Weekend of romance with Michael.

Thanks to a visit from a filmmaker friend, I spent last weekend with Michael Hauge.

Well, Michael and about 150 romance writers, a dozen female screenwriters, and at least one guy writing in each of those forms.

Hauge, a Hollywood script guru and consultant for Will Smith and others, was brought to Vancouver by the Romance Writer’s Association of America. But that didn’t skew the presentation — except perhaps that he may have felt outnumbered, and he chose to illustrate his story points using the popular romantic comedy Notting Hill.

Unfortunately, this in not my favourite rom-com, since the third act “crisis point” — where Hugh Grant’s character is finally offered the love of movie star Julia Roberts and refuses — always makes me cheer. I mean the girl is bad news throughout the film, no? And it’s not just me seeing it that way – a rousing 7% of the romance-heavy room also thought that fictional movie star wasn’t worth his time. But Richard Curtis‘s film does redeem itself through lovely dialogue and quirky secondary characters.

It also does a good job or illustrating Hauge’s model of good story structure, which I will summarize as: 1) create emotion by 2) making people empathize with your character, then 3) put them into worse and worse situations that will 4) bring them ever closer to their true essence.

Moving away from ego and closer to true essence sounds like the journey we’re all on in life. So this description of a character’s inner journey was definitely worth the price of admission, especially in how Hauge broke down the major characters as foils to help or hinder the hero.

For a short article that gives the highlights of what we learned this weekend, check out Michael’s article in the March/April 2011 issue of Creative Screenwriting Magazine.

And for even more fun with Hauge and fellow structure master Christopher Vogler, check this out (of the library, and put that $50 towards caffeine.) Though it’s probably worth buying — I loved Vogler’s book. It’s infinitely more readable than Robert McKee’s (though he’s way more fun to listen to live than these two gentlemen, smart as they are.)

While we’re on the topic of CS, I was supremely relieved to find that my biggest addition, Jeff Goldsmith’s stellar interview podcast, is still alive and kicking. It’s been rebranded as “The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith.” Fewf. For a few days I thought I’d lost my supplier and I was already jonesing for the soft, sardonic voices of screenwriters.

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