, which is something I got out of Campbell's work, you know, also from Carl Jung, who said inside everybody there is a cast of characters basic characters, a mother, a father, a hero, a villain, an angel, a devil, you know, all these kind of basic human possibilities. And at first I thought, the villain is the villain, and and should be, you know, really mean and, and tough all the time. And the hero should be heroic all the time. And the mentor should be mentoree all the time and so forth. But then I realized Life ain't like that. And people have different masks that they wear. You know, maybe you wear 20 different masks in the course of one day. That you're a tough guy one minute that you're a coward the next minute and you're a teacher, one minute, you know, and so forth. So, villain. The villains are wearing a mask, you know, most of the time of the villain but there's other masks in there. And again, they may they can show kindness they can, they can be heroic, they can be a teacher to the hero. You know, they can feel sorry for the hero and an almost spare the hero all these things make them more interesting than just nah, I'm here to you know make your life art so so is it these are the shadings are what make it realistic and more fun.

Alex Ferrari 25:25
Now, the hero's journey is become, and it hasn't become but I guess it is so relatable to so many people around the world, regardless of religion, society language is that because it's just something that is hardwired into every human being, no matter where you come from?

Chris Vogler 25:42
Yeah, it's, it's, there are two things in operation here. And one of them is that I do make that assumption that in the course of evolving into human beings, we created a whole bunch of structures, like families, for instance, and societies, we created these structures and stories are one of those that, you know, I think we actually grew a part of the brain that handles that, that allows you to think and metaphors and imagine people, you know, when somebody's just talking to you and saying, Once upon a time, there was a little girl, you somehow create that world and the little girl. And that's, that's all part of being human. But the other side of it is, then you have millions and millions of examples of these things in the form of stories. And people are, are swimming in an ocean of stories in their lives. And even if it wasn't hardwired, we'd all be taught by Hollywood movies and TV and the myths and legends of our cultures, we'd all be taught? What are the basic rules of these things? And you know, what is the what is the shape, and the effect, but I go back to the first one, that it's hard wired, because it seems that certain images and situations will very reliably trigger emotional and physical reactions in the audience. You know, things like people in trouble, people helping, you know, in sacrificing their own lives to help somebody else. Somebody sneaking up behind you to threaten you, all those things get physical reactions, and it's pretty reliable across cultures. So So there's

Alex Ferrari 27:34
so would you agree that and this is something I've always told people that asked me about story, I'm like, Well, if there was no story in the world, I don't think the human experience can move forward. Like just on a daily basis. How many times do you just tell, well, how was your day at work? That the story, you know, and all these kind of things? Do you agree with that, like, without story, we just couldn't move forward?

Chris Vogler 27:56
Yes, it would be a very different world. You know, I suppose there is an engineering version of the world where, you know, everything would be expressed only as, as mathematical formulas or diagrams or something. But even that's for and the metaphor is telling some kind of a story the world is made of numbers. You know, that's as much of a story as Peter Pan. So yeah, I think it's true because of the fact that it's, it's just so hard wired into us. You know, people say, I remember this one, when Johnny Carson died, people, a lot of people said, What's it like to be Johnny Carson? In other words, you couldn't really tell me how it was to be Johnny Carson. But what's it like, you know, and give me a metaphor. It's like being the king, or it's like being on top of the world, or it's like being under a spider. All those are metaphors, and they tell little stories. So we think in poetry and metaphors, just automatically, and it's so embedded in the language, we don't even realize it. You know, like I just said, it's embedded in the language. And so I've created a metaphor that there's a, there's a mass and then inside that mass, like raisins inside a loaf of bread. There's embedded these, these ideas. So So these things are hard to escape, and you kind of can't see them, because they're so dominant. But, but now there's good things about it, because it does allow us to communicate, and to get ideas across and convince people of things by telling it in the form of a story has all politicians know very well, it's one. Yeah, it's one thing to say the veterans are being mistreated. But it's much better to say here is a veteran and isn't what happened to him and look, and he, you know, had all the sacrifice and now he's suffering. And so now wow, that's a whole different level of relationship and identification. So

Alex Ferrari 30:13
Oh, I see it I see with my, my daughters who are four, how story impact them and how I'm using story now just to kind of relay core, as George Lucas said, the meat and potatoes of our society, like, you know, the boy that cried wolf, don't lie, you know, things like that. It's so powerful and how these stories like the Grim Tales and things like that, they just gone from generation to generation now the Disney stories and, and the movies and stuff, like their movies that I saw when I was growing up. Now I'm showing them to my girls, and, and Star Wars is one of those, you know, kind of mythos those, those generate the new generations are catching up with that, you know, the thoughts that we grew up with? Younger, it's just fascinating to watch. Now, are, are we all on our own hero's journey? Basically?

