[00:00:00] Zena Dell Lowe: Today I have with me a special guest and he's a good friend of mine from the olden days. And, Sean Gaffney, he's been a writer and a teacher and a producer. I mean, he's done everything. He's written tons of, I think it's something like 30 plays have been produced.
[00:00:22] Sean Gaffney: Yeah.
[00:00:23] Zena Dell Lowe: A bunch of screen plays, TV episodes, YouTube videos. You name it, this guy has written it. And he is amazing. He's one of the people that I look up to as a writer and one of the people that I trust as a writer. He's doing the right things. As a Christian who is a good artist, he can do both. He can have good Christian worldview without it ever being preachy.
[00:00:49] This is the guy. This is the guy that's doing it. And currently he is, teaching graduate students at Asbury University.
[00:00:58] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Graduate and undergraduate.
[00:01:00] Zena Dell Lowe: Oh, okay. Graduate and undergraduate. Now you're in charge of the department? Yeah.
[00:01:05] Sean Gaffney: Technically, no. So I am the Associate Dean for the School of Communication.
[00:01:10] Zena Dell Lowe: Okay.
[00:01:10] Sean Gaffney: And I am the primary screenwriting professor. So I teach and help oversee. But I report to my boss, the dean. And for the graduate school, Dr. Elizabeth Jones is my boss who oversees the graduate school. But I've got a lot of input. I get a lot of chance to give my opinions and help shape the way that the program works.
[00:01:32] Zena Dell Lowe: That's amazing. So for anybody out there that is looking for a grad program, this is the school I would recommend for screenwriting. This is the school because Sean is in charge. I mean, I'm going to say you're in charge even if you're not, because I know you are and you're shaping the program and you're the primary teacher.
[00:01:51] I mean, and everything that you know how to put these things together. You know what people need to know and what the real world looks like. See, a lot of people who teach
[00:02:01] Sean Gaffney: Yeah.
[00:02:02] Zena Dell Lowe: They don't actually know what the real world needs and you do. And so I think you're in a perfect position. They're very lucky to have you.
[00:02:11] Sean Gaffney: And that's, it's a fun place to be because all of our professors are working professionals. there is a difference. And you don't have to be a good screenwriter to be a good screenwriting teacher.
[00:02:23] Zena Dell Lowe: That's true.
[00:02:24] Sean Gaffney: You know, there are different skill sets and just because you're a good screenwriter doesn't mean that you're going to be a good teacher.
[00:02:29] Zena Dell Lowe: Correct.
[00:02:29] Sean Gaffney: But there are folks like you and myself and several others who understand the cross section of both. And have the experience because I do think that is important. The experience adds a different layer. So the fact that a faculty member has written a script, has gotten a script out there, has gone through the process.
[00:02:50] So yeah, because you know, there's a lot of theory. And the theory's great. But the theory doesn't always work in the real world. Right?
[00:02:58] In theory
[00:02:59] Zena Dell Lowe: In theory,
[00:03:00] Sean Gaffney: This, this should work, but in practice, maybe it doesn't.
[00:03:03] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah.
[00:03:04] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. I love that intro. Thank you, Zena. I'm, I'm going to, I'm going to take you with me everywhere I have to go speak.
[00:03:09] Zena Dell Lowe: Yes. Well, you should because I'm a big fan. I'm a big fan. By the way, for anybody who's listening, I have links so that you can contact Sean so that you can reach out to him so you can see his stuff.
[00:03:20] That way, if you are interested in something like Asbury or something else that we talk about today, I want you to be able to have direct access to him. And he will direct you the best he can.
[00:03:31] So thank you, Sean, for that generous offer to let people reach out to you. I appreciate that.
[00:03:36] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:03:37] Zena Dell Lowe: So what I wanted to do, and, and by the way, I do just want to say this, I rarely do interviews.
[00:03:45] Sean Gaffney: I noticed that. I was trying to figure out, what is this going to even look like?
[00:03:50] Zena Dell Lowe: I know, right? I rarely do them, except for if I'm the one being interviewed.
[00:03:54] Sean Gaffney: Being interviewed, right? Yeah.
[00:03:55] Zena Dell Lowe: Mm-hmm. And so you are special and it's a big deal to have you on. So that means something. It means something. To all the people listening, I want you to know, I really believe Sean has great knowledge for us in this community today. And I want to thank you for being like, you're probably the only, the second person I've interviewed for this show. So that's a pretty big deal.
[00:04:18] Sean Gaffney: Well, thank you. I'm honored.
[00:04:19] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah. Well, I'm honored you're here. So I'm just going to ask you a series of questions and just
[00:04:26] Sean Gaffney: Let's see where it goes.
[00:04:27] Zena Dell Lowe: Be honest. Yeah, exactly. Okay, so let's start with, and instead of giving all your background and all that, I like to dive into craft.
[00:04:36] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, please, please.
[00:04:37] Zena Dell Lowe: Okay, good.
[00:04:38] Sean Gaffney: I get bored talking about my background.
[00:04:40] Zena Dell Lowe: Me too. Me too. Would you talk to me about what you see to be some of the primary, say top three primary issues that you see most writers having?
[00:04:53] Sean Gaffney: Hmm. Okay. That's, yeah, that's a tricky question. Depends in part on where the writer is in their history with writing. So the beginner writer versus the, you know, the guy who's been doing it for a while, versus the professional. We all have, at the various stages, different kind of blind spots.
[00:05:16] I guess I'll start with, you know, with the beginning writer some of the early scripts I see. So I, like I said, I work with undergrad and grad and I do a lot of script consulting. I know you do as well. So we see a wide variety of scripts.
[00:05:29] I think one of the things that's very common, especially with early writers and mid-level writers is you forget who your audience is.
[00:05:42] And what I mean by that, I mean there's the audience of the movie, but who's the audience for the script? Who are you writing the script for? And you actually have several different audiences that you're writing for at the same time, which makes it tricky.
[00:05:56] So, you are writing for the eventual viewer. So the person who's going to watch the movie. So you have to pay attention to things like, did I explain that idea? Is that too much in their head? Are they going to be able to track the characters?
[00:06:11] This is where early writers fall into the trap of, you were talking about this with the show, not tell episode, but getting into the idea of you know, you're, you're writing an action line like
[00:06:24] "Sarah pauses. She thinks about when she was seven and she and her sister Barb went to the beach. And she had the sand in her feet. And it just totally reminded her of that."
[00:06:32] And then she says something. It's like, well,you just gave the reader that information, but the viewing audience has no clue what just happened there.
[00:06:39] And so you have to keep in mind, it's like, oh, eventually somebody's going to see this. So that's, that's your audience. It's the audience I think most people think of, but you also have a couple other audiences.
[00:06:51] One is it's a technical document for the production team to turn into a film. So you have to give the information needed for the director, for the director of photography, for the prop guy, for the costume person, for the actor. So, so there's a technical document.
[00:07:11] And the trap that comes, there's a lot of people I think, who know that it's a technical document, and so they write it technical.
[00:07:18] Zena Dell Lowe: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:19] Sean Gaffney: It includes all of the camera shots. It includes the angles. It includes, you know, prop descriptions. That's a big problem.
[00:07:27] I'll talk about that later because you're forgetting the primary reader for your first drafts, which is who's going to greenlight the movie.
