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 53, 11/27