Day 54, 11/28

1. Hero’s Journey Worksheet and First Draft

Practice making a story that uses this framework. For this first attempt, don’t limit youself to something you could actually make! Feel free to include aliens, orcs, superheroes, etc. Let you imagination run wild!

2. Hero’s Journey Ideation and Proposal

Once you’ve done this, start brainstorming your own ideas while limiting yourself to stories that could actually feasibly be made given our limitations (time, actors, setting, etc.). Once you’ve come up with a few potential concepts and have found one that you are excited about, it is time to open the “Hero’s Journey Production Proposal” in Teams and draft an overview using the same framework. Be sure to clearly dentify at least nine of the twelve steps of the hero’s journey with your plot overview and press “Turn in” when you are done for a completion mark.

Afterwards, you should begin to write your first draft of your script. Please work independently for now, but soon we will be able to partner up with collaborator(s).

Day 53, 11/27

1. Character Archetypes

What is an archetype? All of the characters in these fulfill the role of one or several archetypes are recurring patterns of human behavior, symbolized by standard types of characters in movies and stories. You can find a summary of these main types here or you can watch this video to hear about a few of these archetypes in detail.

  • HEROES/LEADERS.  Central figures in stories.  Everyone is the hero of his or her own myth.
  • SHADOWS.  Villains and enemies, perhaps the enemy within.  The dark side of the Force, the repressed possibilities of the hero, his or her potential for evil.  Can be other kinds of repression, such as repressed grief, anger, frustration or creativity that is dangerous if it doesn’t have an outlet.
  • MENTORS.  The hero’s guide or guiding principles.  Yoda, Morpheus, Merlin, a great coach or teacher.
  • HERALD.  One who brings the Call to Adventure.  Could be a person or an event.
  • THRESHOLD GUARDIANS.  The forces that stand in the way at important turning points, including jealous enemies, professional gatekeepers, or your own fears and doubts.
  • SHAPESHIFTERS.  In stories, creatures like vampires or werewolves who change shape.  In life, the shapeshifter represents change.  The way other people (or our perceptions of them) keep changing.  The opposite sex, the way people can be two-faced.
  • TRICKSTERS.  Clowns and mischief-makers, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.  Our own mischievous subconscious, urging us to change.
  • ALLIES.  Characters who help the hero through the change.  Sidekicks, buddies, girlfriends who advise the hero through the transitions of life.

You can find more information on each of these category types here.

2. Now What?

Now that you believe in the existence of “The Hero’s Journey,” you will now likely begin to see it everywhere! That is fun and all, but how do we put this new understanding into practice when writing a story? Christopher Vogler, the author of the now famous memo, wrote a whole book on the subject. Short of reading that cover to cover, you can use what we’ve learned as an outline to check your story against.

For your film, you do not need to necessarily consciously build your story using this formula as your “recipe for success,” as filmmakers who have tried this (I’m looking at you, DreamWorks Animation) have met varying degrees of success. In other words, you can follow this “recipe” and still make a terrible, boring, soulless film.

The likelihood is that any story you feel is worth telling is one where you have innately satisfied the framework. It has been much more successfully applied as a method of diagnosing what might be missing from a story that is somehow flawed. In other words, forget all of this and try to come up with a story where your main character’s worldview somehow grows or changes through an experience. Use these steps after drafting your outline in order to check to see which of the twelve steps seem to be omitted and modify your story accordingly.

3. The Hero’s Journey Project Overview

Over the remaining remaining weeks of class, we will be producing a four to six minute film that follows the monomyth, where a hero faces challenges that they must overcome in order to grow. This project will incorporate everything we have learned this year about cinematography, lighting, writing, performances, sound, and music. We will be working in pairs to produce this film that clearly follows the Hero’s Journey “recipe” and the basic plot structure we have been using all semester.

  1. exposition (establishing location and characters)
  2. inciting incident (or conflict that deviates from normal events)
  3. rising action (as the stakes increase or the conflict intensifies)
  4. climax (where the solution is found), falling action (where intensity declines)
  5. resolution (that ties up the story nicely and helps clarify the themes, morals, or lessons learned)

The four primary areas of focus for this project are:

  • storytelling (follows plot structure, captures audience interest)
  • hero’s journey (uses the overall framework as closely as possible)
  • audio (capturing good, clean audio with the boom and/or Zoom recorder)
  • cinematography (camera placement is varied and/or meaningful)

The three secondary areas of focus for this project are:

  • acting (timing, delivery, authenticity)
  • special effects (at least one appropriate use of digital compositing)
  • music (source audio that matches the tone and helps build drama)

4. Recognizing the Hero’s Journey

Think of a movie and try to identify those twelve steps and put them into this form.


Day 52, 11/24

1. The Hero’s Journey Presentation

Update: the presentation below has been redesigned and is now a fully-featured PowerPoint presentation that you can watch here!

2. The Hero’s Journey Notes

Prefer to read? Here are the original notes that the presentation is based on.