[00:07:39] And it, and it may bea studio or a producer, it may be a director or it may even be an actor. And this is the person or, or group of people, because you, you might have all three going at once.
[00:07:55] Right now I'm working on a script that is always going to be read by the producer and there's a director attached. So I've got two audiences, right, for that script. And your job as a writer for that person is to make them, get them lost in the story and make them see the movie.
[00:08:13] if you hand it off to a director and the director reads it and they see, "Oh, I know exactly how I'm going to do this movie, how, I know exactly how I'm going to make it." Then, then you've won. And if, if your script is too technical or if it's too dry, then it, you don't get to that point where they're, they're lost in the story.
[00:08:33] And, and I think that's where, we're ready to talk about technical. You're going to have to interrupt me if, if you need to. Cause I...
[00:08:39] Zena Dell Lowe: This is great. I will, but this is great. Yeah.
[00:08:42] Sean Gaffney: So the technical writer, the shot writer, I, I get into trouble. Anybody who says, "Writers stop doing the director's job," gets in trouble, especially with, you know, the John Augusts of the world who say, Well, wait a minute. No, you can, you can put in shots that's not going to ruin it. that is part of your job is to do the director's job.
[00:09:02] And that's absolutely correct. However, if you do it in a technical way when you're calling shots, you know, when you're saying over the shoulder, close up on, the camera pans across to... I think my least favorite words to ever see in a script are "the camera."
[00:09:19] And here's how I explain it. It's not that you can't sell those. It's not that professionals don't write those. Writer\directors, especially, will often write in camera angles because they know they're
[00:09:32] Zena Dell Lowe: They're the director. Mm-hmm.
[00:09:33] Sean Gaffney: They're the director. Exactly. Right. Some don't. Some like Christopher Nolan is interesting because he separates himself as a writer versus a director when he looks at the scripts, which is often why he works with different people developing the story versus developing the script. But that's another story.
[00:09:51] What I love about not calling the shots is it does allow two passes at the script. One as a writer and then an additional one is a director. And so writer\directors out there, you have a chance to double down on your talent by separating the writer from the director in their different process.
[00:10:10] So if you write your script, even though if you know you're going to direct it, write it as if you're going to have to hand it off to a different director. And then when you read it as a director and rewrite it, pick it up as if somebody else had written it and it wasn't you that wrote it.
[00:10:24] Zena Dell Lowe: And, and by the way, if I can just, chime in here.
[00:10:27] So this is partly, I have in my online course, Formatting as an Artform, this is exactly the kind of stuff I'm talking about because I also don't think you should take all those things out sometimes that is exactly what needs to go in there because it's perfect for the moment. You know, the way that you're seeing it, but you have to then write it in a way where it's part of the dynamism of it.
[00:10:50] Sean Gaffney: Yes.
[00:10:50] Zena Dell Lowe: Where it isn't dry and technical and boring. It brings the story alive in a way that you might not have otherwise thought.
[00:10:56] Sean Gaffney: Yes.
[00:10:57] Zena Dell Lowe: So how you write it also then becomes part of the art form.
[00:11:02] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. And you never want to remind your reader that they're reading a story. And, and that's where I bump heads with the writers who go, "No, don't worry about it. Put in camera angles." And what I ask them, is I say, you know, "If you've made movies, do you care if the, if the boom mic is in the shot?"
[00:11:21] They'll say, "Well, of course we don't want the boom mic in the shot."
[00:11:23] I'm like, "Well, why? The audience knows they're watching a film. They know you're making it. They know there's a microphone, so why not? Why not have a boom shot? Why not see the boom mic coming down? Why not?"
[00:11:34] And they'll say, "Because it reminds them that they're watching a movie and it pulls them out of the story."
[00:11:40] And that's exactly, in the script, what happens when you say "camera pans to..."
[00:11:45] Zena Dell Lowe: It ruins the illusion. Yep. And it takes, and that's one of my rules, by the way, one of my rules is, the rule of thumb is anytime you take the reader out of the story, it doesn't work.
[00:11:55] Sean Gaffney: Yes, yes.
[00:11:57] Zena Dell Lowe: That's the acid test.
[00:11:58] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, so the trick for the beginning writer is writing for all three of those audiences. Write for the person who's going to watch the movie eventually. Write for the people who have to make the movie. And write to, so that the producer, writer, director gets lost in the story. And they just experience the story.
[00:12:19] Zena Dell Lowe: That's great.
[00:12:20] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's one, I mean, there's so many different tricks.
[00:12:25] And actually this is another reason why spelling matters. This is another reason why grammar matters. This is another reason why formatting matters.
[00:12:32] Zena Dell Lowe: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:32] Sean Gaffney: Is cause you, you hit something that is a parenthetical, but it's not written in the proper format as a parenthetical. And, and your brain goes, "Oh, what did they do in the script?" And you're outta the story.
[00:12:43] Zena Dell Lowe: That's exactly right. Which is why formatting is the number one reason why scripts get rejected.
[00:12:48] Sean Gaffney: Yeah.
[00:12:48] Zena Dell Lowe: It's not that the story isn't good, it's that it takes the person out of the story and now they're not in it, and so now they don't like it. You know, it just, it jars you. It's jarring.
[00:12:59] Sean Gaffney: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And, and why? And why fight for it?
[00:13:04] Zena Dell Lowe: It's avoidable. You know, it's avoidable for writers to, you know, we can fix that. So we should.
[00:13:09] Sean Gaffney: Absolutely.
[00:13:10] Zena Dell Lowe: Okay. So that's the beginner level writer, and that's the challenge. And I think that's actually a challenge for writers at all stages, of course, but mostly the challenge for the beginner writer.
[00:13:23] And so when you get to the intermediate level or a little bit more experience, what would you say?
[00:13:29] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. The things I see in those scripts, well, one is getting too technical. So, so a little bit of that. The more we're on set, the more we realize what sets need. And, and we fall into the trap of, "oh, I, I know what I'm going to do is I'm going to help the director out", or "I'm going to help the producer out." right? And we get a little too technical on that.
[00:13:52] So I'm a writer who has not settled on a genre or a medium. So, I write television. I write film. I write animation. I write books. And in switching between media and, and switching between genres, I think we often forget the distinctions and the strengths of each of those.
[00:14:21] And we, and we kind of carry in. I was listening, to, because you just did a recent episode. We were talking to novel writers. And having to figure out, well, what part of your brain, a lot of the rules are the same. And I think a lot of people forget that they are the same, but they're also different.
[00:14:41] Zena Dell Lowe: But they're also different.
[00:14:43] Sean Gaffney: But they're also different.
[00:14:44] So figuring out what the strengths are and how to translate.
[00:14:47] I will say like with adaptations, and you see this in completed movies. You can go through the Disney catalog, you're going to see this, where when they're adapting, they forget they're adapting.
[00:15:02] So you might see a book and oh my goodness, the book is on the screen. I think that's one of the biggest insults to a movie, is to say, the book is on the screen because it means you didn't make a movie. You didn't turn it into a movie. And we see a lot of biopics really fall into this, where it's, this happened and this happened and this happened and this happened.
