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Matthew R. Anderson,
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The script was once under option by a studio-based producer who couldn't get their name actor to commit. After bouncing around town, they made this film from it.
BACKSTORY ON THE STORY:
SOFT TARGET is about a top secret hit-man who can get past police protection to assassinate witnesses against the mob. One person has seen the hit-man's face and lived - a woman. The reason why this hit-man can bypass police? He's a detective. So the police department grabs their two most trustworthy detectives to find the woman and take her *somewhere* (don't tell us where) and when the beeper goes off, take her to the grand jury to identify the hit-man. They pick a random motel and WHAM! they are attacked. So the big question becomes - who can you trust? And that's where my theme came from. Every character has a *story purpose* (like the chief of detectives or a minor assassin disguised as a hotel maid) but they also have a *theme purpose*, too - and that provides character and subtext.
So here's how I came up with my characters... What traits make you *not* trust someone?
Can you trust someone who never shows their emotions? Can you trust someone who turns everything into a joke? Can you trust someone who is more intelligent than you are? Can you trust someone who is really moody? Can you trust someone who is too slick? Can you trust someone who always agrees with you? Can you trust someone who has serious substance abuse problems? Can you trust someone who is...
Each of these theme traits are great doorways into character. And they are ways to show the differences in character, ways that will pop up again and again in the script (because the story keeps putting characters in situations where they must trust each other to survive... and situations where they can't trust each other).
Once I had the theme traits, I thought about what kind of person has these traits and how they came to have them. I created a backstory for the characters and that backstory had other character elements - say, some guy who was in the military where he learned how to go along to get along or some guy who was in an abusive home and learned to hide his emotions or some guy who... well, you get the idea. I came up with backstories that fit the theme traits and gave me other traits that define the character.
Then I looked at how each character talked - everyone has a different vocabulary. Different pet phrases. Hey, some of these pet phrases may have something to do with theme! I was using theme to explore character *and* explore story *and* take a look at society (in a world where it's hard to find someone to trust, post 9/11).
Next I looked at actions and reactions - everyone has a different method for solving problems or dealing with problems. Again, these are thematic, and also *show* character through actions.
Then I looked at their world view - everyone sees the world through their past experiences.
Then at the way they process information - everyone has a different type of "mental filing cabinet".
I know my characters, they start talking to me in their own voices and I could see the world as they see it (rather than as I see it), and they all become individuals - their own persons.
Now I had three dimensional characters who are helping to explore the theme - we're going to look at trust in our modern times and why we need to trust others instead of lock the doors to our lives and trust no one. Because the story for SOFT TARGET places the characters in a world where they really can't trust others... and they maybe can't even trust themselves (what if they *accidentally* gave information to a friend who ends up being the bad detective?) we can look at how hard it is to trust someone these days but how important it is to trust people... because we can't go it alone. We can't just isolate ourselves from the world and still have a life. If we're going to survive as a society we have to work together... and that means we have to trust people. Sometimes we have to trust strangers... and that's the point of the story.
Then, they made some changes. Read the original script and tell me what you think. Did they improve it... or not?
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