Tuesday, October 17, 2006

'Tis the Season

October Fun with Sharpie!

I like drawing with Sharpies. It forces you to think about your line and where that line is going to go before committing it to the paper. Some of my best life drawing has been with markers but lately, I've been into these wacky little simplified masks.

Merry Halloween

In Defense of McKee

I've read a lot of opinions recently about that old stalwart of Story, Robert McKee. Some of it is nice but a lot of it is just downright nasty. Having attended his seminar, and having read his book numerous times, I think the guy has been a bit unjustly maligned.

First of all, I think it's wise to be wary of "how-to" books. There are a lot of authors and self-professed "screenwriting teachers" out there - people of questionable skill and talent, with no real credits to their name, waiting to get our money (there are few people more skeptical than me in this regard, and I'm always careful to do my research before rushing out and purchasing a new one -- whether the book is about buying a house, raising a child, or writing a screenplay).

As far as STORY is concerned, I've read the book numerous times and I've paid the five-hundred plus dollars for his seminar and I enjoyed it. For me, there's always that chapter or two in a book that never makes sense until I hear it lectured to me. So there's that.

To me, McKee is not so much teaching screenwriting or structure so much as he is trying desperately to preserve the art form of storytelling. His book has made me aware of elements of storytelling that have worked consistently since who knows when and for that alone I am grateful. Some of his advice I like, and some I don't. They're principles, for goodness sake, not rules. Take what you think you can use and move on. And while he may not have churned out any Oscar-winning films, I will say this -- the guy's sure as hell done his research.

There's a lot of talk about McKee's delivery (or his "performance" if you will). Some people find it annoying and fake -- little more than a showman's performance of his own memorized text. Others find his energy to be very motivational, even inspirational. Myself (and a lot of my colleagues who actually make their living in this industry) happen to fall into the latter category. Despite his curmudgeonly approach, the excitement I felt about screenwriting lingered for months afterwards and I don't think I can put a price on that. And yeah, I know he's plowed through the same routine countless times and continues to do so with near autonomous mathmatical precision, but I still feel the guy is genuinely passionate about the art of story and that sure can be catching.

Remember, too, that it's human nature to complain. When someone is unhappy with a product or experience, you usually hear about it (if my aunt has a great time at Disneyworld, she might mention it, but if she had a miserable time, you'll hear every moment of the ordeal in excruciating detail). Just keep in mind that there are a lot of satisfied McKee disciples out there, too.

If you're still doubtful, that's fine. Check out STORY from the Library. Most of us understand that the mere act of reading a book doesn't automatically make you adept at doing it (if that were the case, we'd all be doctors and lawyers) and if you find it's something you think you'll refer to over and over again, then by all means, consider buying it. If, after reading the book, you find that it isn't your cup of tea, fine. But don't rip the guy just because you heard from a lot of other people that he's trying to force writers into doing things a certain way. And don't vilify him because he's one of those dreaded "Three Act Classical Story Mongers" and you just don't want to believe in structure.