Officially, the 2005 film titled SAHARA is described thusly:
Master explorer Dirk Pitt goes on the adventure of a lifetime of seeking
out a lost Civil War battleship known as the "Ship of Death" in the
deserts of West Africa while helping a UN doctor being hounded by a
ruthless dictator. (124 mins.)
Director: Breck Eisner
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Penélope Cruz, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy
There are a lot of DVD's on Amazon titled SAHARA - this is the 2005
movie about treasure hunters looking for a battleship in the desert --
As I was watching ( logging the SAVE THE CAT! "beats" with part of my
mind), I was imagining the story I would have written: LIKE THIS:
“ Indiana Jones on Tatooine with McGiver for a sidekick and Captain Kirk
in orbit ”
The film SAHARA also reminds me of ROMANCING THE STONE -- the two-guys-and-a-tough-gal in a chase/battle for life and limb (with larger stakes beyond themselves) format is now an entrenched classic, though there was a time when the gal was only there to be rescued and do stupid things to get caught again.
Looking at the dates - early 1980's to just before 2008, I think these films hit big because they were hammering away at a stereotype the people of theater-going-age desperately wanted to break (all females are helpless, or if not, are "Evil.") Power in the hands of a woman turns Dark, or destroys the woman.
Today, (2012) we have NEW STEREOTYPES that the teens of this time will hammer away at. These are recently born stereotypes, almost too new to be called cliche. Yet the rate of change in our society has exploded to the point where the brand new stereotype is an old cliche before the movies to challenge it have been shown in theaters.
We're seeing those challenges I think in the "Indie" market - the films made on low budget by the brilliant producers honing their craft on YouTube and Vimeo.
The question the beginning writer must answer is, "What are today's stereotypes?"
I suspect you'll find a lot of answers by examining the condition of "the family" in today's world.
Statistics recently posted indicate that a man and a woman who marry and raise their kids in a structured, family environment, have a much MUCH lower chance of unemployment, poverty, -- and I haven't yet seen the statistic but I suspect someone is crunching numbers on the juvenile delquincy rate. We do have a "bullying" problem erupting in the early grades of schools, a precursor to real trouble in life (both for the bully and the victim).
One development we have seen between 1980 and 2010 is the advent in the Romance Genre of the novel centering on the divorced or single-parent woman finding true romance the second (or third) time around, despite having attained a sense of total independence -- or perhaps because of it.
The broken family mends, might be the theme of that sub-genre.
The stereotype that may be forming (to be broken soon) would be that seen by the children of these "broken" marriages -- the next generation looking back and seeing "family" and the distaste, strife, and even real hatred between their parents and their grandparents.
"The Family" broke during those decades along two axes -- horizontally via divorce rate, and vertically as children found the "generation gap" (that has always existed) widening beyond comprehension.
It's probably not irrelevant to include the advent of the internet as a household utility between 1980 and 2010. The cell phone revolution of the 1990's just added fuel to the fire. Social networking, Web 2.0 and up, ebooks, and a whole new curriculum in the schools widen that verticle gap.
I do hope by now you've all read Alvin Toffler's non-fiction book, FUTURE SHOCK -- he predicted all this and more. If you are looking for the next stereotype to break and sell a blockbuster movie, read that book.
Toffler notes that the public school system in the U.S.A. (an innovation that changed the world, PUBLIC schooling) has always been the tool of industry, politically dominated in such a way as to turn out workers suitable for the jobs that industry needs to fill.
The nature of the jobs needing filling has shifted markedly in this 30 year period -- to the point where those educated in the 1980's public schools don't qualify for modern jobs unless they've acquired more certificates or skills, degrees, and resume items in between.
The "covert curriculum" that Toffler points out prevailed in the 1970's actually cripples folks for the workforce today -- it shifted and then shifted again. But then in the 1990's or so, the covert curriculum in the schools was turned much more "overt" -- saying "on the nose" that the purpose of schooling is to prepare you to work a job.
Some of this peaked as the Unions became powerful enough to challenge industry's control of the job market, setting the idea that the monetary compensation for a "job" should be determined by what the worker thinks it should be - not what the employer thinks the job actually produces.
And another notion ebbed and flowed all the way into the university level -- that the purpose of education was to learn certain things are true, and others are not true. That the world "should" be this way, but never "that" way.
I've had some long, deep conversations with teachers retiring from the workforce who have taught at the High School and college levels (and I know some Middle School teachers too) who have felt this shifting wind of philosophy altering the textbooks.