[00:15:24] As opposed to, well, film is a story. A film is a story that has an an arc and a beginning and a middle of an end. A book is about themes. A book is about details that build themes. So looking at like The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Les Miserables. There might be a chapter about the Parisian underground, the sewer systems. And all he's talking about is a sewer. You might not even have a character appear. And that's fine in the book because the book is developing a theme and it's contributing to it.
[00:15:54] But in a movie, your movie's, the strength of movie is story. So if you..
[00:15:59] Zena Dell Lowe: It's character.
[00:15:59] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. If you leave the story, if you leave the characters, if you leave, if you leave the action, if you leave the arc, then you've, you know, you've undermined.
[00:16:08] So, so I see that a lot. You know, if you look at the Disney remakes of their cartoons, that just knowing going from animation to live action, it shouldn't be a shot for shot. Same, same thing.
[00:16:24] So if you watch, you know, I haven't watched all the way through on many of them. I gave up on, you know, Aladdin, gave up on Lion King. Watched Beauty and the Beast all the way through.
[00:16:33] Beauty and the Beast is the animated movie done live action, just not as exciting or interesting.
[00:16:41] However, you take something like Jungle Book. Jungle Book, John Favreau did the adaptation, and it's a completely different movie. So it wasn't just repeating the other form, repeating what animation is, it's going "Well, what can we do in live action that we can't do in animation?"
[00:16:57] I just saw, I'm going negative here, so I apologize, but I just saw
[00:17:01] Zena Dell Lowe: No, no, it's good. We learn a lot from that.
[00:17:03] Sean Gaffney: Saw Little Women the Musical. So it's the Broadway version of the book. And it's, oh, it's so boring. It's, it's got great music. The production I saw had a great director who understood what some of the flaws were, but it is the book.
[00:17:20] So if, if you know the book Little Women, you'd probably enjoy the musical because it takes the highlights of the book and it peppers them through. But there are no two scenes, you could cut any scene from that play, and it won't make a single difference to the character arcs of anybody. The problems are introduced in the scene that they're resolved in.
[00:17:41] Zena Dell Lowe: Oh, no. So nothing that even sustains to further in the story as an arc.
[00:17:45] Sean Gaffney: Right. Yeah. Yeah. Because it's just taking each chapter and going, oh, here it is. So there's, there's a scene, which I didn't know the book at all. I hadn't seen any of the tv, the miniseries or the movies of Little Women. So I went in blind.
[00:17:59] And there's apparently in the books, Beth I think is the girl who likes to play the piano. And she's been harping the neighbor guy because he has a piano that's been locked up because that's the piano his dead daughter had. And he won't let anybody touch it.
[00:18:16] And then, eventually he hears her playing and his heart softens and he does a complete turnaround and says, "Come over to my house, I'm going to unlock the piano for you."
[00:18:28] Beautiful, right? So, there's a scene in the musical where the old guy and Beth, she's playing the piano, the lesser piano, I guess, at her house.
[00:18:40] And she's playing and they're talking, she starts a song, and then he goes, "You know, I know that you've been harping on me about the piano that's in my house, but it's my daughter's piano and I don't let anybody play it, and I'm not going to let you play it."
[00:18:53] And then at the end of the song, he's like, "Alright, you can play it."
[00:18:56] That was the first we ever heard of it. We didn't know that he even owned a piano. We didn't know his daughter used to play the piano. We didn't know that Beth...
[00:19:05] As opposed to Beth scene after scene going, "Hey, let me play your piano. Let me play your piano." And then using a song to break his heart or open up his heart.
[00:19:13] Zena Dell Lowe: That would've been beautiful. You know, the setup and then the catalyst and, and art being the thing that speaks to the heart.
[00:19:20] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. But not, not good. And these are accomplished writers. This is a Broadway play. But the mistake they made is they put the book
[00:19:30] Zena Dell Lowe: On the stage.
[00:19:30] Sean Gaffney: Just put book and put it on there as if we all know the book, so we don't need to do the backstory. We don't need to build up. We don't need to set up the character moments. So, so that's a very common, very, very common thing we do at that level.
[00:19:42] Zena Dell Lowe: I've been recently rewatching the Harry Potter series.
[00:19:46] Sean Gaffney: Hmm. Yeah.
[00:19:47] Zena Dell Lowe: A lot of time has gone by since I've read the books or saw the movies the first time. And for some reason I just had a hankering to start the series over, and I have been delighted actually, for most of them. There's a couple of weaker, weaker films in there, but, but for the most part, they're surprisingly good. I mean, I keep going back to that. And I remember they changed things from the book to make the movie better because they would put the focus on different characters in the, in the movie than on the book.
[00:20:21] They made sure that Harry was more active and didn't become so passive. In the books, there were moments where when Harry didn't do anything, he wasn't doing anything, and they changed it for the movie. So Harry's driving the action primarily.
[00:20:35] Sean Gaffney: Yes. Yes.
[00:20:35] Zena Dell Lowe: Oh, with the help of his two best friends. But of course now I've, I've gotten a little bit more maturity in my own writing, so now I'm seeing different mistakes. But nevertheless, they're pretty strong because even though they were true to the books, they weren't the books.
[00:20:55] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, exactly. Right. Yeah. They should add, if you, if you have a book and a movie, you should be able to enjoy both because they add different elements to the same story.
[00:21:06] Zena Dell Lowe: And that's, I think of Les Mis, right?
[00:21:10] Sean Gaffney: Yes. Yes.
[00:21:11] Zena Dell Lowe: Les Mis. It's, to me, that was one of the most transformative books I've ever read. I read it in my twenties. I wept for weeks actually. I would weep as I would be reading this dang thing. I just, I loved it. I longed for it. There was something in me that wanted to be Jean Valjean, wanted to be worthy, wanted to be godly. I wanted it so badly. Right? And it was very impactful to me.
[00:21:39] Then years later, I had the chance to see Les Miserables, the musical. Well, I wept. And I wept, but it was totally different.
[00:21:48] Sean Gaffney: Totally different. Yep. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:21:52] Zena Dell Lowe: And I, I can't even say one is better than the other.
[00:21:55] Sean Gaffney: No.
[00:21:56] Zena Dell Lowe: They're both amazing.
[00:21:58] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah. And, and ultimately we can't say one is better than the other because they're not in competition.
[00:22:04] Zena Dell Lowe: They're not. You're right.
[00:22:05] Sean Gaffney: And a lot of adaptations are in competition. I have to be as good or, or better than the book, or as good or better than the earlier version, you know, if it's a remake.
[00:22:15] A as opposed to "No, I'm taking this story and I'm coming at it from a completely different way. The Lion King Broadway show does the same kind of a thing from the movie. Where it's a completely different experience. I don't know if you've seen the, the Broadway play, but it's, it's all puppets.
[00:22:31] Zena Dell Lowe: Oh. I haven't.
[00:22:32] Sean Gaffney: It's like life-sized giraffe puppets. It's immersive. It puts you in. It understands that it's theater. It understands, you know, theater's about human relationship. It's about human connection. And they understand that.
[00:22:43] You know, it opens with the opening scene with the call and all of the animals come through the audience up to the stage. And it's chilling because you're there. You know, in the movie you're watching it. Here you're inside of it.
[00:22:58] Julie Tamar, who, who directed the adaptation understood theater is theater. It needs to be a completely different telling of the same story. All the same beats, the same songs, the same, you know, funny moments, or whatever, but told completely differently.
