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They say that there are only so many stories around. When browsing the internet about this, different things come up about it. From only 7 basic plots (Christopher Booker) to only 36 dramatic situations (Carlos Gozzi, Georges Polti). Also I once heard or read that ideas simply ‘float in the air’, so it’s not strange that a lot of times more people come up with the same idea at the same time. Historical events and developmental trends have a big influence on this as well, naturally. When there is a war somewhere, naturally people want to tell stories about that. When there is a new technology, it’s bound to appear in movies in the coming years. If you study this, you can actually see trends pop up in them. Certain periods have certain themes in the movies. Not only stirred on by historical events, but also the cultural influences and psychological needs of the audience in that particular time. It’s an interesting subject to study.
I won’t elaborate on this here, but the reason I’m bringing it up is that this week I discovered a new movie had just been released, containing a big part of the story that I’m trying to write. It doesn’t have the exact same plot, but a big chunk has similar events. I went to see it, just to find out how similar it was. Now this happens a lot in Hollywood, where similar movies come out, even in the same year (for instance Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998)). But those come out of the Hollywood studios and apparently they just do that, perhaps having invested too much in it already. I really don’t know how that goes. I’m also thinking, with thousands (!) of movies coming out every year, it’s impossible to keep track what everyone is doing. Yes, thousands, really (7610 worldwide, with 738 in the USA alone (still a staggering amount to keep track of) in the year 2013, according to Unesco Institute of Statistics).
Earlier I mentioned that the story has big similarities with a Hitchcock film (Day 18 # Accidentally Hitchcock). But upon further investigation, I still haven’t seen the whole film, it only has similarities in the characters a little bit and one of the events. This new film is much more similar in fact. So, I was then immediately forced to really look at my story and decide what to do. Continue as planned? Or take out the similar events and change directions with the story? Or abandon the whole story for now, until I come up with a new changed story as a whole? WWHD, what would Hollywood do? I am so glad this also happens all the time in Hollywood, that screenplays are changed a lot into a project. Just reading about this in the study book Film Art: An Introduction (Bordwell & Thompson), that is part of my DIY film school, and it’s such a ‘relief’. But it doesn’t change the fact that I still have to decide what to do.
What about the theme of the story, which I talked about last week? The underlying theme still holds up, even if I take out the similarities with this new film that just came out. However, I will have to develop new events surrounding this theme. How my main character feels and his development as a person, is still an interesting theme I would like to write out in a screenplay. I do really have to go back to the drawing board though, how to bring that about.
Is this then pushing me away from this story after all and towards the adaptation of the novel I discovered last week? Even though I can’t really do anything with it eventually? Now I‘m studying film more, my confidence grows in understanding it more too and that’s actually stirring me on to write something I can use, put in my portfolio, be an ‘original’, maybe even sell. Which can and probably still will be based on something that you’ve experienced around you, seen or read in the news or whatever. And since there seem to be only 7 basic plots and 36 dramatic situations, we will just have to try to ‘use’ (and combine) those in a way that feels ‘original’. Like everyone else is trying.
I do still like the discovery of the novel and its theme, which really is the theme I want to write about it. But it won’t be simple. But I like that, as you know by now. It often brings out the best stuff when you’re pushed to become even more creative, dig deeper. What to do with this bump in the road though, how to go about it, I don’t know yet.
Man, this sure IS bootcamp. But I really like it, where it’s taking me and how much I’m learning in it and from it. And that it all really isn’t as simple as one might think.