CJ Powers is an author/speaker
residing in the Chicagoland area. As a Writer/Director/Producer he
is an international script consultant and conducts screenwriting
workshops. His films released internationally and television programs
aired on CBS, PBS, ABC, the Family Channel, and various syndicated
stations. The majority of CJ’s directing awards, including the Silver
CINDY and Crystal Communicator of Excellence, were for family films. He
received additional honors from the U.S. and International Film and
Video Festival and the New York Film Festival. He is a guest writer for
Singles Connection eNewsletter and has also been an Arts &
Entertainment columnist for the DuPage Christian.
Heady Characters Die on Screen but Not Sherlock Holmes
Growing up, I was fascinated by my sister’s love for Sherlock Holmes. He was a heady character who never played well on the screen because of his cerebral methods of deduction. His greatest presentation of character was in The Hound of the Baskervilles, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1902, and yet, his mental prowess never gave way from boring an audience sitting in front of a silver screen.
This Christmas will be different as Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) and Jude Law (Road to Perdition) take to the screen in Sherlock Holmes: Elementary My Dear Watson, adapted for film by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg, based on Lionel Wigram’s story and Doyle’s characters.
This dynamic new portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous characters will be successful because of the adaptations that force Sherlock Holmes out of his heady behavior and into action, revealing lethal fighting skills that are as legendary as his intellect. While facing their latest challenge, Holmes and Watson battle a new nemesis and unravel a deadly plot that could destroy the country.
With ever-rising stakes and intensified action, director Guy Ritchie is sure to experience a huge box office success, thanks to writers willing to let go of the heady character and turn Homes into a visual character made for the screen.
While novel writers love to draw their readers in with characters defined by their philosophy of life, those abstract ideas and attitudes turn into talky, self-indulgent characters on the screen. Sherlock Holmes would be a boring character if it weren’t for the decision to place a sense of action and proactive behavior into his character.
Audiences want to watch their movies, not intellectualize them. They want to be taken to another place and time to experience things that could never occur in their lives. They want to visually observe the nuances as if going through it “live” for themselves.
A deep character’s beliefs (like women’s rights, gay liberation, or godliness) will only come across respectful if they are visualized rather than spoken. The audience must “see” the affect of its growing out from his or her belief. Since all good characters have an attitude toward life, whether cynical, happy-go-lucky, or hypocritical, we will be able to see how their attitudes cause action, as compared to a non-demonstrable philosophy.
Action is the lifeblood of the cinema. It is made up of the decision to act, which reveals the character’s belief system, and the act itself, which drives the action plotline and sets up the main character’s growth in time for the climax.
The decision point of a character enlightens the audience to how the character thinks and feels, while the action portion becomes a vehicle to drive the story through investigation like in Sherlock Holmes or other areas of activity that change circumstances. This can be in the form of strategic planning, searching, transforming someone else’s life, avenging a loved one, manipulating another character, etc.
In less action-based stories, the actions may take the form of expressed emotions like moodiness, despair, tears of joy or suffering, or any other major expression of emotions that forces change within the scene.
In other words, to create a great character for the screen the writer must extract the internal heady thoughts and turn them into demonstrable activities of decision and action to satisfy today’s audience. A great example will be released this Christmas in the form of Sherlock Holmes: Elementary My Dear Watson.
Copyright © 2009 By CJ Powers. All SHERLOCK
HOLMES material is TM & © 2009 Warner Bros.
Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
CJ Powers can be reached for script consultation and translation work at cjpowers7[at]gmail [dot] com.