Chris Vogler 31:04
Yes, that's one of the biggest insights I had, by the way, your daughters are very lucky, because you're keeping up this ancient tradition, and you're not outsourcing it to the technological stuff. That's part of it, but introducing them to it and talking to them about it. Reading the stories to them, especially is, is critical. But yeah, I mean, that was the big insight from the very beginning. I said, Wow, when I read Campbell's book, at film school, I kind of skim through it, I'm a good skimmer, and I skimmed through it on the bus on the way home. And by the time I got off the bus, my whole life had been changed. And one part of it was, yeah, this is great for making movies, this will make better, more entertaining more international movies. But at the same time, I was aware, this is a great guideline for living. It's a template. And and it's a again, it's a metaphor, it's telling you a story, once there was a person who you know, lived somewhere, and they went someplace, and it changed it. But it's, it's just so clear to me that our ancestors thought it was important. And they preserved it in the form of stories, because it's your guidebook for life, for how to deal with the inevitable things, things are going to come along and wreck your plan, no matter what that plan is. And so how do you deal with that? And the stories are just an infinite Well, of options and solutions, and failures, you know, that two examples of tragic failures. So, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 32:49
now What? What? No, no, I was gonna say, I was going to ask you, what do you how do you know you're reading a good story when you're reading? Well, I'm sure you read a few scripts

Chris Vogler 32:59
in your day. Yes, the number count, it's hard to say how many but it's well above 20,000. People like to believe but but I there's there's no question that, you know, I have file cabinets filled to prove it, of my reports that I've analyzed 20,000 stories at least. And, you know, the the elements of the good one are. I'm a sucker for poetry and and for for just good writing. And I, I now I'm sort of ruined as a reader. Because I have low tolerance for bad writing. And I'm talking here about just the how do you compose a sentence. And there's, there's, there are people who, you know, they might be giving you good information. I'm reading a book about the city of Venice right now in Italy. And it's good information, but it's given in this very flat way. Venice was a big city in the 1400s. It was important, you know, and there's no music or poetry in that at all. But But But I appreciate so much the beautiful writers. Now, screenplays are special, they're supposed to be very spare and simple and short sentences like that, for the most part. But there's, there's just a confidence that you feel when somebody knows how to how to build the nice, pretty sentences, not fancy but you know, elegant. So that's, I know, this is very subtle and hard to pin down what I'm saying. But beyond that, the simple thing for you know, like, what's makes a good screenplay is, man, they grab you right away, and you know, right where you are and who it's about, for the most part. They're very clear about this as the hero spending a little time describing her. Maybe giving her are some special behavior at the beginning that gets my attention? Why is she doing that? And that hooks me in. So, you know, there's their scripts, you read 20 pages, you don't know who it's about, you don't know what it's about, you don't know, you know, even you know, is, is this the main location? Or is this a little prologue or, you know, there's a lack of clarity. So I just like it when, when things are simple and clear. That's a sort of a motto of mine. From that the classic old romantic comedy, It Happened One Night, Clark Gale. Yeah. Yeah. Clark Gable is a reporter in that, and his motto is simple stories for simple people. And it's not condescending, it's it's a really good artistic rule. Just keep it simple. Tell me the story. And, you know, make it elegant in language and so forth, if you can, but, you know, be clear. Above above all, that's another thing I'd rather be clear than pretty in my, in my storytelling, and pretty historic, you know, sometimes, you know, overly flowery, it can also mean, look how cool I am. I'm not telling you who this guy is. And I'm going to make you wonder what's going on for a long time. Or I'm not going to tell you, you know, that sort of razzle dazzle

Alex Ferrari 36:25
is are using 75 cent words, when yes, that 10th That letter?

