Thursday, November 5, 2009


Some individuals seem to have an intuitive sense, as they begin their creative work, about what their final product will be like. Indeed, evidence from several sources confirms the role of intuition in the creative processes of artists and scientists; among these sources are autobiographical testimonies, analyses of historical evidence, psychometric assessments, and experimental studies.

In combination, this evidence supports the notion that early intuitions may guide decision making in the process of attaining creative results. But at least three issues remain. First, there may be various forms of intuition. Second, there may also be various forms of creativity. Third, it might well be the case that only certain forms of intuition are related to certain forms of creativity. It is important to develop a clear conceptual framework for distinguishing various forms of intuition as well as for explaining whether and to what extent they interact with one another and with various forms of creativity.

It is also relevant to distinguish intuition from insight, although the 2 phenomena sometimes overlap. Intuition entails vague and tacit knowledge, whereas insight involves sudden, and usually clear, awareness. In the context of creativity, intuition may precede insight. (See INSIGHT)

Earlier intuition was defined as a tacit form of knowledge that orients decision-making in a promising direction. In the context of innovation, a promising direction is one that leads to potentially creative outcomes. For example, Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, and medicine refer to their own scientific intuition as “a metaphorical seeing of the phenomenon searched for, an anticipatory perception of its shape or its gross structure.”

In time line between an early intuition and its final articulation might very from a brief period to many years, depending on various factors, such as the nature of the problem or the subject’s knowledge base. Jean Piaget, for instance, commenting on the creative process of Charles Darwin, said that he found two results most interesting: the time that Darwin needed to become aware of ideas already implicit in his thought, and the passage from the implicit to the explicit in the creation of new ideas.

In fact, Darwin seems to have implicitly prefigured some of his most relevant ideas in his early writings. Highly creative individuals in other domains, such as Picasso (visual arts), Freud (psycho-analysis), and Cantor (mathematics), appear to have moved along their own creative processes in a similar sequences – starting off with generative intuitions and ending up with more explicitly articulated products after long periods of persistent work (See FREUD, SIGMUND)

This leads us to a further question. If some individuals have an early intuitive sense about their final product will be like, why does it take them any longer to reach the ultimate goal? In other words, how can we explain a creative process in which the beginning is in a way also the end, given that we have a tacit estimate of the end state right from the start?

Perhaps the creative process unfolds as a developmental sequence of representational changes, from vague, syncretic, and implicit forms of knowledge into more differentiated, integrated, and explicit ones. In more technical terms, it is conceivable, at least, that the creative process might operate as a developmental translation – from an implicit code of associative strengths among neural units into an explicit code of symbolic rules. In this cognitive system, implicit neural networks might precede and constrain the generation of symbolic rules.


A number of scholars hold that divergent thinking (multidirectional and open ended) is the essential feature of the creative process. But, we may wonder, what prevents divergent thinking from becoming mere rambling as the person considers an infinite sequence of potential alternatives? (See DIVERGENT THINKING)

As we all know, any creative process involves a long series of choices: each decision one makes will affect future options, and one’s alternatives at any given will depend on previous decisions. If individuals had to consider each option that arises in any creative search, the growth of alternatives would become astronomical. In other words, the sequence would lead to what cognitive scientists call a “combinatorial explosion,” and it is very unlikely that the creative process would get to the desired result in any reasonable amount of time.

Creative intuitions may fulfill an important cognitive function: By setting the preliminary boundaries for promising exploration, these initial intuitions may keep the creator’s divergent thinking from generating a combinatorial explosion. That is why creative intuition may be technically defined as a tacit form of knowledge that broadly constrains the creative search by setting its preliminary scope.

Although cognitive scientists have widely acknowledged the need to check a combinatorial explosion in a problem space, they have not considered intuition as a potential constraint for the creative search. Instead, they have focused on heuristics.

