5 Questions Writers Must Answer When Developing A Character – Robert Rippberger

Film Courage: What are the steps to developing and building a character?

Robert Rippberger, Filmmaker: The steps to developing and building a character I have found has evolved greatly for me but first it was to sort of tap into my own subconscious of just how do I see this person? I’m super visual and so if a character comes out I can see that person in all detail. It’s first to understand what that vision is and then second it’s to ask myself Who do I know in the real world that’s like this? To use that as a sort of reflection of what I see versus what’s in the real world. Then also to compare it to other movies How has a character like this shown up in other films and what’s worked and what hasn’t? Also to ask What is the role of this character in the story? It’s all of those but primarily it’s to draw it back to what reality is and not just reality, but also to put it in your own frame of mind is If I was in this position what would I do? Or if my very best friend who’s very akin to this character was in this situation what would they do? I’m also just a strong proponent of speaking to those people like if you have a character that’s a bit of a match with somebody, hanging out with them picking up on their eccentricities and the ways that they say things and maybe even calling them up and saying look If somebody said this to you what would your response be? You should get a release if you have them literally providing lines for your script but those types of things I found is that you just get so much nuance and unique dimension by following those steps that it’s something I try to always employ.

-Who do I know in the real world that’s like this?

-How has a character like this shown up in other films and what’s worked and what hasn’t?

What is the role of this character in the story?

-If I was in this position what would I do?

If somebody said this to you what would your response be?

Robert Rippberger, Danny Glover and Joi Starr on the set of STRIVE (2019)

Film Courage: Here’s what the screenwriter of Strive (Sha-Risse R. Smith) said about you I don’t know how it’s possible but physically and emotionally Robert understands what Kalani (the female protagonist in Strive) is going through and that is what’s important. Can you explain how you have empathy for characters? 

Robert: In reading scripts I always ask myself is this a story that I know and what was ironic about Strive is that or I guess different about Strive is that it was set in Harlem and in a world that on the surface I shouldn’t understand and isn’t my story…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Scarlett Sperduto in THOSE WHO WALK AWAY
BooBoo Stewart (seated) and Grant Morningstar (TV screen) in THOSE WHO WALK AWAY


Robert Rippberger is a filmmaker with a broad array of creative and executive experience. He most recently directed and produced the film “Those Who Walk Away” starring BooBoo Stewart (Descendants, X-Men) and prior to that directed and produced the Harlem drama, “Strive,” with Danny Glover. Both were released theatrically and received dozens of accolades worldwide. Directing and producing documentaries, Robert released in 2019 ‘Public Enemy Number One’ from Executive Producer Ice-T about the U.S. war on drugs. Prior, Robert directed/produced the documentary “7 Days in Syria,” a look at the human side of the war in Aleppo, Syria. The film was championed by Angelina Jolie, screened at Britain’s House of Lords, to senior members of the U.N., and was released on Hulu and Amazon. As an executive producer, along with Jason Blum, Robert did the feature doc, “Alive & Kicking.” The film was sold to Magnolia Films after its debut at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival where it received a Grand Jury nomination. The film is available on Netflix. Robert received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from UC, Berkeley in 2012 where he was awarded the Eisner Prize for his film “In the Middle.” It is considered the highest achievement in the creative arts given on the UC, Berkeley campus. Robert is a member of the Producers Guild of America and is on the PGA’s Social Impact Entertainment Task Force. In addition to SIE Films, Robert is also the founder and co-executive director of SIE Society, a leading global alliance of Social Impact Entertainment filmmakers. 

His latest film is Those Who Walk Away (Now in theaters and on VOD) starring BooBoo Stewart, Nils Allen Stewart and Scarlett Sperduto. 







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