Thursday, September 28, 2017


You can see from the chart above done by student Michelle L. that Hitchcock's quintessential Murder Mystery Romance story fits all of the beats of the Hero's Journey.

While I outlined my thoughts (and you gave some of yours) in class here's a brief overview of the film and why we're even looking at it in the first place.

Written by Hitch Collaborator John Michael Hayes based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich
the story is told thru the POV of LB Jeffries, Jeff to his friends, as he is homebound with a broken leg and apparently has no television.  He becomes a voyeur of his courtyard neighbors whose stories unfold before us.

From a film-maker or graphic novelists standpoint this is an interesting way to present the story.

If you were able to "see in"-- i.e. if we setup the camera's inside the other apartments like a fly on the wall this would be a completely different story.   Choosing HOW you tell your story is nearly as important as WHAT your story is about.

Simply put-- this story is about Jeff's watching his neighbors while struggling to break it off with his longtime girlfriend when he see's what he thinks is the murder of one of those neighbors.

You've seen the movie so that's going to be the end of my recap, here though, are some important character and story elements you should take note of;

Lisa (pronounced often as LEEZA in the film) is apparently perfect.  She's beautiful, she's smart, she has a career and she dotes on Jeff while he's confined to his chair-- and Jeff is pretty rotten to her for at least the first 1/2 of the film.

Like all good storytellers should-- Hitch and his writing team have come up for a backstory here, but it's not spelled out for the viewers (and since we're talking comics here let's call them readers).  Jeff has been in this chair and cast for five weeks, it's hot.  He has little to do but sit and watch his neighbors.  He's also had a lot of time to think.  He misses his life as a photo journalist traveling to all parts of the world and now he's seeing Lisa as the socialite she is.  He misinterprets her doting as trying to hook him into marriage (although he might not be wrong) and he's come to resent it.

The only marriage he see's from his perspective is a salesman who's bed ridden wife seems to nag him endlessly.  That's Jeff's 24/7 world right now and as he remarks to his editor on the phone-- he wants no part of it.

It's also a way to show character evolution.  If Jeff was crazy about Lisa from the start where does he have to go?  Does he care about her at all?  We'll find out.

Despite not having the formal education of Lisa or Jeff, despite her more simple attitudes towards the world she is the voice of reason and the mentor for the film.  She's the sage.   She represents us the viewer who can't understand why Jeff wouldn't want to be with Lisa.'

She keeps us the reader grounded through the whole story.  She helps to narrate what we're seeing and reiterates points we might have missed as in the comedy scene where she's discussing the dissection of the salesman's wife and how messy it must have been, in case any of us are wondering how he would get the body out -- she spells out that it would be in that suitcase and that's why he takes those late night trips to scatter her parts all over the East River.

When we first meet Lisa we are taken by Grace Kelly's charms-- but her excitement is about her career in the fashion world and how she'd like nothing better than to have Jeff join her-- he doesn't want to give up his photo journalist life but we see from the Life Magazine cover he shot (which is not Lisa by the way) that he DOES occasionally dabble in the fashion world-- so he displays a willingness to come into Lisa's world-- but does she do the same?  That's the foundation of the sub plot between the two of them.

Each of the neighbors offer a different look at the lifestyles of New Yorkers in 1954.  Each has their own sub plot that they are following.

Miss Torso-- she carries on her role as apparently a single woman with a dancing career who has to juggle all the men who are interested in her.  We resolve her story by discovering we were wrong about this assumption and she's actually married to a man deployed (in Korea we can assume) overseas who she is devoted to and only when he returns do we see her truly happy.

The Newlyweds--  the joys of matrimony are evident at first, then the husband seems to try to distance himself from the wife until finally their story comes full circle and we find the wife nagging the husband much like we saw with the salesmen's story-- are we setting up Rear Window 2?

The Dog Couple-- they provide some comedy relief but more importantly they provide the dog who knew too much which will alter the story on it's axis by committing the ultimate storytelling event-- the murder of an animal.

The Composer-- represents the struggling artist as we watch him frustratingly attempt to write a composition.

