Thursday, January 05, 2006

What is a Hollywood Story?

From the analysis of 100's of deconstructed films:
a) In all of our deconstructed stories, a Transformation occurs. Sometimes the Transformaton is overt (Dances with Wolves, 1990) and sometimes subtle (Jaws, 1975).
b) Transformation occurs, without exception, as a result of passing through the stages of the Complete Hero's Journey.
c) There is always a Call to Adventure [separate and distinct from the Inciting Incident], not necessarily a Refusal; not necessarily a meeting with the Mentor, always a First Threshold, always a Physical Separation, always a Transformation in the form of Trials, always an Ideal and a Sword, not necessarily (but often) a Rebirth through Death, always an Atonement, always an Apotheosis, not necessarily (but very often) an Ultimate Boon, not necessarily a Denial, not necessarily a Magic Flight, not necessarily a Rescue from Without, not necesarily a Crossing the Return Threshold, always a Master of Two Worlds and always a Freedom to Live.
d) One or more characters conquer a number of challenges. There are four core challenges: a) the Inner Challenge, b) the Romantic Challenge, c) the Outer Challenge and d) the Greater Antagonism. In Titanic (Academy Award Winner Best Film 1997; No. 1 All-Time USA Boxoffice with receipts of over $600,000,000), Rose's Inner Challenge is to overcome her committment to her mother as well as Jack's lower status, her Romantic Challenge is Jack, her Outer Challenge is Cal and the Greater Antagonism is escaping the sinking ship. In American Beauty (Academy Award Winner 1999), Lester Burnham's Inner Challenge is to feel good about himself, his Romantic Challenge is Angela, his Outer Challenge is his marriage with Carolyn and the Greater Antagonism is Col. Frank Fitts, US Marine Core.
e) Though the story may not pass through a stage of the Hero's Journey, elements of that stage may be present. For example, it is most common for a Mentor to give the Hero a Magical Gift, however, in The English Patient (Academy Award Winner Best Film, 1996), Hana picks up a necklace [from the ground] at that stage of the Journey; in Gladiator (Academy Award Winner Best Film, 2000), Maximus picks up a statuette [from the mantelpiece] at that stage of the Journey.
Learn more
The Complete 188 stage Heros Journey and other story structure templates can be found at
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Kal Bishop, MBA
You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.
Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at

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