Revisiting the Hero’s Journey
Scriptwriting was to be my next career – the one I’d turn to when I was sick of facilitating, and sick of travelling. What I didn’t know is that the universe had other plans for me. I’d discover improv, I’d meet people who would inspire and teach, I’d develop deep, deep friendships that would nourish me. I’d get to work in places like Uganda, and Laos, and Armenia, and Myanmar, and Zambia.
But all was not lost. I completed a Victorian College of the Arts Summer School ‘Writing for the Screen’ delivered by Mac Gudgeon. I have the certificate to prove it. This awakened me to the form of screenwriting, and reignited a love of movies. When I was studying part-time in my 20s for a BA in Media Studies my favourite subject was Cinema Studies.We’d shuffle into the campus cinema on a Tuesday afternoon – a tumbledown old building smelling of must – and about 30 of us in a cinema that could hold a couple of hundred would slouch in our creaky faux leather seats, feet on the back of the seat in front of us, while our lecturer Rob Jordan would introduce this week’s movie, such as Metropolis, Dancin’ in the Rain, or a classic western or film noir. I’d learn about sub-text and back story and icons and music as character.
Inspired by the summer school, I enrolled in the Australian Film, Television and Radio School online screenwriting course. We had our own chat room and everything. I often wonder if any of my fellow students on that course escaped from the olive grove and actually finished their script. Had it made into a movie even. My script is still stuck in the olive grove you see, the main protagonist and her lover…oh, never mind.
My bookshelves are scattered with books from that era. The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker; Daily News, Eternal Stories by Jack Lule; Story by Robert McKee (of course); Alternative Scriptwriting: Writing Beyond the Rules by Kan Dancyger and Jeff Rush (bet you’re surprised I was attracted to that title?!) and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.
It’s this last book that has had a lasting impression.
Vogler uses the Hero’s Journey as the basis of his ‘mythic structure for writers’. This so enthused me that I developed ways of using this structure in my facilitation, re-imagining the structure as The Facilitator’s Journey. My friend, Simon Kneebone, did some cartoons. You can check it out here Facilitator’s Journey Summary
Fast forward to 2010. Three incidences within a few short weeks.
1. It’s a workshop for facilitators recently employed for a completely new community program. I’ve been asked to help them explore how they can be creative, ‘out there’, build relationships, have fun, support each other even though they are geographically diverse. I made the Facilitator’s Journey into a small booklet for each person and had them interview each other, in pairs, about their forthcoming journey. It was the first time I’d used it for years.
2. The Applied Improv Conference in Amsterdam. I walk in – late – to a workshop, and there spread around the floor in a circle are the very same 12 parts of Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. I watched as a small psychodrama played out around the crossing of the first threshold.
3. In amongst my latest delivery from Amazon is Nancy Duarte’s new book, Resonate: Present visual stories that transform audiences. You guessed it – Nancy also uses Vogler’s Hero’s Journey as a spine for unearthing the story behind your kick-ass presentation.
Do the think the universe is sending me another message?