Unable to be at the festival in person, Chris Vogler joined us via satelite link up to have an in-depth conversation with Chris Jones about The Hero’s Journey, why it’s continued to be popular amongst screenwriters and filmmakers all over the world and helps them to write their stories.
The Hero’s Journey, if you’re not familiar to it, is an approach to story founded on the work of Joseph Campbell and the interpretations of mythological story it identifies the common threads that pull through most every story around the world and has been adapted by Christopher Vogler to be applicable to screenplay story and structure. Not so much of a blueprint or template for writing Christopher speaks of the work as something that need not be applied rigidly (he said like recipe ingredients) but about having a series of questions that you can ask yourself when structuring your work and if something isn’t working maybe it’s one of these journey elements that could be missing and it’s your choice as to whether you decide to add that in or deviate from it in an interesting way.
In fact, the whole idea of journey is one Chris Vogler explains very well. That if you’re going on a journey it’s good to have a map, but you won’t want to follow that map too rigidly, you’ll probably want to stop and explore or deviate from the path at times and you may want to loop back to places you’ve seen. The map just describes the path you can take on your journey to get to your destination, the journey experience is entirely of your own making and it’s really when you get lost or aren’t progressing is when you may look at the ‘map’ to lead you back to where you need to be. This implementation of The Hero’s Journey is, Christopher believes, the reason it has remained a popular tool used by screenwriters and relevant to today’s new ways of storytelling, because it seems to still help people.
Speaking animatedly and enthusiastically about the craft, Vogler gave a reassuring account of how it can be employed for longer form TV writing as well as features, aid in pitching and even be applied to anti-heros in a story. For longer form writing he says that there will be fractals and small arcs within a longer series arc and that’s how best it’s employed.
One of the best pieces of advice I think I heard from him during the session is that when submitting screenplay specs to the US, to make sure you’ve conformed to American spelling and format. Otherwise your work will be viewed as a ‘British’ script and having that in the readers head can subject you to excess judgement on your story. A great piece of advice from a man who clearly cares about good writing being judged on it’s own merit.
Christopher Vogler has a new Hero’s Journey book coming out and we trust it will be as useful and inspiring a tool as the original has proved itself by long popularity to be. And it was great to have him hook up with us here at the festival.