There’s Only One Character

There’s Only One Character in a Movie

The protagonist. Now, I know there are, indeed, other characters, but hear me out:

Your protagonist is gonna change. He begins the movie in one state and ends it in another. The rest of the film is designed to elicit or exposit that change.

One or more of the supporting characters will be the catalyst for change (the antagonist and/or the love interest). Other characters will externalize the protagonist’s inner struggle.

Consider Deliverance

The protag, played by Jon Voight, is stranded in the wilderness with his buddies, who are then attacked by violent, inbred, mountainfolk. What to do, Jon, what to do. Obey the civilized rule of law, or obey the primal instinct to kill or be killed?

  • The mountainfolk are the antagonists. They force the question.
  • Ned Beatty plays the friend who is victimized (raped) by the mountainfolk. He embodies the stakes - Jon Voight’s future if he picks the wrong answer.
  • Sporty, hunter-friend Burt Reynolds is the influence that says “kill.”
  • Another friend, a lawyer, is the one that says “Don’t kill. Get the cops.”

It is perhaps the definition of drama to have characters with such conflicting viewpoints interact. A) We want to rape and kill you, plus B) We are going kill you first, plus C) No, we aren’t = D) Drama.

All to create, illustrate, and resolve the protagonist’s inner dilemma. There are no other characters in Deliverance.

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