[00:23:16] Zena Dell Lowe: And you need that for theater too, I'm teaching playwriting right now at Covenant and what I've been trying to help my students understand a lot of them are writing plays as if they're movies.
[00:23:27] Sean Gaffney: Yes, yes.
[00:23:28] Zena Dell Lowe: You know, and the actions that they have, the characters do are something you would only see if you had a camera right here. Like it's too small for the stage.
[00:23:38] Sean Gaffney: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:23:38] Zena Dell Lowe: And the stage is grand and it's a spectacle. And the person in the very back row needs to be able to see and tell what's going on. And it's a bigger willing suspension of disbelief. Oh, absolutely. We allow that reality is suspended in theater. We expect that. That's part of the reason we go to the theater.
[00:23:57] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, yeah.
[00:23:58] Zena Dell Lowe: Is because you can have somebody run on in a fright wig and, and all of a sudden they're the mad professor and we buy it simply
[00:24:05] Sean Gaffney: We buy it.
[00:24:06] Zena Dell Lowe: Simply because they're in fright wig. You can't do that in a movie because a movie has to be about reality. Even if it's animated or whatever, it's an extension of reality. But it has to like, it's different.
[00:24:18] Sean Gaffney: What you see is what's true.
[00:24:19] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah. That's right. That's right.
[00:24:20] Sean Gaffney: What you see is what's true. Whereas in theater, I compare, , driving Miss Daisy. The theater, they take two chairs. One of them is behind the other one. Daisy sits in the one behind. The guy sits in the front, he does this. And we're in a car.
[00:24:33] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah.
[00:24:34] Sean Gaffney: And there's nothing to say that, you know, we're not in a car.
[00:24:37] Zena Dell Lowe: That's right. And people buy it. And that's because it's theater and we're willing to do that.
[00:24:41] Sean Gaffney: Yes. And so that's the contract. Cause the audience is part of the performance.
[00:24:46] Zena Dell Lowe: Right. Yes. And they want to use their imaginations. And that's why that's exactly to your point. We have to understand what each medium that the strengths and the weaknesses of each medium. And then milk the medium that we're in for all it's worth.
[00:25:06] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah. So, you see the professionals do that all the time.
[00:25:10] We forget. We think that the tricks that work in film are going to work on stage or, you know, the tricks in animation are going to work in live action or, you know, whatever the jump is. We forget what the strengths and weaknesses are.
[00:25:26] Zena Dell Lowe: Well, and I go back to the, again, Les Miserables I remember, I mean, I saw this so many years ago, but I was blown away
[00:25:34] when Javer jumps. And they pull up the bridge, so, you know, the bridge gets pulled up to the ceiling, but he's like in the spotlight falling for a long time, mind you, you know, or at least...
[00:25:48] Sean Gaffney: And you gasped. You gasped at it, right?
[00:25:50] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah. And then, and then the light goes out and he's hit, you know? But really it's just an actor on stage.
[00:25:57] Sean Gaffney: Doing that.
[00:25:57] Zena Dell Lowe: Standing there. But it's the effects they're able to do in the theater to give us the illusion that he jumps. And it's amazing.
[00:26:07] Sean Gaffney: I, I'll give you a little story and, and you can cut this for time, I went to see the play Warhorse, , which was developed from the book the same time the movie was.
[00:26:14] So the play and the movie came out at the same time. But both based on the book, completely independent of each other. There is no connection to those two. In the play, the horses are puppets. So it'll be like three guys manipulating a life-size horse puppet around.
[00:26:34] So it's very, you never not see the guys manipulating. There's never a point where it looks like a real horse in a, in a realistic way.
[00:26:46] And I remember when we went to see it, there was a couple with their teenage daughter, a couple rows in front of us. And she was clearly dragged to the theater. She did eye rolls that we could see even though we were sitting behind her because the eye rolls were so like, oh, her parents. And I was kind of thinking, I admit I'm a little bit like, oh, I hope she doesn't like take out her cell phone or talk during this or whatever. You know, I'm in my old man mode.
[00:27:12] Zena Dell Lowe: Right, right.
[00:27:13] Sean Gaffney: There's a point in this, in the story, well into the story, where we think the main horse is going to be put down. And there's a soldier who takes a rifle and points the rifle at the head of this puppet.
[00:27:28] Now remember it's a puppet and we see the three guys with the puppet, and there's an actor with a rifle, that is clearly a prop rifle, pointing it at the puppet. And this girl in front of us screamed no at the stage.
[00:27:44] She was ready to rush the stage to save this horse because we were there. We, we were in it. We were, it was, it was completely...
[00:27:53] Zena Dell Lowe: It was real. It became real to her, even though her...
[00:27:56] Sean Gaffney: Our reality is our imagination.
[00:27:58] It's interesting too. Conversely to that, did you ever see, I'm sure you're familiar with Equus.
[00:28:04] Zena Dell Lowe: Okay, so Equus, the stage play, I mean, this is a, it's pretty dark and it explores really gross things, you know, beastiality, boy, maybe sexual stuff with a horse. I mean, pretty, pretty icky stuff. And he is very messed up in the play.
[00:28:23] But in the, play, it's all done with, you know, it's a guy, it's a, it's clearly a man in these clopper things with the head of a horse on him. And he starts out the play in tab, , tab, what is it?
[00:28:38] Sean Gaffney: Tableau. Tableau, yeah.
[00:28:39] Zena Dell Lowe: Not, I'm thinking taboo, but no tableau.
[00:28:43] And, and so, and you're able to do things in that regard that you couldn't do, like say if it was had to be reality because you don't actually see anything. In the play it's just kind of talked about, but in this very stylized way. But then they did the movie.
[00:29:03] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:29:04] Zena Dell Lowe: And you can't do the same things. And really that movie is, I mean, it's horrifying because of course now it, it's not being done in a stylized way that like these, and I'm, I'm one of those people that believes even as a Christian, nothing is off topic for us.
[00:29:24] We should be able to address anything if we're addressing it, honestly. I mean, the Bible did. But we also have a requirement to protect our actors and our audience and our viewers. You know, we just, and our, our production team and that sort of thing. And this movie didn't do that because they were trying to create something that was realism. Because that's what film requires and it's a violation.
[00:29:53] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. I have never seen, and will never see the movie for that very reason. There are certain stories that work better in certain genres. That's correct. Unless you find another way to tell it. Which,
[00:30:05] A lot of times they can't. Right? They, oh, we saw the play, let's make a movie of it. And you're like, ah.
[00:30:11] But your themes become very different just by filming them versus having them play out on a stage. because the participation of the audience is different going from being a active member of, of the stage crew as you are, as an audience member for theater, where it's, it's person to person. It's human connection, it's human relationship, as opposed to being an observer of an event that you're more of an observer when you hit film.
[00:30:43] Zena Dell Lowe: You are. And I do think that's one of the things we have to fight against in film is to not make it too voyeuristic.
[00:30:50] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:30:51] Zena Dell Lowe: We're still going for the emotional connection so that the audience, if something bad happens to the character, they feel it. They feel that empathy. They feel the pain. But it, in a theater setting, it is much more because the person is right there, you can't help. Which is also, by the way, why I don't think there should be nudity on stage.
