Director Luc Besson talks LUCY and the Protagonist
August 28th, 2014
The 67° edition of the Locarno International Film Festival opened with Lucy in the outdoor Grande Piazza on August 6 before a standing room crowd. At the Festival, Luc Besson described Lucy as a thriller with action. In my book Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays! I write about how to develop characters in this genre.
In a thriller, your protagonist (often the ‘everyman’) must be in jeopardy and eventually outsmart the antagonist in order to survive. Readers must feel empathy for your protagonist and root for him or her to survive. The suspense must continue to build as your story unfolds with intricate twists and turns. Readers must sense the imminent danger. You must build the audience’s anticipation, uncertainties and questions, and deliver on their expectation—while keeping them guessing.
Lucy is an engaging protagonist because she is identifiable and resourceful, and uses her physical and mental prowess to survive against all odds. She is an unlikely hero.
Besson talked about his films with powerful action female characters, La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element or The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, stating:
“I think Lucy is different because Nikita, Leeloo and Joan of Arc were very powerful women with skills, whereas Lucy is a totally average girl at the beginning of this story. What was interesting for me about Lucy was to take a character, who represented Miss Average. She could have been me, or she could have been you. She had no particular characteristics. It’s the first time I took someone who is at the bottom of the ladder. She’s stupid in the beginning; she’s a student that maybe is partying too much, and sort of has a boyfriend. She’s away from home. She doesn’t speak Chinese or Korean. She doesn’t know what to do with her life. Lucy could be anyone. She has no power at all. She’s just a little girl in a way. That was new for me. She has no idea how to defend herself. If the character had been a young man he might have tried to fight back and escape. Lucy had no idea how to get out of the situation. Most of the women I choose are already powerful. In Lucy, we take the ultimate power; the ultimate knowledge of the entire universe and beyond. At the end when Lucy and Lucy touch each other, fingertip to fingertip, it’s symbolic of Michelangelo’s fresco at the Sistine chapel. It’s the passing of knowledge.”
Placing your protagonist in unfamiliar and uncomfortable (if not dangerous) situations will make his or her obstacles all the more challenging and interesting. Indeed, Lucy finds herself in the most unfamiliar and uncomfortable (and frightening) situations, and at the end finds knowledge.
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and industry executives worldwide. (www.su-city-pictures.com). Her short films are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and archives, and were included in the Whitney Museum’s Biennial. Kouguell worked with Louis Malle on And the Pursuit of Happiness, was a story analyst and story editor for many studios, wrote voice-over narrations for (Harvey Weinstein) Miramax and over a dozen feature assignments for independent companies. Susan wrote THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! and SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises, available at $1.00 off on https://www.createspace.com/3558862 and using DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD. On Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009SB8Z7M (discount code does not apply). Follow Susan at Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell on Twitter, and read more articles on her blog: http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog/
About the Author
Susan Kouguell, award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, is the author of THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER and SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises (available at $1.00 with DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD: https://www.createspace.com/3558862 ). Susan is a regular contributor to Indiewire/SydneysBuzz, Script Magazine and The Script Lab.
Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College, SUNY and presents international seminars. As chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990, Kouguell works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, executives and studios worldwide. Recipient of many grants and fellowships, including the MacDowell Colony, Jerome Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Edward Albee Foundation, Kouguell’s short films are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and archives, and were included in the Whitney Museum’s Biennial. Kouguell worked with director Louis Malle on his film And the Pursuit of Happiness, was a story analyst and story editor for many studios, (Paramount, Viacom, Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Productions), wrote voice-over narrations for (Harvey Weinstein) Miramax and over a dozen feature assignments for independent companies. www.su-city-pictures.com. Follow Susan at Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell on Twitter, and read more articles on her blog: http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog/.