Chris Vogler 36:29
Yeah, yeah, or another version of it is, and then the camera using a Zeiss iKON lens with a 35 diopter on it in the corridor at about 3.6 miles per hour. And then, you know, this kind of over directing is another another version of how

Alex Ferrari 36:47
you read, have you read? Have you read scripts to have that kind of? I mean, I've never heard that is janky. But have you read something like that?

Chris Vogler 36:53
Yes, yeah, it does come up every once in a while. And I think it's generally from someone who isn't confident and hasn't done it very often before, and they're trying to prove, look, I know all this stuff, I took a class or I read a book, or, you know, I went to film school. And, you know, I, myself, I think there was a little bit of that in some of my early scripts, because, you know, also people have a passion, they see it in their head so clear, they want to make sure it's down there on the page. But I learned better ways to do that, than to say, you know, you put please put the camera on a tripod, about four feet off the ground, you know, it's not that, but you know, you it you indicate stuff like that by, he looks up from under his eyebrows, and she sees a flash of light in his eyes. And that gives you that makes the shots in your mind better than saying, with a tight close up, just from his eyebrows down to his nose, you don't have to do that you just draw attention to the the detail you want to see the gun. That's a great note. So, and it is important, these things about the body, the hands, skin, eyes, you know, referring to those in the text. It kind of creates the close ups, you know, just just writing that in your slugline his hand near the gun, you know, is that's that's better than saying a tight close up or that you've seen in your mind immediately. So.

Alex Ferrari 38:36
So you you worked at Disney for a while, correct?

Chris Vogler 38:41
Yeah, that was I guess the that was the longest run I had at any of the studios. I had to sort of like military tours of duty at Fox on either side of that at Fox as a reader and then later as an executive. But in the middle was about 10 years at Disney. And that's a long run. And that's a long run. Your normal gig is about two years. Honestly, people people say you were doing something right? Jobs. Well, I was doing something right. But also within those 10 years, I worked for about four or five companies within Disney. So I kept changing over. And as a new company was developed, like they created Touchstone type period pictures and various other and then there was image Hollywood pictures and Hollywood pictures and you know, all these different divisions and as each one was created, I would come in and write some memos and read some scripts for them and, you know, get involved and I was a little bit conscious of that trying to diversify and get as much stuff into my portfolio as I could. And that's a sidebar here but very important. A lot of my thinking and work these days is about branding. And somehow intuitively, I was good at that. And before the internet, I created a kind of viral marketing for myself through means of the Xerox machines and you know, fax machines and stuff like that. I spread a viral idea through the mind of Hollywood, which was this memo that I, when I was when I was at Disney. And the memo simply took Campbell's academic idea and translated it into Movie language. He talked about the Epic of Gilgamesh, or that fairy tale of the three shoes or something, and I would talk about, you know, here it is in ordinary people in Star Wars and various other classic films. So

Alex Ferrari 40:55
I even read that at a film student, I read that memo. That's how far that memo went, I was in Florida. And I heard about this memo that said, this is the this is the the guide book, the blueprint of all story. And of course, as a film student, you you're like, Oh, my God, I have to read this. And it would circulate around the school. And then I mean, so you did a good job. Without email. Without internet, you were able to create a viral piece of material that branded you completely. Yeah, I went, I got your book.

Chris Vogler 41:30
It definitely did. And I have another thought about the branding, which is that branding is really a matter of association. You're associating yourself with different things like Coke. One of their mottos was coke ad for life. So they say, Coke equals life, and whatever you know about life, whatever you like about life. Yeah, there isn't coke. So

Alex Ferrari 41:54
arguably, arguably, Coke takes away life. But we can talk about that.

