Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Marcel’

Over the weekend I saw Saving Mr. Banks and enjoyed it immensely. And there is a line in the film—that I don’t think is a spoiler—that seems to be what the film was about.

“In every movie house, all over the world, in the eyes and the hearts of my kids, and other kids and their mothers and fathers for generations to come, George Banks will be honored. George Banks will be redeemed. George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in Saving Mr. Banks

That sounds like a pretty strong theme. And I’m fascinated by the topic of theme because I’ve read successful screenwriters and directors say these contradictory things:

A) I never think in terms of theme
B) I usually start with theme
C) The theme reveals itself somewhere in the writing
D) Theme is something the audience sees when the film hits the theaters
E) I avoid writing from theme to avoid the story being message driven
F) I have no clue what the word theme means

So one thing we can learn from Rod Serling, Alexander Payne, Francis Ford Coppola, and others is the process of screenwriting varies from writer to writer.  Which is why you have visually strong writers and dialogue driven writers.

Now I don’t think that Disney line is a direct quote from the Mickey Mouse creator, but from the imagination of the Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel.  I don’t know at what point she wrote Disney’s monologue—or if she even thinks that was the theme of the movie—but I do know she in facts does think in terms of theme.

“I’m personally a big fan of knowing what your theme is before starting. I think they can arise as you tell the story, but writing within and for a theme seems to me to help the process along. It allows for much more intricate storytelling, ways of speaking to the theme and letting your theme to speak to you, even unconsciously. I said ‘theme’ four times in that last paragraph. I shouldn’t be allowed to be a writer.”
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks, Fifty Shades of Grey)
Go Into the Story Interview with Scott Myers

Related Posts (and a ping pong of views on theme):

Writing from Theme (Tip #20)
More Thoughts on Theme
Theme=What Your Movie is Really About
Theme=Story’s Heart & Soul
Diablo Cody on Theme
Michael Arndt on Theme
Sidney Lumet on Theme
Shane Black on Theme
Wes Anderson on Theme
Lawrence Konner on Theme
Eric Roth on Theme & Loneliness
William Froug on Theme
Aaron Sorkin on Theme, Intention & Obstacles
Diane Frolov & The Theme Zone
Theme vs. Story
“Network” Notes by Paddy Chayefsky
Writing and Directing “Out of Africa”
Serling vs. Coppola

Scott W. Smith

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“I have to love my characters before I can write them – no matter how unlikeable they may appear to be. The first thing I do on any project I write is I put pictures of all the characters on the walls of my office (or wherever I am working.) In this case the film [Saving Mr. Banks] was based on real life events so pictures of Walt, PLT, the Shermans were easy to find. If it’s a fictional character like Ralph I’ll find a picture of someone I imagine he looks like. I will also surround myself with anything else that is useful so… pictures of the Disney lot, as it was, exteriors and interiors of PLT’s house. I want to inhabit the world I am creating from the inside rather than as an onlooker. For me that’s the best way to crawl into the people of the piece and feel like I am there with them. I hope that it can then become an encompassing experience for the reader too. Everything, for me, starts and ends with character; I am definitely not a plot driven writer.”
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel (Terra Nova, Fifty Shades of Grey)
Scriptshadow interview 

Related Posts:
Walt Disney & Shades of Glass
Scriptshadow Secrets

Scott W. Smith

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“When does anyone get to go to Disneyland with Walt Disney himself?”
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney
Saving Mr. Banks

Since I’ve been in a Disney state of mind this week touching on the film Saving Mr. Banks that will be released later this year makes sense. I’m sure the title will stick in time, but I had to Google “Tom Hanks as Walk Disney” to find it. It’s the story Walt Disney attempting to convince author P.L. Travers to make a film from her novel of Mary Poppins. (I’ve read it took 23 years for Travers to give Disney the rights to the book.)

Credited on writing the Saving Mr. Banks script are Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Here’s an interview with Marcel I found over at Scriptshadow.

SS: I discussed in my review of the script that the main character is pretty darn unlikable. You must have been aware that this might be a problem. Did this worry you? How did you approach it so that we would root for Pamela (P.L. Travers)?

KM: I think if I had allowed myself to think that people would dislike Pamela I would never have taken on the task. I approached her with a great feeling of tenderness; I was moved when I read her story and I enjoyed how ornery she was. I always wanted her to be a character you loved to hate but whom, over time, you came to understand was damaged and could forgive even if it was just a little. Creativity comes from all sorts of places and I admired Pamela for being able to create a character so beloved out of so much pain. [Saving Mr. Banks director] John Lee Hancock talks about how her life was shards of glass but that once you put those shards into a frame they become a thing of beauty. I guess that’s what we both hope the audience will see too.

Related links: Screenplay Review—Saving Mr. Banks  

Related post: Screenwriting Quote #54 (Walt Disney) Touches on Disney’s  childhood in Marceline, Mo.

Scott W. Smith

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