michael maurer screenwriter

Olive is a character

A posting today on Facebook by Disney Pixar struck me as being very appropriate, and timely. It was a quote by Ralph Eggleston, an art director and animator at Pixar, who came on board during the development of Toy Story. I don’t know anything about him, but his quote sums it all up concisely:

“If you start from the character, everything else will follow.”

I am certainly no authority on character or story development, though I have done both with Olive the Woolly Bugger. In addition to the work I’ve done, I’ve also read articles about character development, and what constitutes a great character.

An excerpt from an interview with Michael Maurer, a screenwriter with an impressive resume for work he’s done on animated projects for film and television, says it well:

“Besides having a unique personality and some endearing character quirks, one of the most important things is that we (the audience) can relate to the character and his situation or his goals, and how he goes about dealing with the challenges that face him throughout the story or the series. Take Bugs Bunny – why is he such a likable character? In part, it’s because we can relate to him.”

Read the entire interview and article HERE.

A great character may be able to carry a sub-par story on their shoulders but I prefer to think that if you start with a great character, it will spawn (to cleverly use a fishing term) a great story.

When I created the character of Olive, I honestly didn’t sit down with a checklist of personality traits and construct her using that criteria. Who she was and would become happened organically, and by that I mean she grew on her own without me consciously trying to mold her.

Let’s look at some of the traits that make Olive a great character:

She’s likeable. Olive is sweet, a bit naive (at first, anyway), and endearing. She’s loyal to her friends and empathetic toward those whom she encounters.

She’s relatable. We’ve all faced some of the same situations that Olive faces. We can identify with her because she is us.

She works hard.  Olive works through adversity as she pursues her goals (which are many and varied as the stories progress). Through determination she perseveres.

She’s humble. Even when she champions the day she is never a braggart. She knows from where she comes and appreciates any successes she has.

She’s perceptive. Olive may not have all the answers, but because she is willing to listen to others and the world around her, she finds answers to questions, even some questions she didn’t know she was asking.

She is unique. The above character traits are who she is, but what she is also makes Olive a great character: she is a woolly bugger. Those who know fly fishing know the virtues of the woolly bugger fly. Those who have no previous knowledge of what a woolly bugger is will like the name for what it is—something that sounds as if it were made up for a children’s story or animated film. And as a woolly bugger, she stands alone. Nobody has ever brought a fishing fly to life, at least not that I’m aware of.

When I fish a woolly bugger I have confidence that the fly is going to produce, not because I’m a great angler but because it’s a great pattern. Similarly I have confidence that Olive will land a Big Fish because she’s a great character.

The future looks bright, despite everything

Watching the news lately, as in the last several years, is like self-inflicting painful punishment. With the ten year anniversary of 9-11 just a few weeks away, I realize that in so many ways, the last decade has not held much to be glad for when it comes to the state of the world and the economy. The war in the Middle East drones on, costing more money each day than I can comprehend. Aside from the expense of having our troops over there,  it seems as though there is little chance of ever resolving the conflict/issues. Closer to home, The Great Recession doesn’t seem to be getting any better as reports on jobs and housing continue to indicate a slump, while costs of goods seem to be doing just the opposite. The federal deficit is too big for me to even wrap my head around, and those who were elected to run the country seem to have no better idea at how to fix things than I do. Now Standard & Poor’s downgraded rating of the U.S. credit rating to a AA+ has caused the Down Jones to plummet.

And what’s up with Mother Nature?  The past year has seen severe weather, from deadly tornados that destroyed entire towns, to phenomenal flooding caused by unbelievable snowpack in the Western mountains, devastating heat waves, and of course there was the earthquake-induced tsunami that devastated Japan. We still don’t really know the extent of radiation contamination from the damaged reactors, do we?  Really?  Maybe the Mayans were right afterall…you just never know.

Despite the depressing paragraphs above, I remain optimistic about one thing: the prospects of making Olive the Woolly Bugger, an animated film. This blog has been filled recently with several entries describing what I want to accomplish, and while I am no closer to attaining my goal, I am making progress: I’ve thought out what my pitch will be when I do get the attention of a movie industry professional willing to hear my ideas. My pitch is nothing too fancy, but it’s honest, realistic and I hope, convincing. I just need to get it in front of the right person. And that is, I believe, going to be the biggest challenge.

While the internet is a tremendous resource for gathering information, it does not seem to provide what I really need:

www.PersonalcontactinformationforHollywoodFilmIndustryProfessionals.com

(Admit it–you tried to click it, didn’t you?) Yes, I need a listing of movie industry types with personal contact information: emails and phone numbers, please. For obvious reasons, celebrities and highly-sought-after entertainment industry professionals want to protect their privacy as much as is possible given their highly-visible public status. There are millions of people out there who would love to talk to these people so a fortress has been erected to keep out the masses, of which I am one.

So, how does one attempt to contact these people? Well, a few have Twitter accounts, but one never really knows who is operating those accounts.  It’s not likely that the stars themselves sit down daily and post their tweets, although Henry Winkler’s Twitter account, @hwinkler4real, does seem as though it may be coming directly from Henry Winkler. I’ve tweeted him, but to no apparent avail. Yet. I remain hopeful. You just never know.

In addition to Henry Winkler, I’d like to establish contact with Tom Skerritt, Jimmy Kimmel, Liam Neeson, Jane Seymour, Michael Keaton, Lawrence Fishburne, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Jane Fonda, Robin Williams, Robert Redford and several other Hollywood actor types who have a passion for fly fishing. Why? Because that passion for fly fishing may make them sit up and take notice about a movie called Olive the Woolly Bugger.

Maybe they’ll be interested in participating as voice actors. Maybe one of them would be interested in an Executive Producer role. Or maybe one or two or all of them will lend their support for such a film and their clout will open the doors of an animation studio. Maybe I can speak with the folks in Ted Turner’s camp and Ted, with his well-documented passions for fly fishing and conservation, will agree to chip in a few million dollars (chump change for him) to help get the movie made.

All lofty goals, but you never know.  You just never know. The passion that drives fly anglers, no matter who they are, is not to be underestimated. Especially when you factor in conservation, which really cannot be separated from fly fishing. Famous people lend their support to conservation issues because their notoriety can invoke change. Their status can get things done.

While I may sound like a dreamer, I firmly believe that one has to dream big or not dream at all. But I’m also a practical person– a realist. And the realistic voice in my head says to give up on trying to attract celebrities to champion Olive’s cause. After the movie is made they’ll go see it, and they’ll take their kids or their grandkids, and then they’ll sing their praises.

The practical me says that it might be easier to gain access to a screenwriter who will buy into my pitch, and their esteemed reputation will open doors at an animation studio. This level of dreaming seems entirely within the realms of possibility, and so while this is the angle I am currently working, I’ve not given up on the celebrity thing just yet.

Why, you ask, am I telling you this?  You’re just a regular person like me–not some Hollywood big shot, right?  Well, right there you’re possibly wrong. The internet has a nearly infinite reach. If everyone who reads this were to pass it along to another person, it could spread far and wide: it could go viral. Every blogger dreams of having an entry achieve viral status, and I came about as close to that as possible with a post on my other blog, The Unaccomplished Angler, titled Fly Fishing Needs Dirty Harry. I don’t know if Clint Eastwood ever saw it, but he might have (it generated thousands of page views). The point is, once you hit the publish button on a blog, the content is launched into cyberspace and you never know who might read it. It might just be you, but it could be someone else. You just never know.