Creative intuition may fulfill a similar role to that of heuristics by making the search for possible solutions more selective and efficient. Heuristics, however, are explicit rules of thumb, or particular strategies that, for example, deliberately move away from an old path and look for conflicts and resolve them. Conversely, creative intuitions appear to be implicit rough estimates of the final solution or goal, and advances in this problem space might be measured in terms of how close the subject is to achieving a clear symbolic representation. (See HEURISTICS)

Creative intuition has always been difficult to define, explain, and measure. Conceptualizing it in terms of search in a problem space may be a valid and operational alternative for investigating this phenomenon. But it still leaves many questions unanswered.


Encyclopedia of creativity, Volume 2

By Mark A. Runco, Steven R. Pritzker

Publisher: Academic Press (9 Aug 1999)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Master Class: Film Directing By Rob Heydon.

Master Class For Directors of All Levels In FINAS.

This class is conducted by ROB HEYDON, director of the upcoming major film,


Above is a picture of Rob Heydon (Yellow Stripped Shirt).


To enroll in this course e-mail Tuan Raja at

to book your place for Master Classes on:

Mon 28th Dec 2009 – Sun 3 Jan 2010


Mon 4th Jan 2010 – Sun 10th Jan 2010


Mon 11th Jan 2010 – Sun 17th 2010


25th Jan 2010 -31st Jan 2010

for those who have attended the previous classes.

Rob Heydon is an acclaimed director of music videos and commercials.

He is a writer/director/producer for Ecstasy Film Inc and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Further information about Rob Heydon can be found at:

Alexander Mackendrick Talks About Cinematography


Ideally the cinematographer’s relationship with the director is a symbiotic one. The cinematographer embraces the director’s vision and uses his visual talent and technical knowledge to capture the director’s inner thoughts and put them on the screen. Needless to say, the process of choosing a cinematographer is of no small importance to the director.

It is my impression that most of the cameramen I know have developed a highly personal style. They have an individual character that becomes their stock in trade. During the planning for Sweet Smell Of Success, the producer, Harold Hecht, suggested James Wong Howe. I remember Jimmy as extremely good with strong, melodramatic material and felt his hard-edged approach would be ideal for this particular subject, so I was delighted.

Often a director will screen several films shot by a prospective cinematographer.

In effect, I believe you have to trust the taste and temperament of the cameraman as you see it in his previous work. Obviously, you should take care to see a number of his films to see how he handles different genres; to see what range he has. Wong Howe had considerable range: I looked at both Body and Soul and Picnic which was in color and much more sentimental. But what I asked Jimmy for was the black-and-white harshness I’d seen in his melodramatic movies.
Once the director finds a cinematographer who interests him, he sends him a script.


A cinematographer cannot separate the problem of light from the problem of color. Through the film stock he is using, through the filters on lights and lenses, and through the printing in the lab, he cooperates with the art director in the orchestration of colors or in the modulation of the gray scale in the black-and-white films.

I’ve always felt that melodrama and satire have characteristics in common. Ideally, I would prefer to shoot both of these genres in black and white. Distributors nowadays declare that black-and-white movies are unsalable. A compromise may be the kind of cinematography where there is a very emphatic range of tonal values, black to white, at the expense of hue values; strong directional lighting of chiaroscuro, which underlines the architectural structures at the expense of the local colors of the surface.

When the first Japanese color features arrived in Britain, I remember well their impact on British filmmakers. Accustomed to the brilliance of Californian light, the bright hues and crisp shadows, we marveled at the subtleties of shades and tone produced by the mists of the Japanese scenery. With the coming of color and more sensitive film stocks the sunlight, which was the original incentive for a migration to the Californian West Coast, is no longer quite such an essential.

There are personal idiosyncrasies when it comes to particular colors, for both aesthetic and practical reasons.


Ideally all the major contributing people should be brought in early on the project. Those fortunate enough to work on Ingmar Bergman’s films have the luxury of a 2-month intensive dialogue with the director, actors and other members of crew. As well as watching rehearsals, Bergman’s cameraman Sven Nykvist (ASC) has the opportunity to shoot extensive tests and discuss the sets and costumes with the art director. This relationship with the art director cannot be stressed too much. He is an invaluable partner because he supervises the designers of sets and costumes.

The positioning and intensity of the practicals on the set is something the cinematographer should established with the art director. These visible light sources of various kinds serve to visually enrich the scene, to justify the directions of studio lighting and to contribute to the level of illumination on the set. They may even serve as the major modeling lights for the scene.

The shape of the set and certain architectural components such as beams or moldings help the cinematographer to hide his lamps, stands and cables. The shape, texture and color of the walls and furniture have understandable impact on the visual organization of the frame. The way in which the set is positioned on the studio floor, for example, how much space there is outside the windows, will also influence the lighting directions and angles. For these reasons the production designer, art director and all the people involved in shaping and dressing the sets, or in choosing locations should work hand-in-hand with with the cinematographer. He, in turn, can either enhance their efforts or diminish them with his lighting.

If the casting of key talents has not been done wisely, there can be misunderstandings between the production designer and the director of photography. An assertive designer may hanker after lighting that is diffused, general and unobtrusive, so that tone and color values in the settings and costumes retain their pictorial values. Equally assertive cinematographers may prefer the set, costumes and furniture to be neutral in color and tone so that the scene is left for him to ‘paint with light.’ If there is discord between the production designer and director of photography, the director and producer should resolve the disagreements at the earliest stage of production planning.
Filmmaking is not only teamwork but the team is composed of people with strong creative egos. This makes it doubly difficult to keep on an even keel.


The basic need to represent a three dimensional reality on a two dimensional surface is certainly not new in the visual arts. What separates film from the other visual arts is that it is kinetic. The filmmaker is composing motion.
Composition of movement in time can be broken down into several dynamics. Movement of the camera is called intraframe movement. Screen sizes and angles of view can be manipulated in this way. Interframe movement is created by editing, cutting from one angle to another or from long shot to close up. The combination of camera movements and editing becomes a truly powerful system for manipulating the film reality. Whether static or moving, the frame represents spatial depth, or three dimensions, on a 2 dimensional screen.

We’re told by those who have studied the psychology of perception that shadows are one of the clues by which the brain recognizes spatial depth. The fact that the projected image is always seen as a window into a 3 dimensional world is one reason for the filmmaker’s use of these dark and light areas for ‘designing in depth.’

The figurative painters and engravers of graphic illustrations in the 19th century are worth study by filmmakers. Gustav Dore’s work is an example. He used a formula enormously effective in emphasizing design in depth. In the foreground a subject might be lit strongly, with an emphatic key light and strong modeling. But behind this would be figures more or less in silhouette, in shadow and 2 dimensional. These, in turn, would be outlined against a brighter area in middle distance, a part of light illuminating features of architecture or figures in an area of light. These were again silhouetted, light against dark, against a further background of shadow, gray but still dark. Each recessive plane contrasts with the one beyond it or in front.

The Spanish painter Francisco Goya wrote some 200 years ago. “I see (in nature) only forms that advance, forms that recede, masses in light and shadow.”

Composing in depth isn’t simply a matter of pictorial richness. It has value in the narrative of the action, the pacing of the scene. Within the same frame, t he director can organize the action so that preparation for what will happen next is seen in the background of what is happening now. While our attention is concentrated on what we see nearest to us, we are simultaneously aware of secondary activities that lie beyond, and sometimes even of a third plane of distant activity the dramatic density of the scene is much greater.

Design the blocking of the actors, the framing of the shot, with this sort of thing in mind and the cinematographer with a grain of sense will instantly realize your intention. He will use light to assist the eye path of the audience and to give dramatic depth to the scene. Most cameramen I’ve worked with have been very intelligent, quick to pick up on t he director’s intentions without the need for explanation.
Composition, both in framing and lighting, directs the viewer’s eye to the appropriate part of the scene.

In the 1950s a real problem cropped up when the framing of the image became ambiguous, unpredictable. Were we working just for the cinema screen or for television? When the framing has to be a compromise the result is often disastrous.

When any of my films were reframed – the film image rephotographed for television broadcast – I could not help feeling a sense of outrage. If I remember rightly, Augustus John, a well-known British portrait painter, discovered that after he had sold a portrait, the new owner cut nine inches off the bottom of the painting so that it would fit a space on his wall. John sued for damages, even though the painting was no longer his, and, as I recall, won his case. I feel the same way about screen images. And it’s not just aesthetics; it affects the narrative.

In ‘A High Wind’ in Jamaica one of the key shots was a wide screen shot of seven children sitting in a row as they are interrogated by the lawyer; the point of the scene was the silent reaction of 2 children who happened to be on each end; neither of them appeared in the television version.

It is the unfortunate lot of filmmakers that they are not in charge when their work is being projected. A visit to a local theatre can at times be a heart breaking experience, let alone seeing one’s film on television.
In spite of this uncertain future, the film crew puts all its talents and skills into producing a well-composed picture.


There are three people on the crew ultimately concerned with composition of the frame: the director, the cinematographer, and the camera operator. The balance of power among these 3 individuals is affected by many factors: personal experience, the subject matter or genre of this story, the individual background and national tradition. An American cinematographer who also directs discusses his interpretation of the balance of power.

I distinguish between the way I work with the lighting cameraman and way I work with the operator. As Director of Photography, and boss of the whole camera crew, some cinematographers will probably challenge me on this, insisting that they are responsible for all of it. However, my temperament has been to feel that I have to design every camera angle, every screen size, every camera move. I have to work directly with the camera operator on this and cannot afford to go through the Director of Photography, though, of course, he will be present as the decisions are made. This is because, as director, I am, above all things, concerned with narrative content, the story. Other values are very important, but they come later. Since the story is told through positioning of the actors in relation to the camera, since the blocking of camera moves within the scene is inseparable from the design of camera operator and I are concerned with narrative. He is the director’s right hand and he is my man.

Mackendrick’s description of the role of the operator stems from the heyday of the British studio system. In this tradition the cinematographer is known as the Lighting Cameraman and his role is to predominantly light the set. The operator is more concerned with the narrative. Hollywood tradition is different.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Process of Screenwriting

Article from The New Straits Times
Friday, Oct 31st 2008

A good story is where a sympathetic hero comes up against incredible barriers and manages to overcome them. In the design of the story we create a universe with its own rules, limits and values.

The concept of story will be examined in the different forms of structure and the principles as established by Aristotle in The Poetics.

The principles of specificity is that the story teller is the originator of the story and his prejudices and his consciousness has great influence on the story. The world the story teller imagines is apart of the writer’s style of screen writing.

The story design is transcribed into a screenplay and the screenplay is open to interpretation. The meaning and purpose of the story is examined and how the same story can be told in different ways.

Ike Ong said the basic requirements for script evaluation is firstly the Synopsis.

Secondly, Detailed Character Biographies to help the readers visualize the sophistication of the plot.

Thirdly, a Detailed Treatment of the final script is required.

Fourthly, a Step Outline of the screenplay is the manageable reading material to make the producer buy the screenplay. Ong added: “The development procedure in Screenwriting we have adopted is one where the Story Design is established to express the meaning of the story of the film.

“This is then transcribed to the Step Outline which is a group of scenes which expresses the action of the drama.”

“Students will practice deconstruction to Step Outlines on ready made films and familiarize themselves with the motions of thinking in cinematic terms step by step,” said Ong.

Friday, October 2, 2009

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

“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.

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.

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.

"The Memo That Started It All" by Christopher Vogler

From time to time people ask me for a copy of the original seven-page memo that was the foundation of THE WRITER’S JOURNEY. For many years I lost track of the original version and could only offer to send people the longer versions that evolved later, or point them to my book, where the memo was embedded in the first chapter, but they weren’t satisfied with these solutions, apparently believing there was something almost magical about that original terse, blunt statement of my beliefs. They had to have the “legendary seven-pager” which I had called “A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES”, but I was never able to lay hands on the original short version. Until now, that is.

After upheavals of home and office, and sifting through many files and boxes, I have finally come across the raw, original text of The Memo, and I offer it here to you, with the hopes it will have some of the magical effect on you that people attribute to it. But first, I’d like to share some of the context around the creation of this little document.

