When writing a script, it's important that the character arc over one personal issue in the story -- this can be a value or institution like marriage, adulthood, fatherhood, or commitment. It's easy to start with a character who has issues with commitment and then end it with him getting over issues of pride. What you decide as the outcome and how this character evolves over this one issue, is the theme of your story. Why does it have to be one issue? That's what's satisfying to the audience. It came to me while taking my wellness walk around the Historic Filipinotown where I work. I thought, "Here I am walking up a hill and it's costing me lots of energy. That payoff is easier when I get to coast and walk down hill. That's my payoff." If I were to walk up this hill and then time warp -- this is what bad screenwriting does -- to another part of town and continue walking uphill, I wouldn't have earned the payoff for my audience. Hmm, but if I did go to another part of town and I did end up at a downhill or even flat place, wouldn't it be a payoff. Perhaps the metaphor isn't holding up.
The idea here is that an audience feels most satisfaction when it has earned the catharsis. So if a character is dealing with an issue of commitment and arcs on that, the audience will feel satisfied. If however, the character arcs on pride, they haven't earned the change or seen the character deal with pride and so it's not satisfying. The reason this is easily done, if that if you focus on writing to the external goal of the character, it's easy to forget the internal. That is, they might still be going after the same external goal throughout the movie, but arced or changed for different internal reasons. This is when the character arc isn't satisfying to the audience.
Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper was awesome y que? I’ll be honest. When I arrived to watch it the first time a few weeks ago, I was expecting to be bored. Instead, I was overwhelmed by my strong emotional response. It reminded me of watching the final scene of LA Bamba at the Mann Theater at the Esplanade Mall in Oxnard when I was a teenager. Watching Esai raise his hands to the heavens and yell out, “Ritchie!!!” I remember holding back the tears so my dad wouldn’t see me cry. This time around, a little older and wiser, I let the tears roll watching Hank Reina and El Pachuco on stage. This pinchi vato, so damn proud and full of swagger and style, at the center of a stage where the privileged (mostly white) come to be entertained.
All of Trump’s pedo rises up to the emotional surface. I’m forced to admit just how much all of his hate affects me. The play provides a release by articulating emotion that my intellectual-rational mind denies.
As a filmmaker, I always say that art, theater, and storytelling are essential functions of human life. This is why I do it. Then again, I don’t always buy my own B.S. But Luis Valdez and his cast brings this point home in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. Why in God’s name do we spend all this time on our art of storytelling? Henry Reina and El Pachuco made me think of all of my fictional heroes I’ve written: Paquito, Jerry Valdez, Jimmy Lopez, Juan Guzman, Angel Lopez, Manny Dominguez, Pete Cruz, Jaime Bravo, Veronica Martin. The play reminded me that stories reconnect us to who we are and what we hide in day-to-day social interaction.
Yeah, I am angry and proud like Hank and El Pachuco. Thanks Mr. Valdez and the cast and crew of Zoot Suit for reminding us why fictional stories and the theatre are still important.