Chris Vogler 41:58
Is that true? Yes. Yes, yes. It's certainly if you want to kill something, let it swim and coke for a while. But yeah, you know, if you want to take chrome off your bumper, that that's another it'll, it'll eat the Chrome right off. But it's this matter of the where were we with this is branding branding, on the branding thing is, is that, yes, somehow I was able to do that and brand myself with this thing, because it was almost like something that just popped into my head. When I was standing at the Xerox machine. I had written this memo. And I said, you can sort of load this up with intention. And I even left a copy of it on the Xerox machine on the glass. intentionally thinking the next person coming along may find this and who knows what they'll do with it? Well, let's see. Let's see where that goes. Wow. And, and, and, you know, I think what happened was an executive came in just copied something and found that and plagiarized it. He took my name off, he put his name on the cover, and sent it up through the company ranks because he thought it was good. And it got to the top guy in the company, Jeff Katzenberg. And he said, This is great. This is the this is the greatest thing that's happened since popcorn, you know, there's all our movies and our animation should. Everybody should read this. And eventually you got credit, though. Yeah, I claimed credit, which is a little out of my character. I'm kind of shy and retiring. But I attacked that one. When I heard that this had happened. I wrote a letter to Katzenberg. And I claimed it and I said, the word's gotten out that this memo is on your desk, and I wrote it then that this other guy, and I want something I asked for something, which is I wanted more involvement in the company. And he immediately responded to my amazement, and threw me together with the animation people and that was kind of the the high point of my involvement with Disney. They were just starting Lion King. And I went over there to talk with the animators and writers. And I thought, okay, now I have to do a sales job and I have to explain who I am. And I have to tell them what the hero's journey is. But I walked in the door and the first thing I saw was a corkboard with the storyboard of The Lion King and it was all mapped out by the hero's journey. Step one, step two step three, really memo. The memo got there ahead of me, and with me doing nothing. It did a complete sales job for me and just rolled out the red carpet. So I walked in and I knew exactly who I was and what my idea is.

Alex Ferrari 45:07
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, arguably, Lion King was for met for well over a decade, if not 20 years, it was the biggest animated movie ever. financially.

Chris Vogler 45:29
Yes, it was, I must, I must tell you a bit of a surprise to all of us. Not all of us, but many of us who worked on it, because Disney had been on this rocket ship in line. And then they'd had a couple of, you know, they made they made 20 live action films in a row that were hits, and nobody does that. Now, something bizarre going on. And then they had made beauty in the beast, Little Mermaid, Beast. And those, those, those were so good, and so revolutionary, they completely revive things, we all kind of felt like, well, the Lion King will take a step back, and it'll just be another picture, and it's not going to stand up, you know, you can't keep going like that hit after hit. So you almost hope that one of them will drop back a little lower expectations. And then you come back and you know, try to top yourself. But

Alex Ferrari 46:28
that would that would have been probably Pocahontas, not like navy. So

Chris Vogler 46:31
one of those, one of those that followed in the chain. But you know, it surprised us all. I remember seeing the screening the opening night. They hadn't party, you know, and we enjoyed all that. But the applause when the movie was over, was kind of that was good, you know, which is true for almost all Hollywood screenings, you

Alex Ferrari 46:57
know, every single one of them. Absolutely. You're correct. You

Chris Vogler 47:01
That wasn't too bad. But But Well, we underestimated the way it would connect around the world. And I've heard that everywhere in every culture, that people say that's a Japanese story, you know, or that's an obviously African but you know, every culture relate somehow. So they they did something right. And I had my little part in it. Yeah, I just I had a little story about that opening sequence, the circle of life sequence, they had fully animated that by the time I got there. And they showed me that sequence. The first time I met with them, and then the rest of it was either in pencil sketch form or actual post it notes on the cork board storyboard style. But my reaction to it was, there's something missing. And the missing thing was when Rafiki, who's the kind of the mentor of the story, the kind of magical guy when he holds up the baby Simba, and he shows everybody. I said, Wouldn't it be cool, if those big clouds up there suddenly opened up and a chef, the light came down and lit up the baby. And everybody in the room, wrote that down and started drawing pictures of it, because the animators communicate. And instead of writing notes down, they draw pictures. So everybody drew that. And they, they stopped the production and put that piece in, which was a big, expensive deal, but they said it was worth it. And that makes the little button on the scene. It's this one little thing. And there's a exactly right place in the music where the music kind of explodes. As the baby lion is held up, and that shackle light just punches it. So

Alex Ferrari 48:57
it makes the theme it honestly without no question about it. I still remember when you were saying and I see it so clearly in my head, like, how could you not have that?

