I’ve discovered that one of the great hidden things of life is that most people seek – really need – to have power over something or somebody. Not to mention power over their memories, emotions, pasts.
Power might not be up there with air, water, and food, but it’s close. And it is intense. If you’ve ever argued with a two-year-old terrorist, you know precisely and painfully what I mean.
In its discussion of the embedded values of a script, Creative Filmmaking From the Inside Out defines power this way:
Who has power? Who desires power? Who seems to have power but doesn’t really? Who is condescended to? Who initiates conversations, drives the action of the scene? Who makes the story happen? Is having power seen as desirable or dangerous? Does power shift between characters, and if so, what causes that shift to occur?
Our characters might now talk about power explicitly, but we have to deal with it all the time. We can use it to construct backstory. To explain cause and effect. To structure character and story arcs.
- What if Putin is a man determined to gain power over the bitter taste of Soviet collapse? Then what seems politically crazy starts to make no end of sense.
- What happens to a people whose power is taken away? Do they withdraw? Explode?
- What happens when people are not allowed to express their desire for power openly? Do they manipulate? Connive?
- What are the unconscious assumptions of power? Go well beyond noblesse oblige.