Two rules I've seen imposed that exemplify this shift creating a new stereotype that new films will attack:
A) If one student in a class misbehaves, punish the entire class. There are no individuals, just the group, and the whole group is responsible for the behavior of individuals.
C) Never allow students to read ahead in the textbook, or ask questions from the "next chapter." The full weight of Teacher Authority must squash any notion that a student should teach themselves without supervision.
The covert curriculum thus becomes control of the group by authority.
Now this is not yet entirely visible across the nation, not at all. It turns up here and there, gets dismissed, turns up again, and is tossed out. Parents get outside tutoring for their children, take them to dance and music classes and all those things that break the grip of the public school authority.
But just anecdotal evidence from teachers I've spoken to indicates it's a rising tide not a receding one. The children who grew up trained by authority not to teach themselves are almost at the level of being in charge of things. The main result of having gone through school being punished for the misbehavior of others (over whom we have no control) is to hammer at government to CONTROL the misbehavior of others lest it hurt us.
Safety from the misbehavior of others and a deep seated conviction (irrational as it may be) that we can't solve problems that haven't been solved before, may be creating an even wider generation gap, or a very wide gap between spouses.
In the 1970's, the biggest business and the biggest category of self-help books was the DO-IT-YOURSELF industry (father of Home Depot). Today, you don't do-it-yourself, you go to Home Depot and ask a clerk how to do it and what to buy.
The oldest joke since the popularization of the automobile is the difference between the husband and wife as they try to find an unfamiliar location. Ask or read the map? That's gone now by the GPS!
So, the writer should be asking, "Will the imposition of Authority over Thinking For Yourself bring us together and heal the Family?"
At one time, "Father Knows Best" -- a man was King of his Castle and the wife had to shut up and take orders. That let at least half the people in the world vent their frustrations at being bossed around at work.
Did we have healthy family dynamics then? Do we need to go "back" to that? Or forward into something new that's never been tried before in human history?
In the film SAHARA the characters are on a treasure hunt -- and they find more than they were looking for, but only after harrowing, near-death experiences that only miracles could rescue them from (yes like INDIANA JONES).
Take the beat structure from SAHARA, strip out the subject matter, and replace it with THE FAMILY. That's the treasure the treasure hunter searches for - the HEA.
Remember in the HEA ending, the Happily Ever After of the Romance story, the result of happiness is children (one way or another). That means HEA is the equivalent of FOUNDING A FAMILY though "Romance Genre" doesn't usually deal with after the wedding.
Ancestry.com is a very big and growing web-based enterprise now. People are curious about their distant heritage (even if they hate their parents).
Yes, I know, you don't hate your parents -- nor do I. But if you watch a few TV series, you'll see the modern "cliche" stereotype when the parents come to visit. There's always anticipation of strife, and then really serious strife -- sometimes it's resolved in the show, or at least partially, but the RIFT between generations is routinely portrayed as so common it doesn't need explaining to the audience.
The other thing you see mentioned offhandedly with the implication that the audience understands the nature of the strife implied -- that's the phrase "my Ex" -- everyone has an Ex and knows what meetings with him/her mean. Strife. Gallore.
The reason Romance Genre doesn't deal with "after the wedding" is that we, as a culture, now expect Family Life to be fraught with strife. There's me vs. my parents. There's spouse vs. spouse's parents. There's me vs. my spouse's parents. There's my spouse vs. my parents. Children only make it worse. Then there's his children from a prior marriage vs. my children from a prior marriage.
Remember THE BRADY BUNCH? Could you put that on TV today and make it a hit? Why was it a hit then? (1969 and a film in 1995)
It was a hit because divorce had become common, but "The Family" was still strong. An amalgamated family was plausible because despite the inherent strife between generations, Family was plausible in a way it is not today.
Remember The Waltons TV Series?
Name Your Link
Remember Little House on the Prairie?
If you don't remember them, you can probably get them streaming on Netflix etc.
As a writer, you have to learn to discern the intended audience's characteristics and interests by looking at the piece of fiction with a writer's eye. But just because you're studying one thing, don't think you are allowed to forget everything else you've studied.
One of the things with WRITING as a craft, discipline, business, and artform is that you must teach yourself. Nobody can teach you. Honestly. There are a lot of expensive courses in writing all over the web now, but the truth is none of them will do you any good at all unless you are completely free of the ideas in A) and B) above -- that you get punished if someone else misbehaves and that you must not look ahead in the textbook.
