Tio Louie: Every day it seems we are presented with more and more outlets to write for. There’s theatrical, film, television, and now there are Web series. Is there a common thread?
Marilyn Horowitz: Well, as Shakespeare said, “The play’s the thing.” So it all comes down to story. I recently read a book on additional storytelling for new media, and I’ve worked on a couple of games and things like that, and it’s all about the hero’s journey or the heroine’s journey. An elderly writer I’ve been working with in Australia has written this epic novel, and it’s wonderful except every hundred pages he goes off and starts writing about another character. I said, “Listen Victor, you’ve got to write about one character all the way through.” Or, you know, you’ve at least got to keep coming back to that character. So it’s always what Joseph Campbell observed, that there is one universal story with a certain shape that follows a single character who has to overcome something. Even if it’s an ensemble piece, you always have that one lead character, and you use his or her “arc” or “spine” as a coat rack to hang the subplots and supporting characters.
Another important thread is that, no matter what format you’re working in, you still have to come up with the theme or premise question. For example, in a full-length movie like The Godfather, it’s all about what’s more important: yourself or your family. And of course, in this case, it’s the mob family versus the real family. But in all of these new outlets, even though they’re of different lengths and shapes, they’re still dealing with the same storytelling issues: a character wants something and he or she is not yet able to attain it for three reasons. One, something emotional stops them. Two, something in the plot stops them; for instance, the character doesn’t have any money, or she can’t get where she needs to go. And three, various sociological images or pressures; in other words, the character wants to be independent and free, but she comes from a culture that, say, demands she have children. Those are the three types of things that prevent a main character from attaining his or her goal, and they give us enough momentum to carry a story to a satisfying climax, whether told in 15-minute increments, one-hour increments, or as a full-length feature film.