Miss Lonelyheart-- we've all felt lonely at some point and she becomes a very relatable character as we see her struggle to overcome this loneliness.  The brilliance of the story is that she ends up with the composer after hearing his music night after night in the courtyard.

The Salesman and His Wife-- the antagonist of the film.  He's hen-pecked.  The wife is not presented sympathetically so we develop some level of empathy for his plight but is it enough to give him a pass on killing her?  Did he kill her?

Again as storyteller's we COULD show the murder.  We could take all suspicion out of it and just have him strangle her right before our very eyes, but the creators here decide to leave it to us to decide and sprinkling in some red herrings here and there we are often shaken off the scent giving us a movie that is not HOW DID HE DO IT but DID HE DO IT? which is often more compelling.

All of these supporting characters allow us to have a break from the main cast but they also provide points of distraction so that we can miss the dog's murder and even go so far as to put Liza in peril.

You bet he does.  Despite the fact that he wants to break it off with her, which he see's as the only "right" thing to do so that she can find someone who wants the life she wants-- when Lisa embarks on various missions-- each of increasing danger-- he is visibly upset-- he is worried for her as she takes each one a bit further than he intended her to.

That's not a guy that doesn't care about this woman.

Over the course of the film we see that Lisa clearly loves Jeff even if we wonder why-- but we also watch Jeff fall in love with Lisa through his expressions as she complete's each mission.  He has underestimated her all along-- she actually is perfect.

All good stories need a good ending.
The reader must not feel cheated and the ending has to add up for us as to what we've seen unroll before us.

Jeff is saved by Lisa, Jeff now realizes he loves Lisa, the salesman admits to the murders of the wife and the dog and Jeff now has TWO broken legs after plunging out of the window.   Meanwhile Lisa has adopted the fashion style of a photo journalist even if her reading material remains fashion based.

So WHY look at something like this-- because sitting and having you read 200 pages of a graphic novel or a script is a lot more commitment on your part than watching a 2 hour movie.

Because so many techniques used here are ones that have been used in classic literature over and over again.

Because you have to have the ability to tell a story-- you need to be able to shock, surprise, make laugh, scare, startle and keep your readers engaged.  Otherwise you will create the cardinal sin of the creative person-- you will bore your reader.

NEXT UP- SALEM'S LOT because I want you to see a story that is not perfect but still effective.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Examine the movie and give us the plot points, the evolution of the characters, the setback-- does the story go where you thought it would go?  What kind of twists does it take?


The hero’s journey, once more:  The hero is introduced in his ORDINARY WORLD where he receives the CALL TO ADVENTURE.  He is RELUCTANT at first to CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD where he eventually encounters TESTS, ALLIES and ENEMIES.  He reaches the INNERMOST CAVE where he endures the SUPREME ORDEAL.  He SEIZES THE SWORD or the treasure and is pursued on the ROAD BACK to his world.  He is RESURRECTED and transformed by his experience.  He RETURNS to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or ELIXIR to benefit his world.

"A Practical Guide to Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Christopher Vogler
© 1985

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
                                                                                                Willa Cather


In the long run, one of the most influential books of the 20th century may turn out to be Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.
The book and the ideas in it are having a major impact on writing and story-telling, but above all on movie-making.  Filmmakers like John Boorman, George Miller, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Coppola owe their successes in part to the ageless patterns that Joseph Campbell identifies in the book.

The ideas Campbell presents in this and other books are an excellent set of analytical tools.
With them you can almost always determine what’s wrong with a story that’s floundering; and you can find a better solution almost any story problem by examining the pattern laid out in the book.

There’s nothing new in the book. The ideas in it are older that the Pyramids, older than Stonehenge, older that the earliest cave painting.,
Campbell’s contribution was to gather the ideas together, recognize them, articulate them, and name them.  He exposes the pattern for the first time, the pattern that lies behind every story ever told.

