Men, Women, & Children, and Jason Reitman & Themes
November 9th, 2014
At the Jacob Burns Film Center in October, film critic and JBFC president Janet Maslin interviewed director Jason Reitman after the screening of his latest film Men, Women & Children (based on the novel by Chad Kultgen) written by Reitman and Cressida Wilson.
Reitman: “I like making movies about the sides we don't show.” Describing his film as an ensemble story, Reitman said, “I wanted to make a movie about relationships. I think people have been cheating on each other for a long time. Some of the things that the movie addresses are porn, girls with body issues, and relationships. We’re brave on a first date; there are certain things you stop sharing in a long-term relationship.
Synopsis from the official Men, Women & Children Web site: http://www.menwomenchildrenmovie.com/
MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose - some tragic, some hopeful - as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.
There is a connection between all the teen characters (the high school they attend) and the choices they make, as well as the choices their parents make when it comes to social media. The characters each must cope with the consequences of their actions.
Reitman: “I find with teens, their concept of privacy is completely different than mine.”
One of the main themes of Men, Women & Children is the consequence of social media.
In my book Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays I write:
Your characters’ specific journeys—their experiences as they attempt to achieve their goals and what they learn about themselves and others—are the fundamental basis of defining your story’s themes. The theme is what your story is about. It is the central idea or dominant subject matter that reoccurs throughout your screenplay. Examples of themes include identity, redemption, survival, empowerment, alienation, and triumph over adversity.
An example of another ensemble group of characters is seen in the film Crash (directed by Paul Haggis, screenplay by Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco). The major themes of race and class discrimination are illustrated when a diverse group of Americans, living in Los Angeles, are brought together by a series of events and must confront racial and class issues that they have avoided acknowledging, because of their own prejudices.
Themes should highlight the action. Characters must evolve and change as the story progresses as part of their journey, but your theme(s) must remain constant.
When writing your screenplay, use your themes as your guidepost. A screenplay can have more than one theme, but make sure that you do not incorporate countless themes that don’t inform your story and/or characters, or you will confuse the intention of your screenplay’s plot.
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with 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/.