SPP258 What We Learned from Robert McKee's Story Seminar

Robert McKee is a guru of story, and Johnny and Sean went to the Story seminar. Today, they’re discussing a lot of what they learned, what they disagreed with, and how they’ll apply it to their own indie publishing careers. If you love the study story, or if you want to pick up some killer tips from the seminar, you don’t want to miss this episode.
McKee said that we don’t need complete creative freedom; you’re not going to invent a new way to tell a story. So learn the truths of storytelling and make the best possible story you can make within them.

  • Sean and Johnny talk about how McKee shit on LaLa Land and some of the other shortcomings of the seminar. They loved 80% of it, though.
  • Subtext is conscience vs. unconscious motivations of a character. For example, does the guy who buys his wife flowers want to make his wife happy, or does he want to make up for something he did wrong? Words are words, but actions demonstrate unconscious motivations, and you can also look at it like this: it’s what your character thinks he wants versus what he actually wants.
  • It’s more important to tell a well-crafted story than anything else, and screenwriting is one of the truest expressions of that.
  • Image systems are repeating elements that lay below the surface, and they’re a powerful way to speak to your audience without beating them over the head with it. In Casablanca, it’s prison. The color red was prevelant in Schindler’s List and Sixth Sense. In Alien, it’s penises.
  • Authors have the benefit of internal monologue, but screenwriters have imagery without words.
  • Sean points out how exposition is ammunition; it’s show versus tell. Rather than say ‘she is depressed and sad,’ see what you can convey without explicitly saying it, like unwashed hair, trudging, swollen eyes.
  • Johnny loved the focus on conflict. It’s what drives a story forward. Let the story end the way it should, but never let it happen the way your audience expects. Gaps, opportunities, open through conflict.
  • When it comes to telling a great story, you CAN do anything, as long as it works. And whether it works is much more subjective.
  • If you think every story needs to be three acts, but have you heard of the mid-act climax? McKee believes that most modern stories have four acts.

Something cool:
Sean loves the movie, Get Out, and Dave can’t wait to see it!

  • Dave steals Sean’s something cool.
  • Johnny met Sean’s entire family and learned something shocking about Sean.

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One Reply to “SPP258 What We Learned from Robert McKee's Story Seminar”

  1. Linda Gordon Hengerer

    I went to McKee’s Story seminar 10 or so years ago. It was fabulous and well worth going, because the book is a little dry. He brings it to life. The Casablanca breakdown was priceless.

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