Campbell, now 82, is a vigorous lover of mythology and the author of many books on the subject.  For many years he has taught, written, and lectured about the myths of all cultures in all times.  THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES is the clearest statement of his observations on the most persistent theme in all of oral traditions and recorded literature – the myth of the hero.
In his study of world hero myths Campbell discovered that they are all basically the same story – retold endlessly in infinite variations.  He found that all story-telling, consciously or not, follows the ancient patterns of myth, and that all stories, from the crudest jokes to the highest flights of literature, can be understood in terms of the hero myth; the “monomyth” whose principles he lays out in the book.

The theme of the hero myth is universal, occuring in every culture, in every time; it is as infinitely varied as the human race itself; and yet its basic form remains the same, an incredibly tenacious set of elements that spring in endless repetition from the deepest reaches of the mind of man.

Campbell’s thinking runs parallel to that of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who wrote of the “archetypes: -- constantly repeating characters who occur in the dreams of all people and the myths of all cultures.
Jung suggested that these archetypes are reflection of aspects of the human mind – that our personalities divide themselves into these characters to play out the drama of our lives.
He noticed a strong correspondence between his patients’ dream or fantasy figures and the common archetypes of mythology, and he suggested that both were coming from a deeper source, in the “collective unconscious” of the human race.

The repeating characters of the hero myth such as the young hero, the wise old man or woman, the shape-shifting woman or man, and the shadowy antagonist are identical with the archetypes of the human mind, as revealed in dreams.  That’s why myths, and stories constructed on the mythological model, strike us as psychologically true.
Such stories are true models of the workings of the human mined, true maps of the psyche.  They are psychologically valid and realistic even when they portray fantastic, impossible, unreal events.

This accounts for the universal power of such stories.  Stories built on the model of the hero myth have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they spring from a universal source in the collective unconscious, and because they reflect  universal concerns.  They deal with the child-like but universal questions:  Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Where will I go when I die?  What is good and what is evil?  What must I do about it?  What will tomorrow be like?  Where did yesterday go?  Is there anybody else out there?
The idea imbedded in mythology and identified by Campbell in THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES can be applied to understanding any human problem.  The are a great key to life as well as being a major tool for dealing more effectively with a mass audience.
If you want to understand the ideas behind the hero myth, there’s no substitute for actually reading Campbell’s book.  It’s an experience that has a way of changing people.  It’s also a good idea to read a lot of myths, but it amounts to the same thing since Campbell is a master story-teller who delights in illustrating his points with examples from the rich storehouse of mythology.

Campbell gives a condensed version of the basic hero myth in chapter IV, “The Keys”, of THE HERO WITH A THUSAND FACES.  I’ve taken the liberty of amending the outline slightly, trying to reflect some of the common themes in movies, illustrated with examples from contemporary films.  I’m re-telling the hero myth in my own way, and you should feel free to do the same.  Every story-teller bends the myth to his or her own purpose.  That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.