[00:31:12] Sean Gaffney: It's interesting because it does become a different thing because they're there.
[00:31:16] Zena Dell Lowe: Because they're there.
[00:31:17] Sean Gaffney: So there's different things done differently for stage than they would be for film.
[00:31:24] Steppenwolf did a production, stage production of Grapes of Wrath.
[00:31:28] And, there is a scene in the book that I don't think made it into the movie or was, was done very differently in the movie. But they're finding people in horrible, desperate destitution along the path.
[00:31:44] People who are literally starving. And they find a young mother who her baby died. Her baby didn't make it. And they find this older man who is literally, I mean, he's starving to death. He's near death. He's almost comatose. And the way that he survives is the new mother feeds him. And it is devastating. It, the desperation of that is devastating.
[00:32:13] And that could be something that could very easily fall into a gratuitous nature. And, and the way that Steppenwolf did it, it did not.
[00:32:24] Zena Dell Lowe: Wow.
[00:32:25] Sean Gaffney: It was desperately powerful because, again, it was theater. You are there with this person and the decision needing to be made is, do we let him die or do we find this desperate way to feed him, kind of a thing.
[00:32:42] So in that case, the power of it, was so far beyond.
[00:32:50] You know, the problem we have is, is the sexualization of nudity. Which we've gotta get past.
[00:32:54] But there have been a lot of other plays that I've seen where it's had nudity and it's been like, oh yeah, too bad you did that.
[00:32:59] Cause, cause it's totally distracting. It takes you out, you're suddenly thinking about the actor.
[00:33:03] Zena Dell Lowe: Because again, it's always the question of does it take me out of the story? And almost always nudity in plays
[00:33:11] Sean Gaffney: Plays almost always will. Almost always they will. Cause you're going to think about the actor or the actress.
[00:33:16] Mm-hmm. You're going to stop thinking about the character. In college,my school did a production of Hair. And there's nudity in Hair a lot of the nudity in Hair is by design gratuitous.
[00:33:28] And it's the same kind of a thing of, you know, you're seeing people I know and it's not, it's not their characters.
[00:33:35] Zena Dell Lowe: Well, and speaking of Equus and how it's portrayed, I know that when
[00:33:40] Daniel Radcliffe, he played the character, he was naked on stage. and he was only maybe 18 or something at the time. He was pretty young.
[00:33:49] And I remember thinking, that's abusive. There's no way that that isn't messing up that kid's head. And there's no way, because, and, and also there's no way anybody's watching it and not thinking about Harry Potter being nude on the stage, even though he isn't Harry Potter. He is Harry Potter. Right.
[00:34:12] And so it's just, it's messing with the audience. It was just, and I know that, you know, at the time he was trying to be brave or whatever, but nudity doesn't make you brave.
[00:34:21] Sean Gaffney: It's an interesting question because it is, it's piece by piece.
[00:34:25] I I just did a lecture for my screenwriting students. I call it vulgarity and other nonsense. So it's a dialogue lecture about dirty words, which is fun to do at a Christian university.
[00:34:38] Zena Dell Lowe: Oh, that's great.
[00:34:39] Sean Gaffney: But the first thing I do for them is I'm like, all right, so this, we're going to talk as Christians about this.
[00:34:43] So everybody open up your Bible. Go to the back. You'll find the appendix of all the words that God says you shouldn't use. Like that doesn't exist. And it's like, yes, it doesn't exist. That's where we need to start is it's not as simple as, oh, don't say these words. , it's much more complicated because you have to, to really have a good theology of vulgarity. Or a theology of obscenity or even a theology of gratuity. Cause you have to understand, well, what makes things gratuitous. any of the words that we mention right now that we should not use didn't exist when the Bible was written.
[00:35:19] So the Bible doesn't say, don't use the F word. The F word didn't exist. So what is it about the F word? What, what is it about these words that make them
[00:35:28] Zena Dell Lowe: vulgar.
[00:35:30] Sean Gaffney: And there are times where I think they should be used. Kind of goes back to using words in vain which, the Bible says, you know, be careful about your word choices. Be thoughtful about how you use your words.
[00:35:43] I think that's really what we need to come down to, isn't so much, oh, we'll never use that word. It's how are you using the word, what is the word doing for you?
[00:35:53] So a lighter example would be Dorothy Sayers and the Man Born to Be King, which was a 12 part radio series about the life of Christ.
[00:36:03] She had written for the B B C back in the 1930s, I want to say the 1930s. And she, in the introduction to the published version, she talks about, she did it in contemporary English and the different characters were based on different levels of society. So you might have cockney characters or upper British characters. So she was using the English language to kind of mark where characters were.
[00:36:33] And Herod used what, what at that time would've been considered rough language. We probably wouldn't be able to identify what we thought of as rough in it, because our definition has changed so much in the past a hundred years. But for her there was earthiness. It was not all high Shakespearean aloof language.
[00:36:53] And somebody wrote in very offended that Herod would talk this way. And she said, you know, anybody who was alive while Christ was walking the earth would never use language like this.
[00:37:03] It was like, so, so you're not offended that he killed all of the babies that were born around the time, but you are offended that his character was shown to be lower than the character of others. So she was definitely using language specifically to make a distinction between characters. Distinction between where they were spiritually, where they were morally, where they were within their ethics.
[00:37:31] and that's not gratuitous. you also have to keep in mind who's your audience.
[00:37:35] Zena Dell Lowe: You do. And you know, I think about Elijah. In the, in the Bible when he's having the contest with the Baal worshipers and all this. And he's, he's like, I'll let you guys go first. And he's sitting on the sidelines. And you know, like they're calling down fire from heaven to see which God or Gods, are real.
[00:37:53] Is it God versus your gods? Okay. You guys get to go first. whichever God answers by fire is God. And as he's over there on the sidelines watching, he is like, well, where is he? And, and the translation is actually, maybe he's taking a shit.
[00:38:08] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:38:10] Zena Dell Lowe: You know, maybe, you know, maybe that's what he's doing and that's the actual,
[00:38:13] Sean Gaffney: We prettified it in our translations, but yeah.
[00:38:15] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah, yeah. So that's probably what he is saying. and he is mocking them. Intentionally mocking them. But he is using very, you know, gritty language.
[00:38:29] Sean Gaffney: Earthy language. Yeah.
[00:38:30] Zena Dell Lowe: Earthy language on purpose. and by the way, if people are offended by that, then the end of the story is that he calls down fire for heaven and then he calls all the followers and says, "Come on, let's get these guys to the river and kill 'em all."
[00:38:45] And they do. They kill all of the priests, so 300 of them or something. Yeah. So people could be offended by that, but that's what happened. Yeah. So even there in the Bible itself.
[00:38:56] Sean Gaffney: In the Bible, yeah. Paul, John the Baptist,
[00:39:00] Zena Dell Lowe: Jesus, he says, "You brood of vipers." "You whitewashed tomb."
[00:39:06] Sean Gaffney: Were not proper to be said in the temple.
[00:39:08] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So are, are we thinking that through? Are we being smart about it? Are we choosing? or are we going, "Oh, you know what, this, this will get a quick laugh."