In fact, that trick of looking ahead in the textbook is the one thing that got me through college. The very first day when I got the syllabus that said what the textbook would be, I'd run to the bookstore and get the books, then while in waiting rooms, around anywhere I was, I'd be reading the textbooks from back to front -- that's right, BACKWARDS, starting with the index and ending with the table of contents, until I understood what the course was about, what the underlying covert-curriculum thrust underneath the material actually was (whether the professor knew it or not, and it was usually NOT).
When I went to college, professors and TA's didn't take role, didn't know or care whether you were in class (unless there was a pop quiz you needed to score on). If you knew your stuff, you got the grade commensurate with what you knew. They did not grade "on the curve" -- everyone in the class could get an A or an F and the administration wouldn't blink. Everyone had an equal shot at an A because no rule forced the teacher to sort the class by statistics.
All you had to do was take the mid-terms and final. Sometimes you didn't need to bother with the mid-terms if you aced the Final. Some courses you could get credit for by just taking the Final before the course was given (History was one of those). It was called "placing out" of the course to satisfy a pre-requisite for some other course. Some courses didn't have mid-terms or quizzes. A term paper and a final was your only chance. Nobody cared whether you lived or died, and the other students didn't even know your name. In that environment, you grow up fast or you flunk out.
The maturity gained from being treated like that is what I see lacking in today's college age people, and I strongly suspect that the cohesiveness of FAMILY illustrated in those TV Series comes from having been educated in grammar school the way I was educated in college. I suspect that because I know that is how my parents were educated in grammar school and that's where they learned how to teach me to go to college and succeed. And that lesson is one of the reasons I love my parents. They turned me loose in the world with a fully mature sense of self.
That environment where you must achieve certain goals without anyone supervising you to force you to do the work creates a sense of individuality -- a sense of Identity. You don't have to do the 1960's thing of "finding yourself" because your Self emerges strong very early in life, and can never be threatened by anyone else's behavior.
The key, I think, is that covert curriculum item of "nobody cares whether you live or die" -- what you do doesn't affect whether they succeed so they have no stake in you failing (thus no bullying). No grading on a curve means how well you do doesn't depend on how poorly someone else does. Thus there's no reason to hate, resent, or undermine other students.
It is that strong sense of individual self that is the absolute bedrock requirement for the ability to Pair-Bond, i.e. to experience ROMANCE that leads to the HEA not to just another fling.
Now, go back to the film SAHARA. Like ROMANCING THE STONE this film has a back-and-forth, rescuing and rescued, between a guy and gal who eventually do get to have their dream-date-on-a-beach.
These films depict the forging of a Pair-Bonded Relationship based on two people having that strong sense of Self. That kind of educational experience I outlined produces Heroes (no wonder women were excluded from college, from becoming doctors and Lawyers -- they might then become Heroes.)
Remember the film LEGALLY BLONDE?
Remember we're talking about hammering at stereotypes? The "dumb blonde" is a big one, and the dumb blonde beauty who's a lawyer? Think about that in terms of the "nobody cares if you live or die" educational method producing Heroes instead of herds of cattle or nice tractable, obedient soldiers or employees all in a row.
That "nobody cares if you live or die" is the feeling that the street urchin gets, the tough street kid who grows up to be a boss (Mob or otherwise).
Now there's a difference in the effect of receiving that attitude at the age of say, 8, and at the age of 18.
FIRST must come the warmth, coddling, and protection of a strong family environment. THEN comes being thrown out into the cold, cruel world to fend for yourself. If you're never thrown out, or are thrown out too late in life, you never develop the ability to fend for yourself. You remain dependent and in need of protection (read some Regency Romances written prior to say 1980, then some from today which overlay today's woman on the Regency heroine.)
So, given cell phones and social networking peer support groups that parents know nothing about, what kind of pair-bonding potential will this new generation have built into them?
If the family bonds vertical and horizontal are now shattered beyond repair, what next set of bonds are under attack? And by what tools?
We've seen the advent of the "flash mob" -- but we've seen it used to attack social order (rob stores) and we've seen it used to build a strong community (actually coming together to clean garbage off a street or spend time gardening or building houses for the poor.)
The flash-mob by itself is a neutral development, but the purpose a group chooses will be the result of the values of the individuals in the group.
Is the flash-mob itself our next stereotype or cliche to be hammered by a great film?
Is school bullying the stereotype to attack?
Look carefully at this selection of films and TV series and ponder what the current set of 10 year olds (born in 2002) will be 10 years from now. If you start on a film script today, that's about when it will hit the theaters.