1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD.
Most stories ultimately take us to a special world, a world that is new and alien to its hero.  If you’re going to tell a story about a fish out of his customary element, you first have to create a contrast by showing him in his mundane, ordinary world.  In WITNESS you see both the Amish boy and the policeman in their ordinary worlds before they are thrust into alien worlds – the farm boy into the city, and the city cop into the unfamiliar countryside.  In STAR WARS you see Luke Skywalker being bored to death as a farm boy before he tackles the universe.
The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure.  Maybe the land is dying, as in the King Arthur stories about the search for the Grail.  In STAR WARS, it’s Princess Leia’s holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi, who then asks Luke to join the quest.  In detective stories, it’s the hero being offered a new case.  In romantic comedies it could be the first sight of that special but annoying someone the hero or heroine will be pursuing/sparring with.
3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)
Often at this point the hero balks at the threshold of adventure.  After all, he or she is facing the greatest of all fears – fear of the unknown.  At this point Luke refuses Obi Wan’s call to adventure, and returns to his aunt and uncle’s farmhouse, only to find they have been barbecued by the Emperor’s stormtroopers.  Suddenly Luke is no longer reluctant, and is eager to undertake the adventure.  He is motivated.
4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)
By this time many stories will have introduced a Merlin-like character who is the hero’s mentor.  In JAWS it’s the crusty Robert Shaw character who knows all about sharks; in the mythology of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, it’s Lou Grant.  The mentor gives advice and sometimes magical weapons.  This is Obi Wan giving Luke his father’s light saber.
The mentor can go so far with the hero.  Eventually the hero must face the unknown by himself.  Sometimes the Wise Old Man/Woman is required to give the hero a swift kick in the pants to get the adventure going.
5.)  The hero passes the first threshold.  (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)
The hero fully enters the special world of the story for the first time.  This is the moment at which the story takes off and the adventure gets going.  The balloon goes up, the romance begins, the spaceship blasts off, the wagon train gets rolling.  Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road.  The hero is now committed to his/her journey and there’s no turning back.
6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)
The hero is forced to make allies and enemies in the special world, and to pass certain tests and challenges that are part of his/her training.  In STAR WARS the cantina is the setting for the forging of an important alliance with Han Solo and the start of an important enmity with Jabba the Hutt.  In CASABLANCA Rick’s CafĂ© is the setting for the “alliances and enmities” phase and in many Westerns it’s the saloon where these relationships are tested.
7.)  The hero reaches the innermost cave.  (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)
The hero comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground, where the object of the quest is hidden.  In the Arthurian stories the Chapel Perilous is the dangerous chamber where the seeker finds the Grail.  In many myths the hero has to descend into hell to retrieve a loved one, or into a cave to fight a dragon and gain a treasure.  It’s Theseus going to the Labyrinth to face the Minotaur.  In STAR WARS it’s Luke and company being sucked into the Death Star where they will rescue Princess Leia.  Sometimes it’s just the hero going into his/her own dream world to confront fears and overcome them.
8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL. 
This is the moment at which the hero touches bottom.  He/she faces the possibility of death, brought to the brink in a fight with a mythical beast.  For us, the audience standing outside the cave waiting for the victor to emerge, it’s a black moment.  In STAR WARS, it’s the harrowing moment in the bowels of the Death Star, where Luke, Leia and company are trapped in the giant trash-masher.  Luke is pulled under by the tentacled monster that lives in the sewage and is held down so long that the audience begins to wonder if he’s dead.  IN E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, E. T. momentarily appears to die on the operating table.
This is a critical moment in any story, an ordeal in which the hero appears to die and be born again.  It’s a major source of the magic of the hero myth.  What happens is that the audience has been led to identify with the hero.  We are encouraged to experience the brink-of-death feeling with the hero.  We are temporarily depressed, and then we are revived by the hero’s return from death.
This is the magic of any well-designed amusement park thrill ride.  Space Mountain or the Great Whiteknuckler make the passengers feel like they’re going to die, and there’s a great thrill that comes with surviving a moment like that.  This is also the trick of rites of passage and rites of initiation into fraternities and secret societies.  The initiate is forced to taste death and experience resurrection.  You’re never more alive than when you think you’re going to die.
9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)
Having survived death, beaten the dragon, slain the Minotaur, her hero now takes possession of the treasure he’s come seeking.  Sometimes it’s a special weapon like a magic sword or it may be a token like the Grail or some elixir which can heal the wounded land.
The hero may settle a conflict with his father or with his shadowy nemesis.  In RETURN OF THE JEDI, Luke is reconciled with both, as he discovers that the dying Darth Vader is his father, and not such a bad guy after all.
The hero may also be reconciled with a woman.  Often she is the treasure he’s come to win or rescue, and there is often a love scene or sacred marriage at this point.  Women in these stories (or men if the hero is female) tend to be shape-shifters.  They appear to change in form or age, reflecting the confusing and constantly changing aspects of the opposite sex as seen from the hero’s point of view.  The hero’s supreme ordeal may grant him a better understanding of women, leading to a reconciliation with the opposite sex.
The hero’s not out of the woods yet.  Some of the best chase scenes come at this point, as the hero is pursued by the vengeful forces from whom he has stolen the elixir or the treasure..  This is the chase as Luke and friends are escaping from the Death Star, with Princess Leia and the plans that will bring down Darth Vader.
If the hero has not yet managed to reconcile with his father or the gods, they may come raging after him at this point.  This is the moonlight bicycle flight of Elliott and E. T. as they escape from “Keys” (Peter Coyote), a force representing governmental authority.  By the end of the movie Keys and Elliott have been reconciled and it even looks like Keys will end up as Elliott’s step-father.
The hero emerges from the special world, transformed by his/her experience.  There is often a replay here of the mock death-and-rebirth of Stage 8, as the hero once again faces death and survives.  The Star Wars movies play with this theme constantly – all three of the films to date feature a final battle scene in which Luke is almost killed, appears to be dead for a moment, and then miraculously survives.  He is transformed into a new being by his experience.
The hero comes back to the ordinary world, but the adventure would be meaningless unless he/she brought back the elixir, treasure, or some lesson from the special world.  Sometimes it’s just knowledge or experience, but unless he comes back with the elixir or some boon to mankind, he’s doomed to repeat the adventure until he does.  Many comedies use this ending, as a foolish character refuses to learn his lesson and embarks on the same folly that got him in trouble in the first place.
Sometimes the boon is treasure won on the quest, or love, or just the knowledge that the special world exists and can be survived.  Sometimes it’s just coming home with a good story to tell.
As with any formula, there are pitfalls to be avoided.  Following the guidelines of myth too rigidly can lead to a stiff, unnatural structure, and there is the danger of being too obvious.  The hero myth is a skeleton that should be masked with the details of the individual story, and the structure should not call attention to itself.  The order of the hero’s stages as given here is only one of many variations – the stages can be deleted, added to, and drastically re-shuffled without losing any of their power.