[00:39:20] Zena Dell Lowe: Well see. And that's, I mean,
[00:39:21] Sean Gaffney: You know, this will shock the audience.
[00:39:23] Zena Dell Lowe: This is one of my main cries out, right? Like, something isn't good based on if it lacks sex language or violence.
[00:39:32] Sean Gaffney: Right.
[00:39:32] Zena Dell Lowe: It is good depending on the truth that it's manifesting, it's, it's good depending on the thoughtfulness that you're putting in. What are you saying with that? I go back to the Jodi Foster film where she's gang raped in a bar.
[00:39:48] Sean Gaffney: Accused. ,
[00:39:48] Zena Dell Lowe: The Accused. Yeah. and I think this is such a powerful story because they don't just go after the three guys that raped her. They go after the guys that stood on the sidelines clapping and chanting and like totally into it, who were just watching, which was powerful enough. But there's this moment in that film where she's being attacked
[00:40:08] I think it's on the pinball table. And, and her shirt gets ripped and so you, her breast is exposed and I think it's absolutely essential that that happens.
[00:40:19] Sean Gaffney: The audience needs to feel violated.
[00:40:22] Zena Dell Lowe: They need to feel violated. They need to feel her humiliation. They need to feel it. And it was the only way to accomplish it. And guess what? Nobody, hopefully, nobody watching the film is going, "Oh yeah, give me more of that boob." And if they are, they need to see a doctor, because there's something wrong with them.
[00:40:42] There's nothing that is supposed to be inspiring our lust in that moment. It should be horrifying to us. So the reaction that we're creating with these things that we put in ought to be appropriate to the situation.
[00:40:55] Sean Gaffney: Absolutely. a word in its proper setting. Yeah.
[00:40:59] Zena Dell Lowe: Yeah. Now, how did we get here? So we're talking about the second
[00:41:05] Sean Gaffney: I don't know how we got here.
[00:41:07] Zena Dell Lowe: we're still talking about the second mistake that writers, you know, intermediate writers make. And I think we covered that in a nutshell. Summarize that.
[00:41:18] Sean Gaffney: I think gratuity is, gratuity is, , a big one for, for all writers.
[00:41:25] You see a lot of, of, even the more advanced writers kind of fall into that trap which comes to sometimes just pandering what they think the audience wants or what they think works.
[00:41:38] every movie is different and I, and I think we forget that as well.
[00:41:43] Zena Dell Lowe: A movie that is confounding to me, a series that is confounding to me on this point, because I love them, but I think they're gratuitous, is John Wick.
[00:41:56] Sean Gaffney: Oh, interesting. Yeah.
[00:41:57] Zena Dell Lowe: And I think, I think I'm, I've actually been trying to reflect on this. Why do I enjoy these so well? And I think part of it is because at the very beginning they made an an emotional attachment to me and John Wick. And I feel he is justified in his mission and everybody who's being killed is coming after him.
[00:42:20] They are attacking him and they are bad guys.
[00:42:23] Sean Gaffney: Yeah.
[00:42:23] Zena Dell Lowe: He's not killing innocents.
[00:42:26] Sean Gaffney: Right.
[00:42:26] Zena Dell Lowe: He's killing the bad guys and he's trying to avenge, you know, the death of this dog. I think if it had just been about the car, we wouldn't have felt that it would've been way too much. But when they killed that little dog.
[00:42:41] And everything is based on that, which was a representation of his wife.
[00:42:47] Sean Gaffney: He was being healed, he was in the process of healing. And we watched his healing being stopped in that
[00:42:54] Zena Dell Lowe: and violently so.
[00:42:56] Just so hatefully heinous and, and we hated them. And therefore we were willing to sit through four movies of a man shoot two to the chest and one to the head.
[00:43:11] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. That's it. It's an interesting one to kind of look at because it's not a well-rounded view of justice.
[00:43:16] Right. And part of the problem of our action films is that they are a distorted view of justice. It's a one-sided view of justice. he has shown you, oh, man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.
[00:43:34] And most of our action movies justify themselves by saying it's about justice, which is one of the things we're called to, but it ignores mercy and it ignores humility. God doesn't say, Hey, do justice or mercy or humility. it's the and.
[00:43:53] And I think John Wick pulls off, I'm not exact, I haven't thought this completely through, so don't quote me on this in 20 years.
[00:44:04] Definitely justice, right, is in there. And in a way, humility is in there. Because he doesn't want to do it. He doesn't want to go back into this world. He doesn't want to be part of this world.
[00:44:16] So it's not like he is a character who from the beginning it's like, oh, I can't wait to kill a bunch of people. I can't wait to.
[00:44:22] He is somebody who has left it, who's dragged back in. And so there's a part of us that, as you say, we love him, we love the dog, we want justice. And so I think he,
[00:44:34] Zena Dell Lowe: and let me add into that. He even would've been willing to walk away at various points. Like once he gets the kid who killed his dog and did all that, and the first one he's done.
[00:44:47] But then he has to go get his car. But even when he goes to get his car, you know, he only attacks those guys when they attack him. And then he goes into the guy's office and says, How about we call this a truce. You don't have to lose all your guys. You know, Russian guy, they do a shot of vodka.
[00:45:04] He's willing to show mercy. He's not out to do, you know, but then he ends up getting that marker. And then he's betrayed in the marker. And so now, now he's gotta get justice again. And so, you know, there is humility. There is mercy.
[00:45:18] Sean Gaffney: Of sorts. Yeah. he's open to it. it's not death wish. Where we're going to get revenge and we're going to enjoy the brutality of the revenge. Mm-hmm. , so they, they walk a very fine line. and I'm, I'm not sure whether they completely succeed. I don't know if, I don't know if we kind of get suckered in so much that by the time we get to three we don't care what John Wick does.
[00:45:39] Maybe. I don't know. Because there is a lot of wish fulfillment in that. There's a lot of, when, you know, we wish that when an injustice happens to us, You know, there's a part of us that wishes we could get revenge. But God, you know, says, no, no, that's up to me to get. Right.
[00:45:57] Zena Dell Lowe: But he doesn't even take out revenge on Winston who betrays him.
[00:46:02] And he showed mercy on the gal who attacks him.
[00:46:05] Sean Gaffney: I haven't seen the most recent one, so don't spoil too much.
[00:46:07] Okay. I'm not. But you know,He's, he's not about anger. He's not about anger. Just anger. He's not just lashing out.
[00:46:16] Zena Dell Lowe: That's right.
[00:46:17] Sean Gaffney: He's righting a wrong. And and we hate bullies.
[00:46:22] Zena Dell Lowe: And we hate bullies I do think there's some wish fulfillment in that. Like, these guys think they have the power. And he's saying,
[00:46:30] Sean Gaffney: No, you don't.
[00:46:32] Zena Dell Lowe: But I do think that, I'm not going to say too much about this. You need to get to see the last one because I don't know that they left us terribly satisfied in the sense that they set up sort of this situation where we think John Wick is going to sort of restart the whole system. You know, like change the whole system.
[00:46:56] And, I'm not sure that they leave us completely satisfied in that arc. And that's all I'm going to say. And I'm interested, we'll have to, I'll have to have back on the show to talk about that when you've seen it. So everybody out there watch it if you're going to, so that when Sean comes back, we can talk about it openly.
