Every screenplay, whether you like it or not, is a business proposition, and the most important personnel decision you will make is who to hire to be the hero of the story. The hero will be the face of the whole operation, with the job of winning the confidence of your customers and carrying the enterprise through to its success or failure, so interrogate each candidate thoroughly.
In any job interview, the trickiest moment is when you ask the applicants about their flaws. The biggest mistake any job applicant can make, of course, is to admit to no flaws at all. It sounds a little suspicious, doesn’t it? Every honest person has flaws, and that’s good, because no one could relate to them if they didn’t. So every hero needs a flaw...
...But let’s not go crazy. You don’t want to choose a hero that has dozens of flaws. A good hero has one big flaw, one that they’ll have to fix if they want to succeed in this endeavor. If they have way too many flaws (as did the heroes of longtime CC punching bags Greenberg and Big Fan) then what’s the point? Why would we root for them to overcome today’s problem, knowing that they’ll immediately screw up whatever short-lived victory they achieve?
But when searching for a hero with one big flaw, be aware that not all flaws are created equal. If your interviewees are vicious, or cruel, or misogynist, then you should be reluctant to hire them. Even worse, if the prospects are lazy, or apathetic, or sit around waiting for instructions, you mustn’t hire them under any circumstances. We want self-starters here!
If your movie has a hero we’re supposed to root for, then think of the sort of flaws you’d admit to in a job interview: too perfectionist, too rational, too passionate, too detail-oriented, too big-picture-oriented, too humble, too proud, too work-focused, too nice, too honest, too focused on short-term gain, not focused enough on long-term security. Any one of these is a flaw that, if the applicant shows an honest desire to do better, can pass muster with an H.R. director. Not coincidentally, these are the sorts of flaws that are unlikely to alienate an audience.
One thing that these flaws have in common is that each can be the flip side of a strength. Such flaws are great for two-reasons:
- We will be more sympathetic to the flaw if we see that it came about as a result of too much of a good thing.
- Your hero will be reluctant to overcome that flaw for fear of losing the accompanying strength. Overcoming it won’t just be hard to do, it will be hard to want to do.
- Agent: You played a *tomato* for 30 seconds - they went a half a day over schedule because you wouldn't sit down.
- Michael: Of course not, It was illogical: if he can't move, how's he gonna sit down? I was a stand-up tomato: a juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato. Nobody does vegetables like me. I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway. I did the best tomato, the best cucumber... I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass!