Glad you’re here.
Family dynamics is a core source of inspiration for your writing, your filmmaking and your performances. We can all relate. We ALL have families. We all create them, live through them, grateful for them or wish they were much different. The responsibility of the writer should be to make the world a better place, at the core… to reveal true nature of family values.
There is no way we can cover all the genres of family stories here. There are just to many kinds, to many paths to take. When starting your own work you have to weed out all the possibilities and locate the one story here that exists. The one story you want to tell. The lesson you want to pass on. Here we will focus on what I believe is a very strong family premise… the family name.
There is wonderful opportunity here.
How we are raised shapes us, forms our relationship with the world around us. It is said one of the first emotions a child experiences here is that of wonder. An expansive sense of all the good that they can experience in their journeys, maybe it is the promise of all the good they will accomplish. How your characters you write or you bring to life as an actor were raised can be a foundational element to your work. We love to see a film with characters from drastically different upbringings have to all face the same problem. Characters have to learn to accept one another for these differences then figure out how to work together to solve their problems… how many times have you seen that movie?
Humanity wants to learn this. We all want to figure out how to do just this. How to put aside differences and work together and it’s our duty as creatives to help pave the way and show others how it’s done. Screenwriters are to be highly respected for their craft I believe. They are the first one to tell their story. Their words, their craft is the beginning of the cycle.
All the archetypes come to life in family dynamics. However where you choose to place them is your decisions. For example, the mentor can be in the family or outside the the family. The hero can more or less be the family unit working as team, or all the archetypes can exist inside the family unit.
A good movie about family usually revolves around its legacy. The values the family Hope’s to pass down to the next generation. This hits home for me as my wife and I have brought James here. We have a wonderful responsibility to pass down our love that comes from our responsibility to him. My goal is equip him for the day when he too becomes a father. So how your characters are raised, what beliefs they were taught, the values that were passed down to them can really give you some wonderful elements to create with.
What a family won’t do to fight for their name.
There is real story substance here. Family names get attacked, they must defend, they must work together despite their differences. This dynamic is dramatic. It’s a core throughline. People want to learn from what they experience in a film. Entire films, series are based solely on this premise. A writer can imagine all the wonderful ways a family can expand, protect their family name. Our names have value. We all want to make our parents proud of us or we all want to prove we can find happiness despite our upbringing.
The archetypes take their positions.
Let’s take this through the monomythic filter. This should help us shift through each archetype. Reduce down the essence, find the beauty, the wonder in story. There us no way we will be able to cover the variables of a family film here. There are just to many. In fact later we will revisit this and find more evidence of why family structured films make the best ones and why you can pull from this in your own writing.
The villain seeks to destroy the family name, but fear not… the villain is only needed when there is a weakening in the family system. The villain can infiltrate the wife or the husband and they begin to operate. The villain uses empathy to illustrate how bad things are, and are being caused by the spouse. There desire is to separate the family system. This desire stems from a deep seeded insecurity the villain can possess. If you add this you are a genius. Understanding the villain’s motives will escalate your writing. The family system holds balance, a source of strength for each member and should be fought for.
The hero here is flawed in their family system. There is in-fighting, stress from work or a distraction that crept in. Because of this the villain arrived. The villains arrival means these skeletons come out of the closet. Your audience wants to see these details. You have to work hard here in fully understanding your heroes psyche. Now an entire script has wonderful balance. So if you go deep here you must balance it out with remedy from the other archetypes. We watch art to learn from the artist. Teach us.
Your hero will win. Your hero has to. As bad as it gets will be equal to the good. Harmony and rhythm of life will return to the hero. The hero’s sheer desire to ultimately come back to the family, to lead the family, to make the family name a source of inspiration.
The hero’s ally is tethered to the hero and seeks only the return of the family name for the hero. There is great adventure here, a restoration of honor. The ally will risk it all to ensure the hero’s name is brought back to glory, back to harmony for they know the value of it. Their own name shares the same honor. If anything should be given more attention is the ally archetype. Allies balance your story amidst all the betrayal. Your audience seeks truth, they want to learn something new and watch the laws of cause and effect play out. Your allies represent this wonderful energy often reminding the hero what in their name they are fighting for. What does it mean.
Your mentor often sees beyond the family name to remedy the hero’s core value system. No family system is perfect and there will be choices perhaps the hero’s parents made that unknowingly hurts the hero’s growth. The mentor supplies endless light to the darkness that clouds the hero’s judgment and often that means something deeper, for we are not just our name but indeed something more. The mentor shows the hero proof of how things truly operate, they explain to the hero why things came to be and reveal exciting new approaches to a life filled with unity and love. The hero will transcend, the hero does let go of all doubts and fears to ready themselves for a new life. The mentors knows this and because of this cares for the process the hero endures, ever compassionate. The mentor can’t live or become the hero in your story but the hero will be a mentor for others, they will use their experiences as proof for others who face similar challenges.
Minions are fun, clever characters ultimately designed to help the hero resolve the details to the family name. They are slaves to the villains endless promises of fame and fortune. The hero weakens and becomes susceptible, vulnerable to attack from the minion stemming from a weakness in the family name that needs addressing. This weakness is a lingering source of psychological hurt that the minions signal to the healing attributes belonging to the hero. The minions are like the boils on the hero’s body, while the source is the villain yet the deeper cause is within the hero.
The shapeshifter manipulates the family name in order to twist its meaning. For the hero’s sufferings this makes matters worse, more painful, maybe harder to understand. Why someone the hero trusted betrayed them will cause the hero to seek remedy. The shapeshifter trap was set by the hero himself who did not heed the warning signs, or came to trust the shapeshifter out of distress. The shapeshifter says all the right things, bolstering the hero’s (or the ally’s) ego luring them, usually right into the clutches of the villain.
The family name is a treasure trove of material for the screenwriter.
The hero’s quest to repair, rebuild, defend or represent the value of the family name can spark your imagination into infinite number of possible creative paths. We want to see a strong family, capable family tested to the brink of destruction then we want to see how the universe works to bring all things back to harmony. A combination of universal laws, the hero’s own aspirations and how all the archetypes work to ultimately serve the hero’s journey.
Think about your own family name. If attacked how far would you go to remedy it?
As an actor having to audition… think these things through. The monomythic structure is here to provide epic depth to your work. It’s hard work however, not for the faint of heart. I believe we want to study the body of work from actors who are all in, they are invested in their character work, they understand the inner works of the family dynamics working beneath the surface of the writing.
Lastly, what aspect of your family story can you work to improve? How might your family work to serve humanity, leaving the world in a better place? Your family name is one way to remember pride in doing what’s right.