Difference Between A Protagonist In Film Vs. Television by Daniel Calvisi
Film Courage: Can we talk about the difference in creating a fascinating protagonist for film versus television? Or maybe it’s the same?
Dan Calvisi: For film I think it’s going to be affected by that closed ending because their arc is going to arc over the course of this 90 to 120 minute film or 90 to 110 page screenplay. And then it’s going to end basically and that’s where we’re going to leave the character. Whereas a TV protagonist, they have to be able to go through various arcs over the course of years, you know? It may be for 10 seasons so there needs to be the potential for that kind of growth. Now you don’t need to know what’s going to happen to this character to 10 seasons but it would be good to know the basics of what will happen like in the first two or three seasons for example.
Film Courage: Any examples of characters you can provide?
Dan Calvisi: Well if you give your protagonist a lot of emotional baggage, then there’s going to be a lot to unpack over time. Something like Carrie from Homeland. She is bipolar and she is reckless in her behavior and she starts an affair with this guy who she is supposed to be tracking that’s a potential terrorist in Season One. So she’s kind of a mess and so there’s definitely going to be drama with her going forward. Or Don Draper from Mad Men. He has the secret personality from the past and he has this secret that he’s keeping…What his true identity? That’s always a risk to come out to destroy him. So if you keep some kind of element there, some kind of Achilles’ heel always there and ready to destroy them, then you are going to get a lot of seasons of material out of that hero.
Film Courage: Let’s talk about for a feature film because you said that there’s closure. Can you give examples of an interesting protagonist? It can be from a current film or not?
Dan Calvisi: Yes…a classic example of a great character arc would be Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Los Ark. You know the first Indiana Jones film his arc is to accept the supernatural. He doesn’t believe in anything supernatural or spiritual. He doesn’t believe in God. So when he gets this mission to find the Ark of the Covenant, he just thinks it’s relic, you know? He doesn’t think it’s actually something that could have any kind of power. His final fruition of the Ark is when he respects, let say “God’s Power,” and the power of the Ark and he shuts his eyes and tells Marion to shut her eyes once the Ark has been open and the power of the Ark kills all the Nazis but does not hurt him and Marion because they’ve respected God and not looked at the face of God.
So it’s not just him in a fight, you know? You would think it’s an action movie, non-stop action would be him fighting the head Nazi. It’s not at all and that’s what makes it an interesting choice for the character and to close the film it’s him respecting the spiritual world.
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