[00:47:13] Okay. So keep going. So gratuitous is something that we all struggle with.
[00:47:18] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. I think fresh eyes for the high ender, the writer with more experience, the lack of fresh eyes. We see this with filmmakers, if they don't have those first readers that you talk about, if they don't have those voices still in their life that are willing to critique their work with honesty and love. they're willing to say what's wrong, but they're not there to tear you down.
[00:47:44] You, you need to find those people who love you, who are willing to give you the critique because otherwise you start to believe your own hype.
[00:47:53] Zena Dell Lowe: George Lucas.
[00:47:56] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Yeah. I'd say the Wachowskis.Matrix was a fabulous movie, and I asked did you like Matrix two or three as much? Did you like, you know, any of the movies they have done since then as as much as Matrix?
[00:48:11] And I said, well, well, what's the difference? What changed? Well, what changed is after the Matrix, they didn't have to listen to anybody anymore. They didn't have to take notes. So, as much as studio notes can absolutely ruin a movie, having somebody on the outside who can help you.
[00:48:23] I think,Peter Jackson, who's a brilliant filmmaker, , I see this in some of his movies.
[00:48:28] I loved so much of King Kong. There are so many pieces of King Kong that are absolutely brilliant.
[00:48:36] You know, there's a scene in King Kong that I will always use for how properly do a love story. Because it is a love story between a monkey and a girl, but it's still a love story whereshe has to win him over. You watch him fall in love. It's not a, oh look, she's pretty, I'm in love. He actually has to fall in love with her. And I'll always use that. However, the movie itself is not a great movie, even though it should be a great movie.
[00:49:00] And I have a friend who said, "It's not that the movie's too long, it's that every scene in the movie is too long."
[00:49:07] It's the individual scenes that go just oh, yeah, it should have stopped here. This was enough and it kept going. and I think it's, you know, all of it's good.
[00:49:16] But to get a good movie, sometimes you have to cut the good stuff. You have to kill your babies. You have to kill your darlings. Right. And I think Peter Jackson did not listen to anybody, or nobody was willing to tell him. I doubt it's because he didn't listen. He seems very, very collaborative, but I don't think anybody was willing to tell him,
[00:49:33] There's too many good things going on in this scene, that fight is brilliant. Every moment of it's brilliant, but because it goes on too long, it starts to bore the audience. So cut that fight by 25%, cut that battle by 25%, cut that action scene by 25%. And again, I'm using him as an example because I love his work.
[00:49:53] And I love what he does, but I think if you get to a point where you don't have those voices telling you, that that didn't quite work, it's, you know, that's when you start to kind of decline because you're, you're resting on who you were not on, who you can be.
[00:50:12] and we're always supposed to be growing. Right. So we, we should never be as good as our last thing. Everything should be different. Not even competition with the last thing.
[00:50:21] It's like we were talking about with the adaptations, right? It's, oh, this shouldn't be as good as my last film. This should be something that is fresh to me, something that I'm excited about, something that I like, oh, I'm going to come at it from this direction.
[00:50:37] Chris Nolan, who I think, you know, he definitely made a mistake in Tenet, but he still challenges himself with each of the scripts.
[00:50:44] And I just read an article for Oppenheimer.
[00:50:47] He wrote at least the draft that he gave to his lead actor, he wrote it in the first person. I've never seen a script written in the first person. So it doesn't say Heimer walks in it, it would say, I walk into the room, I look over. The action lines from the first person.
[00:51:03] And it's fascinating. we'll see how well it worked. It worked for the actor the information's not out there yet, whether this was just a script he wrote just for that actor, a version of the script, just to get that actor's point of view. So everything in the script is coming from that actor's point of view.
[00:51:17] I don't know how well it would work for the other actors. Jury's still out. I'd have to see the script to understand what he did.
[00:51:24] But just the fact he's willing to do it. He's at this point in his career and he's not going to do Tenet again, or do Dunkirk again, or do Memento again.
[00:51:35] He's approaching these with kind of a fresh way of what challenges me, how, how can I be challenged and, and find new ways of storytelling. And, and that's, I think, something that tells me that he's going to have a long career, that 20 years from now we're going to be watching new Christopher Nolan movies and still be shaped and surprised by them.
[00:51:54] Zena Dell Lowe: And, and I think he's had some problems too, like, you know, Inception. I feel like Inception was a mess in terms of mythology. It just, there was so much that didn't make sense in that. And yet it was visually stunning, you know?
[00:52:12] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. For me, for me, it worked. Tenet. Tenet is the one that I, that fell apart completely for me. but the fact that he was willing to try that
[00:52:18] Zena Dell Lowe: But he was willing to try something innovative and something that could only be done in film. You know, another one that I think about with that
[00:52:25] James Cameron. Yeah. Terminator's one of my favorite films, I mean, believe it or not, I know that
[00:52:29] Sean Gaffney: Terminator Two for me. Yeah.
[00:52:31] Zena Dell Lowe: They're, they're both so phenomenal. Right. And, and beautiful arcs. I mean, it's just really, really great.
[00:52:37] I loved it. I saw Terminator in high school. I remember I rented it on my vcr and then I watched it like as soon as it was over, I rewound it and I started it over again. And I did that a couple of times because I just couldn't believe it. I was like, oh my gosh.
[00:52:53] She had to get pregnant. She's the, which we, Reese is the father of the, oh my gosh. Oh, this is amazing. Right? Like, I just couldn't, that was of course, back in the day before all those time things happened.
[00:53:07] But all this to say, then we come to Avatar and to me, Avatar, while it was visually stunning, had very cliche themes, very cookie cutter characters, very nebulous, abstract new agey concepts that didn't, that you couldn't really sink your teeth into.
[00:53:30] Sean Gaffney: They weren't grounded. Yeah.
[00:53:31] Zena Dell Lowe: They weren't grounded. Now, visually, I think it was stunning. And I think he's amazing in the sense that they say he can do everybody's job on a set better than the, the person that's in charge of that on the set. You know, he can do everybody's job better than they can. Right.
[00:53:48] And I think he is some sort of like idiot savant. I mean, he's the guy who created for crying out loud the little pod that he sunk to the bottom of the ocean. And went deeper than anybody else has ever done, just to film some stuff. I mean. And he was in it himself and he designed it. I mean, that's some genius level stuff.
[00:54:10] And yet, sometimes I don't think he's able to listen to story notes.
[00:54:17] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Avatar. I love making fun of Avatar because it's, it's great for me to make fun of the highest grossing film in history.
[00:54:25] Zena Dell Lowe: Right. Of the history
[00:54:26] Sean Gaffney: Of the time. Right. but I agree with you. For me, it's, it's not what Avatar is, it's what it could have been if they paid attention to story. When Avatar Two was coming out, people were commenting that, well, nobody's still talking about Avatar. They're still talking about Star Wars. They're still talking about Jaws, they're still talking about Terminator. No one was still talking about Avatar.
[00:54:46] And I think that's a story issue because technically, again, gorgeous, but story-wise, everything that is set up about these people in act one is not paid off in act three. In act three, the Pandorans, they're no different. When they go into battle, they're no different than humans.