Chris Vogler 49:05
Yeah, yeah. And it was like it was all invited and set up by what they had done already. But that's that one little piece, kind of nailed it. And the I saw a physiological reaction in everyone in the room when I just said what if the shaft the light comes down, and I paused a minute and I noticed everybody's there, like shivering and quivering and kind of moving around in their seats, and then started furiously drawing that that image. So it told me something and that's very important to me is that the story or the good ideas actually reach into your body and they do something they they they cause organs in the body to react and secrete fluids, make you shiver and make your hair stand on end and make you cry and do all these other physical things to you. So that's a big part of my thinking now is The, what I call the organic storytelling, that it's in the organs of the body, where the story is actually actually happening. Your brain is, you know, processing and thinking and comparing. But the direct experience is right there in your heart, your lungs, and you know, your guts.

Alex Ferrari 50:22
And also, like, we talk a lot about story structure, and the hero's journey and everything like that for actual movies. But there is a part of that, that goes through the marketing of it to to create a storytelling process of the marketing in two movies recently that has done that amazingly well was obviously the Star Wars movie was probably one of the best marketed movies I've seen in in a long time and Deadpool, another amazingly marketed film. Can you touch a little bit on that? And how story played a part in those two campaigns?

Chris Vogler 50:56
Yes, that's something I'm very interested in. I've done work with companies that do trailers for movies and done a lot of thinking about, about how they connect. And, you know, it's, it's something in the first case in the Star Wars case, they're dealing with what you know. And the objective here was to say, you knew this, but you didn't know this. And so there are little things like, there's the sort of iconic shot of the current villain with his lightsaber with the side flame out, sort of flicks flicks it on. And that was like, Oh, this is telling you it's plussing. This, it's telling you this is going to be the Star Wars you love. But with some new twists and X ray, a simple thing. But something also a little controversial, got people talking about what does it mean, and if there's even look realistic and possible, and so that all worked very well for them. With Deadpool, that's just a brilliant job of projecting a voice. It was it was all about the voice and the kind of iconic look at the character in his reclining lazy position. Those those two things together, made a real strong campaign

Alex Ferrari 52:24
and opposed to the Batman vs. Superman campaign, which told you from what I hear I haven't seen the movie yet. But it told you the entire story. It shows you all the points, the big, big moments already have been given away in the trailer, which is I think, what would they had such a potential to do a Star Wars, if they had the confidence? I think that was the big difference. I think the studio behind it with Star Wars, there was a confidence with the marketing that like look, we're just going to just give you just enough to get you excited. And that's what brought everybody out. And with a story like Batman vs Superman, which is obviously like, you know, the fight of the of the century, they could have done that. But they didn't they went the complete traditional old school. Let's show them all on the trail. And let's see if we can get some butts in seats on the first opening weekend. Do you and I don't want to get to know you. I know these are some of your clients. So feel free to say no comment.

Chris Vogler 53:17
It's It's It's fine. I these are observations I've had anyway. You know, it's a matter of his choice about it. And this particular technique of telling you everything and giving you all the plot beats was really worked out at Disney and it was part of their success for a while that that they they were reassuring you this movie with you know Richard Dreyfus or Bette Midler, whoever it was, they were putting in movies in those days, back in the 80s talking now, they would they would lay out okay, then he's in his ordinary world, and then he's going to go to the special world and it's going to be weird and funny things will happen, but dangerous things. And then at the end with the thrill, the love of a good woman, he'll figure it out. And that worked for a while, but then people really rejected that. And as you say, it's a safety it's a, you know, a default way to do it. And it's so much better when you really know what you have to sell. I was impressed by one campaign in the last couple of years. For Maleficent the movie looks back at Sleeping Beauty and does tells a story from more or less the villains point of view. They knew what they had to sell Angelina Jolie with the weird black corns in costume, and they just sold that, you know, that was their tip and so, you know, I think that's the the ticket is you have to know what it is you have to sell and sometimes it is the story or, or it's a new Voice or new character?

