Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Want and the Need

So in last nights workshop, we really worked on the concept of the WANT and the NEED. 

Now I felt a little funny when I posted my three act structure post yesterday and someone said, "That's a popular approach"  I worried that it might seem I was engaging in a knee jerk embrace of a tired idea.  But I think not, and here's why:

The three act structure was first codified by Aristotle.   In the last 30 years, various script analysts have added all sorts of bells and whistles - the 22 act structure - the Reversal - etc.  All sorts of things that feel like mechanical impositions on your story.  What I like about the tradition of story that I have learned, (and it's source is Vicki King/Al Watt/Allen Zadoff all amazing writing teachers)  is that it is all about the Want and the Need.  Once you've established that, then you can move forward in a truley organic way secure in the knowledge that your film/memoir/script/documentary/novel will fulfill that essential human craving for story that makes the difference between an entertainment that is satisfying and not. 

Okay - so let's get to the meat:  What is want and what is need?  Sure a character can want a lot of things - but what is the capital W want of the story?  It needs to be the essential thing she can't have.  The essential thing that is keeping her from what she really wants. Now the flip side of the Want is the Need.  Now what I found with both of the workshop participants was that contained in what they wanted - their initial impulse for it - could actually be contained in the Need as well.  

For example - one filmmaker had a character that he thought wanted a bunch of things - but what became clear was that this character wanted the security of  for his children and he was trying to gain them security by fighting with outside forces.  The hero's need in this case is to pay more attention to his children, and thereby give them actual psychic security. 

So the key in finding Want and Need is to find something that is more thematic - and that really strikes at the core of what the character TRULY wants but can't have.  He might want everyone to agree with him to keep his children secure - but the fact is he can NEVER get everyone to agree with him.   And in fact, his fight to get everyone to conform to his point of view is only keeping him from his children. 

How he moves through the resolution of the Want and the Need will result in an entirely satisfying transformation for this film. 

In future blog posts:

 - how to apply the Want and Need in a non-character based doc. 
- what are the questions to ask to get to the structure. 

Want to run these principles on your doc?  Sign up now for The BeeKeeper Documentary Story Workshop. Email me at or call (323)202-5645. 



Find me on the web at
by phone (323)202-5645

No comments: