August 13, 2017

Slice of PIE: Emma Thompson – From Shakespeare & Jane Austen To Alien Cat Starship Captain & Agent O of MIB…

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland in August 2017 but I was unable to go (until I retire from education)). I would have chosen a topic, then proceed to jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today.

Let me just say that I LOVE Emma Thompson's acting.

My wife and I first ran across her in the Kenneth Branagh production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, in which she played the fiery Beatrice in the early 90s and again in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY a year or so later. The first was, of course, a play written by William Shakespeare, the second from a book written by Jane Austen. She has won two Oscars, three British Academy Film Awards, a primetime Emmy, and two Golden Globes for her various works – including writing the screenplay for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (as well as starring in it).

Then she popped up again – a doctor who has cured cancer in I AM LEGEND, a weird “anti-Mary Poppins” in the NANNY MCPHEE movies – and oddly, the woman who created Mary Poppins in SAVING MR. BANKS, a divination instructor in one of the HARRY POTTER movies (of course are there any British actors who did NOT have a part in a HP movie?) While she played a plain, old, ordinary writer in STRANGER THAN FICTION her work-in-progress is a novel directing the life of man doomed to die at the tap of her typewriter, which she discovers just in time.

The reason I’m writing this is because to me, she embodies the idea that all movies are fantasies – whether she’s playing a lawyer, a dissident journalist, or a crystal-ball-gazing diviner and teacher – she does all with equal gusto and creates characters who are believable and sympathetic.

I’m plagued right now by a long stretch of disinterest in my writing and so I’ve started to search for what I’m doing wrong. One of my biggest weaknesses has been character development, so I look at acting sometimes to see how actors of disparate realities create characters. How does someone like Emma Thompson, whose net worth is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million dollars ( play the part of a working-class German woman after being raised in a creative acting/writing family in London, spending time with Scottish grandparents convincingly? Clearly, she draws from some well of character because the words on the page of a script can’t precisely dictate how a character behaves – especially if the descriptions are painted with minimal strokes and the characterization in the script is simply typed words.

How can I create a character on paper when my work is NOT scriptwriting? How do I make readers “see” my characters clearly?

Perhaps I can learn from someone who has portrayed an alien cat starship captain, the director of a super-secret alien integration bureau, and a pre-war, working class German housewife convincingly.

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