Alex Ferrari 55:03
So I'm going to ask you, right? Now it's going to ask you the same question that I asked all of my guests. These are the toughest questions. So please, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life, the longest

Chris Vogler 55:21
to learn, I guess that would be something I'm still dealing with. And in in that department, I would say, honestly, it's getting out of my own way. I'm still learning that, that I tend to do things the hard way and make things hard for myself and make more of the difficulties than they they need to be. So that's, that's been a slow lesson for me that I kind of sum up by something I call it's not my idea. But the do easy method. If you're interested in this, it's it's something that was cooked up by the writer William Burroughs to deal with difficulties in his life. But you just sort of approach everything very gently. And you know, where computers maybe drive you crazy and you want to throw things, there's a way to caress them, so that it isn't so difficult and painful. And I'm not a master of this, by any means. But that has helped me. So that's

Alex Ferrari 56:34
you're still going through your hero's journey in regards to

Chris Vogler 56:36
that? Oh, most definitely. Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 56:41
So why don't your top three? Exactly. So what are your top three favorite films of all time, no order or anything like that? Just three films that really touched you? Well, sure,

Chris Vogler 56:53
I always start with my desert island movie, if denied all other films would be the one. And for many years, this has been a movie from the 50s called the Vikings, which is really the source material are very close to the current Vikings TV series. That's on the history. They're they're really drawn from the same literary source, the same historical character. It's the same idea. A great adventure movie with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine. Exactly, and, you know, amazing effects and beautiful ships and all that. Number two, would be a movie called Gilda, which is, uh, oh, yeah, black, black and white. And it's just a special film to me. Because it's a film noir. It's about a triangle of evil guy and woman who is associated with him and a young man who used to be her lover, and, you know, the the loyalties among all those three people. But it's much more profound than that. It's kind of an essay on good and evil and the devil and God and just profound kind of movie. And then our little more modern thing, is a film I'm working with right now. I'm getting ready for electric in Paris. And I had to do a French film. So I picked a film called a more, which won the Academy Award a few years ago, for Best Foreign Film. And it's about old Parisian couple. And the wife has a stroke, and she eventually declines and they have to deal with her complete downfall as a person. very uplifting story. Got it? Yeah, it's it's a tough one. But just beautifully made. And a great example of simple stories for simple people in the best way. Very confident. You mentioned that before. That confidence in filmmakers and storytellers is really nice when you have it. And this guy's very confident. He does a lot of things where he'll just have a black screen, and maybe you'll hear people say, are you okay? And the other one says Jamar, right now, there's no problem. And they're in bed asleep. And he'll just let that black Dean run for almost a minute. And you just kind of breathe and live with it. And boy, that takes confidence. But he's got

Alex Ferrari 59:33
and what is the most underrated film you've ever seen?

Chris Vogler 59:38
Let's see. Oh, yeah, I go to a film that's actually kind of hard to find called They Might Be Giants with George see Scott. And Anne Bancroft, I think is in it and it's a play on Sherlock Holmes. It's about a crazy man. And in New York who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes, and they send us a social worker to visit him. And her name happens to be Dr. Watson. So it goes well there. I've been waiting for you, you know, and she goes, but and eventually, they get, she gets lured into it and realizes he is really the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, or he believes it's so much that, let's just accept that. And there really is like a Moriarty, a bad guy who's doing things and they rally wonderful oddball. All the oddball people in New York are rally behind them to stand up to this shadow of Moriarty. And it's a wonderful inspiring film. For some reason that one's not in a lot of packages, and it didn't get sold. And it's hard to find. But it's a little treasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:56
Now, where can people find you?

Chris Vogler 1:00:59
The best thing would be my website, which is www the writers journey.com. And I also have a blog at WordPress. And that is Chris bowlers writer's journey blog. I don't

Alex Ferrari 1:01:22
Okay, and can you tell the people? Can you tell the can you tell that the tribe what books you've actually written besides the writers journey? Or the cuz I know you've written a few books, correct? Well,

