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Monday, October 30, 2006

Character & Dialogue part 2 - gender and race

The Gender and Race segment sits within Character & Dialogue section of Storytelling Skills.

To answer what this mean its worth first saying what it isn't! It isn't a pass through near the end. It isn't going through draft 6 and saying that the police chief is black or that the judge is a woman. In fact my advice is never mention gender, age or race if it doesn't matter. For some smaller characters maybe it doesn't. But for most characters in your script it should matter. The gender and race of a person is a big influence on their lives. So tweaking around last minute is not the way. So that what it isn't. It isn't a tweak. And it isn't a quick PC fix.

What it is should be a challenge to your own standard writing. Have you made assumptions? Have you missed some great character richness by automatically playing it safe? An example film...

So its about a cop and he's trying to track down the serial killer. Okay. Why isn't it about a cop and she's trying to track down the killer? The killer being an elderly man of course. Just those two changes make this a richer source of characters for a better plot. Basically - there is more potential.

Some good examples:

  • Ripley in Alien/s
  • Samuel L Jackson in Die Hard 3.

Both of these challenges to race or gender really add to the film and inform it. They are not just a nod in the direction. They steer the film.

Some more for fun...

  • What if Indiana Jones was black? What would the Nazi's think of that?
  • What if Jules (Samuel L Jackson) from Pulp Fiction had been an old Indian woman?

One last question, a challenge: Can you think of a black serial killer in a film?

New to this diagram?
What is it? - How do I get a copy? - Read from the beginning on the blog.

The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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OnMeJack said...

Spoiler Warning!

Samuel L Jackson in Twisted
Samuel L Jackson in Unbreakable

OnMeJack said...


Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man

Tim Clague said...

Good shout. But a bit comedy villains these though. I'm talking about serious intelligent killers!

OnMeJack said...

I concede the Wesley Snipes character.

But Mr Glass was very serious and Intelligent, he blew up buildings and trains etc

And in Twisted he was the police Captain.

So are you talking more Hannibal Lecter and John Doe?

Paul Draper said...

Here's a black serial killer

Tim Clague said...

Captain Black was always a strange figure. He went through the same process as Captain Scarlet (as far as I remember) so how come he ended up as the villain?

The victors always write history!

Paul Draper said...

Of course one may feel sorry for Black, as he is in reality under long-term possession by the Mysterons.

Scarlet (and the little noted Captain Brown, perenially afraid) managed to escape the clutches of the aliens after a short period of possession, Brown by being shot by Captain Blue.

Why Black is susceptible to possession more than Scarlet is interesting though, given their backgrounds, this may be concrete evidence of nature over nurture behaviour theory.

Did you know there are Captains Grey & Magenta?

I'll stop now.

Google, eh.

Tim Clague said...

And yet - no Captain Green? The untold story.

Paul Draper said...

No, apparently he was a lieutenant

Tim Clague said...

So he was. Poor guy.

When I wrote a blog post about how we should consider the colour of our characters this wasn't really the direction I thought we would go in!

Paul Draper said...

It takes a knack to produce banality from the most worthy of topics.

Tony Blair should know etc etc