It was written in the mid-1980s when I was working as a story consultant for Walt Disney Pictures, but I had discovered the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell a few years earlier while studying cinema at the University of Southern California. I was sure I saw Campbell’s ideas being put to work in the first of the Star Wars movies and wrote a term paper for a class in which I attempted to identify the mythic patterns that made that film such a huge success. The research and writing for that paper inflamed my imagination and later, when I started working as a story analyst at Fox and other Hollywood studios, I showed the paper to a few colleagues, writers and executives to stimulate some discussion of Campbell’s ideas which I found to be of unlimited value for creating mass entertainment. I was certainly making profitable use of them, applying them to every script and novel I considered in my job.

Eventually I arrived at Disney where a strong corporate culture and a string of hits were being created by executives Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Memos were a big part of that corporate identity, a means of persuasively communicating concepts and attitudes, and all of us who worked at Disney at that time had to learn the memo art form, following the example of Katzenberg, an absolute master.

I suppose the discipline of writing succinct development notes, story coverage and research memos kindled in me a desire to express the exciting ideas I had found in Campbell in a clear, concise way. I wanted to once and for all get them down as creative principles, a set of reliable building blocks for constructing stories, a set of tools for troubleshooting story problems.

So I took time off from my story analyst job and spent a week in New York City with David McKenna, a good friend I’d met years ago while doing theatre in San Antonio in my Air Force days. We’d followed parallel paths in film and theatre, and eventually converged as story analysts and consultants. He is a great film buff and a good guy to bounce ideas off of, and together we shook out the details of the Hero’s Journey as it seemed to apply to movies. We worked out terminology and discussed scenes from films in every genre to demonstrate the variations of the Hero’s Journey pattern. We wore out his VCR looking at old movie clips. At the end of this intense phase I went back to L.A. and pounded out the seven–page memo, sending the first copy to McKenna.

I gave copies of The Memo to my story analyst friends and to key Disney executives including Ricardo Mestres of Hollywood Pictures and David Hoberman of Touchstone, both divisions of Disney. “Interesting,” was all that most people said, at first. But I knew, I sensed somehow, I was on to something. I had the vision that copies of The Memo were like little robots, moving out from the studio and into the jetstream of Hollywood thinking all on their own. Fax machines had just been invented and I envisioned copies of The Memo flying all over town, and that’s exactly what happened.

Feedback started coming in that suggested I had hit a nerve. I heard young executives buzzing about it, telling their friends about it. It became the “I have to have it” document of the season at talent agencies and in studio executive suites like that of Dawn Steel at Paramount. And in the sincerest form of compliment, it was promptly plagiarized. One instance was right under my nose in the studio. A junior executive had taken off my title page and substituted his own name as author, and then submitted it to Jeffrey Katzenberg, who read it and pronounced it a very important document at a meeting of his development execs, making it required reading for the entire staff.

Fortunately someone at that table had already read The Memo and knew I was the true author. I heard about it on the studio grapevine within minutes and immediately sent off a letter to Mr. Katzenberg, asserting myself as the author of The Memo and requesting deeper involvement in story development. He called me right away and put me to work with Disney’s Feature Animation division, where I began doing research and development work on THE LION KING and many other projects. When I arrived I found The Memo had preceded me, and the animators were already outlining their story boards with Hero’s Journey stages.

The Memo served as a handout when I began teaching story analysis at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. And that’s when it began to grow, as I developed the ideas more fully and added more examples. Eventually I included material about the archetypes and soon there was enough material to contemplate a book, and thus THE WRITER’S JOURNEY was born from a humble seven-page acorn.

But people continue to attribute special importance or powers to the original seven-pager, especially those who had been around when its impact was first felt. At one point, a museum dedicated to screenwriting requested a copy for a display of what they considered the milestone documents and books in the history of the craft. And so I give you The Memo, thus releasing many more little robots to distribute these ideas far and wide, to influence movies, computer game design, or whatever field where they may be useful.

The Hero's Journey Outline By Chris Vogler

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.