[00:55:02] And he's set up this whole, that there's a world philosophy that is different that separates these, aliens from humans. And then when it got down to, you know, them being threatened, it's identical. For example, they pray over the dead. So the taking a lot of the American Indian culture. So they kill
[00:55:25] Zena Dell Lowe: Cause it is basically dances with wolves, but set in
[00:55:27] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, yeah. Pocahontas. Yeah. so this culture cares so much about life that even though they kill for food, they still care about the creature killed. they don't forego the call to be culture carers. Right?
[00:55:44] But when they're in war, they don't do that. There's no scene of them going around and praying over the people they killed. In that final battle. Because because that's not really their philosophy. That's, that's not really the philosophy of the movie.
[00:55:57] The, the things that they told us that make these people step, stand out, even the way they fight, which I, I was really disappointed. Cause I was, I was really looking forward to act three going, this battle is going to be so interesting. Because most battles, these guys shoot at these guys and, and you know, this is the way the battles are. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Right? Every movie we've seen that has a battle, that's what happens.
[00:56:20] But these are completely different, they're alien creatures in an alien environment who think completely differently about the world. It's going to be so cool. And then they all line up and shoot at each other. I mean, it was no different.
[00:56:33] The only time that they use their environment is when the tree sends the rhinoceros type creatures. It's been a long time since I've seen the movie. But sends them to attack.
[00:56:44] And I'm like, I was waiting for them to do that. Like, oh, we, we have these creatures we've established are bulletproof. Of course they're going to use them in war. No, they're not going to use them. It's going to take, you know, deus ex machina to use them.
[00:56:56] so anyway, there's, there's just a missed opportunity that, that I think comes from Yeah. What, what works works, right? We don't have to go past what works.
[00:57:08] Zena Dell Lowe: And going back to the original thing that spawned this part of the missed opportunity, I comes from getting so experienced, you failed to listen to good feedback.
[00:57:19] Sean Gaffney: Yes. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And we don't know, I mean, disclaimer, we don't know that any of these people don't have that. We don't know that whether they're, you know, willing or not.
[00:57:28] Like I say with, with Peter Jackson, it would break my heart because he, he writes in a team. He works in a team. Does he have fresh voices outside of the team? Are the people that surround him willing to step up and say, ah, I know this is good. But I think
[00:57:43] Zena Dell Lowe: Well, yeah, because sometimes it could be you're asking for feedback, but nobody's willing to give it to you.
[00:57:48] You're open to, and by the way, not all of us can hit it out of the park every single time. Sometimes we have limits. I remember I wrote a sketch for church. you know, I'm a pretty good writer at this point.
[00:58:02] I've been teaching for 10 years at this point. I mean, I'm good, but I wrote a lemon that I am, it is so mortifying. when I read it now, I'm like, how? How did I write this? In fact, it's so bad I use it in my playwriting class to show people that even if you're good, you can write a bad one every once in a while. Unfortunately this got staged and it's mortifying.
[00:58:29] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. So I just did a movie, Not Your Romeo and Juliet Coming to DVD near you. we shot it last May. I wrote the screenplay and then I produced it. I wrote it in October, November. And January we were getting the director and the team together. In May, we shot it. It was a very, very small window.
[00:58:50] But we were in post and we are the third edit. So this is the third time the editors turned in things for notes for the director, producer and cinematographer, the director of photography.
[00:59:02] And my director of photography, Sarah Hogancamp, who works with me, she's one of our professors, said, yeah, I, I have to give you my notes in person.
[00:59:10] I'm like, oh, that's not good.
[00:59:12] And she came and she said, yeah, we have a script problem. These scenes are in the wrong order. And, , yeah, it was, it was horrible for her to say for two reasons.
[00:59:23] One is we're the third edit. Number two is she was absolutely right. I had completely biffed a very obvious major flow of the character arc. I had skipped a very important critical section of one of the character's journeys. and that's why this scene was not working was cause this scene was too early in the story.
[00:59:48] Zena Dell Lowe: Interesting.
[00:59:49] Sean Gaffney: So, so in the edit we switched the scenes around, we brought in the actors to do some ADR to, you know, when, when she has her back turned, she says something that explains the time difference. Cut, cut a thing that, like, this no longer makes sense because this would've happened before that happened, kind of a thing and had to completely rearrange it.
[01:00:10] , but yeah, I, I didn't see it until she pointed it out and, and we had gone through several drafts of the script. We had shot all of the scenes. I had watched it three times completely put together, and I never saw it.
[01:00:24] Zena Dell Lowe: But did you know that something wasn't working?
[01:00:27] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, yeah. We kind of knew. It's like, yeah, we're, we were kind of massaging. It's like, well, why isn't this working? Why isn't this working? it wasn't a major thing. It was, it was one of those things that subconsciously it's like, It's just not hitting as strong as we thought it would hit. So it wasn't even like, oh, this feels wrong. It was just, it's just not hitting as strong as we thought it would hit. And that's because it was the writing problem.
[01:00:47] Zena Dell Lowe: and so at the end of the day, then with that switch, did it?
[01:00:51] Sean Gaffney: It totally works.
[01:00:51] Zena Dell Lowe: Now it hits.
[01:00:52] Sean Gaffney: Yeah. Totally works. Yeah. Yeah. So after you see the movie, we'll talk about it and I'll tell you what, what I did and you'll go, why would you do that?
[01:01:00] Zena Dell Lowe: I love that. I love that. Hey, tell, tell people where they can see it. How can they get ahold of your film?
[01:01:05] Sean Gaffney: Oh yeah. it comes out June 1st, so I don't know when this podcast comes out, but right around when this podcast is coming down. It's available so you can get it Amazon, you can pre-order the DVD, also voodoo. You can pre-order a streaming or you can get a streaming copy. It's supposed to be available as of June 1st. I think you'll put in the show notes, right? We have a link tree. You can always go to the link tree. It'll be constantly updated of Okay. Where is it available now? But available for DVD starting June 1st, and then will hit streaming services later in its distribution.
[01:01:39] Zena Dell Lowe: And tell me the name of it one more time.
[01:01:40] Sean Gaffney: It's called, Not Your Romeo and Juliet. It's a, relationship comedy set on a college campus.
[01:01:48] Zena Dell Lowe: I love it. That's great.
[01:01:49] Sean Gaffney: It's very, very fun.
[01:01:50] Zena Dell Lowe: And it's funny. Okay, that's great. That's great. All right. So Sean, we've only gotten through one question, so I'm going to obviously have to have you back.
[01:01:59] Sean Gaffney: Yeah, that's, that's a problem when you ask me a question is
[01:02:01] Zena Dell Lowe: yeah. You're so, so good at it though, and this is so, so great. Everything you're saying is so great. I love it. So I'm excited. We're just going to, we're just going to have to have you back for next week. Sure. In the meantime, I want to thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with everybody who's listening right now.
[01:02:19] You are a master storyteller. I can't wait to see, Not Your Romeo and Juliet. And I can't wait to hear more from you.
[01:02:29] Please, if you are watching today, check out the links. Go pre-order it on Amazon. You can see it on Voodoo. Like he said. Check out, Sean. There's going to be so many things that you're going to learn from this man and we're going to hopefully have him on a lot more, but we'll, we'll have him back next week.
[01:02:46] So thank you so much for listening to the Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe and Sean Gaffney. May you go forth inspired to change the world for the better through story.