The values of the myth are what’s important.  The images of the basic version – young heroes seeking magic swords from old wizards, fighting evil dragons in deep caves, etc. – are just symbols and can be changed infinitely to suit the story at hand.

The myth is easily translated to contemporary dramas, comedies, romances, or action-adventures by substituting modern equivalents for the symbolic figures and props of the hero story.  The Wise Old Man may be a real shaman or wizard, but he can also be any kind of mentor or teacher, doctor or therapist, crusty but benign boss, tough but fair top sergeant, parent, grandfather, etc.  Modern heroes may not be going into caves and labyrinths to fight their mythical beasts, but they do enter and innermost cave by going into space, to the bottom of the sea, into their own minds, or into the depths of a modern city.

The myth can be used to tell the simplest comic book story or the most sophisticated drama.  It grows and matures as new experiments are tried within its basic framework.  Changing the sex and ages of the basic characters only makes it more interesting and allows for ever more complex webs of understanding to be spun among them.  The essential characters can be combined or divided into several figures to show different aspects of the same idea.  

The myth is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation without sacrificing any of its magic, and it will outlive us all.


ARCHETYPES are recurring patterns of human behavior, symbolized by standard types of characters in movies and stories.

Central figures in stories.  Everyone is the hero of his or her own myth.

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.

The hero’s guide or guiding principles.  Yoda, Merlin, a great coach or teacher.
One who brings the Call to Adventure.  Could be a person or an event.

The forces that stand in the way at important turning points, including jealous enemies, professional gatekeepers, or your own fears and doubts.

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.

Clowns and mischief-makers, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.  Our own mischievous subconscious, urging us to change.

Characters who help the hero through the change.  Sidekicks, buddies, girlfriends who advise the hero through the transitions of life.


  The Hero's Journey Outline
The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development.  It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.
Its stages are:
1.        THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
2.        THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change. 
3.        REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
4.        MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.  Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
5.        CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values. 
6.        TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
7.        APPROACH.  The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
8.        THE ORDEAL.  Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.  Out of the moment of death comes a new life. 
9.        THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.  There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
10.      THE ROAD BACK.  About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
11.     THE RESURRECTION.  At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
12.       RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Hey All
Thanks to the fifteen hard working students who signed up for this session, registrations are now closed.
Class will start Tomorrow at 630pm you will get a link to the classroom location around 615.