Ever notice how certain movies have similar arcs? Have you ever watched a movie and said “hey, they just ripped off The Empire Strikes Back and changed a few characters!”

What do “The Princess Diaries,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Enchanted,” “A Star is Born,” “Pretty Woman,” “Ella Enchanted,” “Into the Woods,” “Ever After,” and “Shrek the Third” all have in common? They are all retellings of Cinderella. Author Kurt Vonnegut once described that all stories follow one of a handful of possible trajectories.

Today we will be discussing the most universal story of all: The Hero’s Journey.

Joseph Campbell was a literature professor who studied myths and stories from all over the world and noted surprising commonalities between them. He believed that all stories were incarnations of the monomyth.

Christopher Vogler is a story consultant in Hollywood who applied Joseph Campbell’s theory to film. He wrote a now-famous memo while working at Disney that directly lead to what is considered to be Disney’s “Renaissance” period, creating films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Here you can find Christopher Vogler summarizing his personal experience and the twelve stages of the journey that he has identified. You can apply the framework to just about any film, although it’s not always as easily applied to short films.

  1. THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
  2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
  3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
  4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.  Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
  5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
  6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
  7. APPROACH.  The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
  8. THE ORDEAL.  Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.  Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
  9. THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.  There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
  10. THE ROAD BACK.  About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
  11. THE RESURRECTION.  At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
  12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

2. Put It To The Test!

Lets look at some of our favourite movies and see how they fit! Look at some of the movies you are familiar with and see how past students have identified the dozen story beats of “The Hero’s Journey.” Once you have a good understanding of it, go to Teams and try it yourself by completing the “Hero’s Journey Analysis” exercise.

3. Open Studio

We will continue looking at this next week. Finish early? For the rest of the block, please work on fine-tuning (or submitting) your current projects.

Day 40-51, 11/7-11/23

1. Filming

The second group should hopefully complete their filming on Tuesday.

2. Crummy Mistakes?

Lets figure out what we’ve learned first hand NOT to do when it comes to filmmaking! We will create a shared list looking at pre-production, production, and post-production.

3. Open Studio

We will continue to have open studio over the remainder of the week and at least a day (or maybe two if needed) next week to complete the Conflict through Dialogue project, so plan for about three or four hours of editing. If you need to finish or reshoot scenes, please do so as soon as possible and with the knowledge that it will take away from your post-production time.

If you finish this project early, you may use your time to catch up on any other overdue work. We will be screening the “Shoot the Shots” films next week!

4. Sound Editing 101

Problem: The sound is only playing in one of my headphones!

Solution: We hear sounds in stereo (i.e. our left ear and right ear). If not configured correctly, the Saramonic records in mono (i.e. a single channel, left if captured in port 1, right if captured in port 2). We simply need to copy the sound from the Saramonic from one ear to another. If you go to Audio Effects > Special, you can “Fill Left with Right” or “Fill Right with Left” to make the audio track play in both ears, not just one.

Problem: The is a loud buzzing or annoying fan sound throughout.

Solution: You need to clean up the sound using Adobe Audition! Right click on the clip(s) and select “Edit in Adobe Audition.” Select a portion with just the undesired sound, and go to Effects > Noise Reductiong > Capture Noise Print (Shift + P). Then select the entire thing (Ctrl + A) and go to Effects > Noise Reduction > Noise Reduction (Process). Loop and playback the clip, then toggle and adjust the sliders. You want to get rid of the background noise without making the dialogue sound distant/robotic. Save and close when you are done and the edited version will automatically be imported into Premiere.

Day 39, 11/6

1. Peer Critique

Sit back and relax! We will be watching the “Shoot the Shots” films for the the first part of class and will come up with some general guidelines for ourselves afterwards on how we can improve as a class.

2. Feedback Sandwich

Just like a real sandwich, this can be done well or incredibly poorly.

bad sandwich has…

  1. insignificant top bread that is discounted by a ‘but’
  2. meat that is negatively phrased, personal, and not constructive
  3. bottom bread that struggles to compensate

Example: Dinner was great, but you made it too salty. Thanks though.

good sandwich has…

  1. meaningful top bread that highlights successes
  2. criticism that is positive and constructive
  3. bottom bread that is encouraging and acknowledging the effort

Suggested Successful Comment Format:

I like the use of __________, it makes the ____________.

Suggested Improvement Comment Format:

I found that _____________, it could be _________ if it __________.

Suggested Acknowledgement Comment Format:

[Say anything positive that affirms their effort!]

Example: Dinner was great, I really liked what you did with the rosemary and lemon on the roast. I think it could have been even better if there was salt on the side as it was a bit salty for my taste. Let me know when you cook it next, I’d love to see how you did it!

3. Open Studio

We will have open studio over the next four or five days to complete the Conflict through Dialogue project, so plan for a total of four to five hours of editing. If you need to finish or reshoot scenes, please do so as soon as possible and with the knowledge that it will take away from your post-production time.