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Theme: Barri Evins and “Personal Thematic” |

Theme: Barri Evins and “Personal Thematic”

I attended a CineStory retreat last summer in Idyllwild where Barri Evins conducted a three day seminar on “personal thematic.” Barri is amazing, a true inspiration, and if you ever have the chance to work with her in any way, you must do so. The experience will be absolutely transformative.

They say that writers have one basic story and we rewrite it again and again. Taking that premise a step further, her theory is that everyone has one core theme that is related to a core issue about which they write (which is probably closely related to our core psychological issues, but we didn’t go into that part).

Barri’s created a program to get to the heart of what our thematic is and how we can best exploit it in our work. This was an absolutely amazing workshop, transformative, and I encouraged Barri to write a book about it, which I hope she’s doing.

In that workshop, Barri actually had us write incredibly detailed bios to help us get to the quick of our thematic – I think mine was about 25 pages. All of that work helped us to better get a sense of what we felt most passionately about in film, what theme activated us the most, and how to help us get there with our own writing.

How to Uncover Your Personal Thematic
Barri asked us to write down our top three films. It is important to choose the very top three – the movies about which you feel most ardently. If you only got to choose three movies for your desert island, which three would they be? Limiting to three actually makes you have to think carefully about which films resonate most closely with you. Choose the films you really love the most.

Everyone in the group except myself had one constant theme in their three films – good triumphs over evil, love conquers all, etc. In those instances, we were all (save Barri) very astounded to see that all of their movies embodied one singular strong theme.

I actually had three separate themes working within my three films, which were Zerkalo (The Mirror), Moulin Rouge and Bridget Jones’ Diary.

If we more closely look at the themes of my films:

Zerkalo (The Mirror): the subjectivity of perception; the mind plays tricks; things aren’t what they seem; unreliable narrator

Moulin Rouge: Love Conquers All

Bridget Jones’ Diary: Just Be Yourself; In being yourself, everything will work out okay in the end (I can’t remember exactly what the specific theme for this one was, but it was something akin to these)

So, looking at a combination of these themes about which I feel most passionately, in my heart of hearts, I want to tell stories about how just being myself leads to love conquering all, and I want to tell them in a way that involves a subjective or non-linear narrative, perhaps with an unreliable narrator.

Actually, if I look at my projects, this is basically what I write about. I’ve written a novel that is exactly this, and actually these elements are all very strong in every one of my screenplays – and in everything I’ve written.

If you’re looking for a way to dig deeper into theme, this is the place to start. Find those three movies that make you want to shout from the rooftops why you love cinema and writing for the screen, find their themes and then look to your own projects. See how you can hone writing about that theme within your own projects.

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One Response to Theme: Barri Evins and “Personal Thematic”

  1. Joanna July 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm #

    Well, this explains a lot. Now I have to figure out what theme “Casablanca” and Bette Midler’s “The Rose” have in common. 🙂