This Reading Review is based on the Lesson 02 reading from Robert McKee’s Story.
There are 10 questions. The Review is not graded.
According to Robert McKee, why is so much of our lives spent inside stories?
Pervasive advertising has hypnotized us.
Urban growth has prevented us from having adventures any other way.
Stories are a salve for stress
Stories are equipment for living
Hint: “Traditionally, humankind has sought the answer to Aristotle’s question from the four wisdoms: philosophy, science, religion and art… As our faith in traditional ideologies diminishes, we turn to the source we still believe in: the art of story.” (Pages 11-12, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: From pages 11 and 12 of Story: “Story isn’t a flight from reality, but a vehicle that carries us on our search for reality, our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence.” “…as critic Kenneth Burke tells us, stories are equipment for living.”
According to Robert McKee, overall storytelling is eroding. Why does this matter so intensely?
“Communal Arts such as filmmaking are the hidden backbone of the world economy.”
“Boredom is, ultimately, the root of all violence.”
“When storytelling goes bad, the result is decadence.”
“Stories, even fictional stories, are our history.”
Hint: “A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling.” (Page 13, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: On page 13 of Story, McKee says, “We need true satires and tragedies, dramas and comedies that shine a clean light into the dingy corners of the human psyche and society. If not, as Yeats warned, “…the center cannot hold.”
Why, according to McKee, are European art films no longer commanding the audiences they did in the past?
The development of international distribution systems, dominated by American interests
Asian filmmakers have used economic forces to drive Europeans from the marketplace.
Contemporary European auteurs cannot tell story with the power of the previous generation.
The “dumbing-down” of audiences worldwide.
Hint: “Like pretentious interior decorators, [European auteurs] make films that strike the eye, and nothing more.” (Page 14, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Like pretentious interior decorators, [European auteurs] make films that strike the eye, and nothing more.”
“…Asian works, however, now travel throughout North America and the world, moving and delighting millions, seizing the international spotlight with ease for one reason: Asian filmmakers tell superb stories.” (Page 14, Robert McKee’s Story)
In order to learn technique, McKee recommends that the writer immerse him or herself in the story elements of every novel, film or play they can find and absorb technique subconsciously.
Hint: “As he writes, he matches his work by trial and error against a model built up from accumulated reading and watching. The unschooled writer calls this ‘instinct,’ but it’s merely habit and it’s rigidly limiting.” (Pages 15-16, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “…the haphazard groping toward or revolt against the sum of unconscious ingrained repetition is not in any sense, technique, and leads to screenplays clogged with clichés of either the commercial or art house variety.” (Page 16, Robert McKee’s Story)
McKee says that the decline of story in our society is the result of a loss of
Hint: “The writer shapes his story around a perception of what’s worth living for, what’s worth dying for, what’s foolish to pursue, the meaning of justice, truth… (Pages 17, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “The writer shapes his story around a perception of what’s worth living for, what’s worth dying for, what’s foolish to pursue, the meaning of justice, truth—the essential values. In decades past, writer and society more or less agreed on these questions. [Now a writer must] create a story vehicle that expresses our interpretation to an increasingly agnostic world. No small task.” (Page 16, Robert McKee’s Story)
According to McKee, what questions does one asks oneself when first designing a story?
Who are these characters? What do they want?
Why do these characters have these goals? How are they going to get them?
What is keeping these characters from their goals? What are the consequences?
All of the above
Hint: “Designing story tests the maturity and insight of the writer, his knowledge of society nature and the human heart. Story demands both vivid imagination and powerful analytic thought.” (Page 19, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “…75 percent or more of a writer’s labor goes into designing story. Who are these characters? What do they want? Why do they want it? How do they go about getting it? What stops them? What are the consequences? Finding the answers to these grand questions and shaping them into story is our overwhelming creative task. (Page 19, Robert McKee’s Story)
As used by McKee, the term “form” is short for “formula.”
Hint: “CASABLANCA to GREED to MODERN TIMES to THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN—all superb stories, all vastly different… Each is an embodiment of the universal form of story. Each articulates this form to the screen in a unique way.” (Page 20, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Yet form does not mean formula. There is no screenplay-writing recipe that guarantees your cake will rise. Story is far too rich in mystery, complexity and flexibility to be reduced to a formula. Only a fool would try. Rather, a writer must grasp story form. This is inescapable.” (Page 20, Robert McKee’s Story)
McKee considers CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) to be:
The thing that will end filmmaking as we currently know it
Hint: “CGI is neither a curse nor a panacea.” (Page 24, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “CGI is neither a curse nor a panacea. It simply adds fresh hue to the story pallet…. When CGIs are motivated by a strong story, such as FORREST GUMP or MEN IN BLACK, the effect vanishes behind the story it’s telling, enriching the moment, without calling attention to itself.” (Pages 23-24, Robert McKee’s Story)
When creating a story, according to McKee, the fact that an aspect of your story actually happened carries little or no weight.
Hint: “Everything happens; everything imaginable happens. Indeed, the unimaginable happens. But story s not life in actuality.” (Page 25, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Mere occurrences bring us nowhere near the truth.”
“Consider a set of facts known as ‘The Life of Joan of Arc.’ For centuries, celebrated writers have brought this woman to the stage, page and screen, and each Joan is unique… Joan’s facts are always the same, but whole genres shift while the ‘truth’ of her life waits for the writer to find its meaning.” (Page 25, Robert McKee’s Story)
Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, audiences will usually choose the profound.
Hint: Think of the story McKee tells about the two people telling water cooler stories. One about putting her son on the school bus and the other about his mother’s death. (Page 28, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Master storytellers know how to squeeze life out of the least of things, while poor storytellers reduce the profound to the banal. You may have the insight of Buddha, but if you cannot tell story, your ideas turn as dry as chalk. (Page 28, Robert McKee’s Story)