Chris Vogler 1:01:37
I have Yeah, actually, I'm building a little library. I wrote, you know, the first book, The Hero's Journey, 20 years ago. Then a few years back, I co wrote a book with a buddy of mine, who's a film director and teacher in New York, named David McKenna. And that book is called memo from the story department. And it's about structure and character, memo from the story to print. And my original memo to Disney is in that about the hero's journey, but also all the other stuff that David and I have used in our work over the years other frames other other systems, like there's a fairy tale analysis technique. There's a way of looking at characters that goes all the way back to the days of Aristotle. There's a chapter on vaudeville, and how the traditions of the stage are still useful for filmmakers today. So it's good that way. And then the third thing, titled that I can claim is I wrote a Japanese manga, you know, their version of Carl. And sure, a buddy of mine, got into the business of publishing in, in America in Japan. And he invited me to contribute a story and so I got one out of the trunk. I took an old movie and novel called Ivanhoe about the time of King Richard and the Crusaders and Robin Hood. And I wrote kind of a sequel to it called Raven the skull. So that's the title Raven skull. And it was supposed to be a four book series, we only did the first one so far, but it's, it was really fun to work with an artist in the Philippines, this guy. This and the editor never met him. I never met him. But we did everything by JPEGs back and forth. You know, I, I want to I want the stirrups to look like this. And I want the sword handled to look like this. And I'd send them the the images and, and man would just come back the next day exactly like I wanted. It was a great way to work. So

Alex Ferrari 1:04:01
there's my there's another book that you wrote the foreword for that actually was the reason I bought the book was because you wrote the foreword to it with myth and the movies. Yes,

Chris Vogler 1:04:11
that that's kind of a another relative of my books. It's in the family. A man named Stuart void. Tila took on a an important job. I'm glad he did it because it was a lot of labor to do it. But what he did in myth in the movies is he said, Okay, here's Vogel's idea. How does that actually work? What does if you do the diagram, what does it look like? He was doing like pie charts of the of the different steps. And what does it look like in 50 different films and he chose really good classics in different genres. And he shows there that it changes depending on the genre, and that they spend more or less time in different stages, and maybe omit stages or repeat them or something. He found all these neat patterns. sort of subcategories within the the general thing he said it still works in all these films, but it's flexible. And so you'll you'll find the the specifics in mainly by genre in the adventure movies, romances, mysteries and so forth. He found these these shadings of it. And it's a great contribution. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:26
great curse, I have to say it's been an absolute joy. Talking to you today. Thank you so much for taking out the time and dropping a lot of value bombs on on the audience in regards to structure. Kaboom.

Chris Vogler 1:05:40
Yeah. So I'm glad to do that. And you let me run free. And I appreciate that. And you had good questions. So I hope everybody just keeps in mind my motto, which is trust the path trust the path that you're on. Keep going till you get there. And that has its own guidance system built in. So good luck.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:04
Thanks, Chris. And Alright, so now Chris, we're out. Thanks again so much. I really do appreciate you taking the time. I know it's been I know you're squeezing the end right before you Paris ships. Thank you.

Chris Vogler 1:06:13
Yeah, yeah, I have to keep an eye on that ball. But I'm going to be working on that. Um, more film I talked about today. Oh, buttoning up my clips on that. But this is great. And I wish you luck with your in the film hustle. You got a pretty good list of people on this now and

Alex Ferrari 1:06:34
yeah, Linda. Linda says hi. I said I did Linda and of course Michael and weed and you know that Michael and I have been doing that all the heroes two journeys course digital courses he sees. So hopefully this will help a little bit with sales with that and, and move forward. So of course, thank you again, so so much. I really appreciate it's been an absolute delight talking to you, my friend.

Chris Vogler 1:06:57
All right. My pleasure. Thanks a lot, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:01
You know, I can't really tell you what a thrill it was to talk to Chris. I mean, after after reading his book and how what an impact that book made on me. If you guys haven't read that book, you got to go out and get it. Writers journey. And you can get all that you can get the links to his books, the course and all his direct websites and stuff like that at Indie film, hustle, calm, forward slash BPS 013. And if you guys haven't gone to screenwriting podcast.com and signed up for this podcast, please head over right now. Sign up, leave us a five star review. You have no idea how important it is for the show and to help get this information out to other screenwriters and other filmmakers out there who really need it. So again, just head over to screenwriting podcast.com. And if you'd like this episode, guys and love what Chris is doing, and his ideas about the hero's journey in screenwriting, you've definitely got to check out the course that I worked with him and the legendary Michael Haig and put out a course called the screenwriting and story blueprint, the heroes two journeys, it is the number one screenwriting course on Udemy has over 4000 students and counting. So if you want to check that out, just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash story blueprint and get a special discount offer. And as always, keep on writing no matter what, talk to you soon.

Please subscribe and leave a rating or review
by going to BPS Podcast
Want to advertise on this show?
Visit Bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/Sponsors