When Good and Bad Get Confused: The Importance of Crystal Clear Scriptwriting

FrozenIt was a cold December night when my brother dragged me to the movie theater to watch Frozen. How appropriate! I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Just one more Disney princess movie with a lot of corny songs is what I was expecting. But I came, I saw…and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t plan on writing a blog post about it. But since I’ve seen its popularity grow, especially the popularity of one of its songs, I’ve become more interested in the Frozen phenomenon.  To be specific, I’m interested in what the makers of the film intended the final message of the movie to be and what actually stuck.

But first, an overview. (I thought I might skip this step, since everyone and their brother seems to have watched the movie, but I’ll do it anyway just in case.) The setting is an unnamed Scandinavian country in a palace where princesses, Anna and Elsa live with their parents, the King and Queen. Anna is a happy-go-lucky, rambunctious little girl. Elsa is a hermit hiding away from the King’s loyal subjects and even her own sister. In time, the King and Queen are both drowned at sea and Elsa, as the oldest daughter, must assume the throne. Coronation day arrives and the palace gates are opened to the public for the first time since Anna was a small child. During the celebration that follows, Anna and Elsa get into a heated argument in front of a room full of people. With a flash of fear and anger from Elsa, everyone finally understands why she has hidden herself away all these years. She has a remarkable ability to produce ice…in large quantities. After this revelation, Elsa runs away to the mountains, leaving her kingdom in chaos, and more to the point, frozen. She builds an ice palace away from her people, declares her independence, breaks with her obligations and settles into a life of smug self-satisfaction. Her only problem is that the fear which caused the ice to get out of hand in the first place has not left her. Anna joins up with clod-hopper Kristoff, a goofy snowman named Olaf, and Sven the moose to find Elsa and bring her back so that, together, they can sort through their problems and put the kingdom to rights again.

Frozen 2

Here’s what I liked about the film. I really appreciated the fact that self-sacrificing love saved the day. It was Anna’s love which caused her to throw herself in harm’s way to protect Elsa. And it was that sacrifice that helped Elsa realize she could fix the situation her icy temper tantrum had caused. How beautiful! And how refreshing to see self-sacrifice and not a kiss from a handsome prince save the day! I also appreciated the fact that Elsa’s liberation (otherwise known as selfishness and pride) was shown up for what it was – a total neglect of responsibility and more fuel for fear, compounding the first problem.  In the end, she realized that running away and shutting everyone out wasn’t fixing anything. She had to have love in her heart to drown out the fear so she could remedy the problems she’d caused and use her gift for good and not for evil. That truly was the take-home theme of this film.

But I’ve noticed a lot of people seem to have latched onto one song, “Let It Go.” This is Elsa’s declaration of rebellion which eventually adds more fuel to the fears that consume her. I can understand why the song is popular. It’s catchy. The visuals are pretty amazing, too. The problem is that the message of “Let It Go,” is the antithesis of the message of self-sacrificing love the makers intended to get across. “Let It Go” is so well-executed and so visually attractive that it kind of upstages the final message of the movie. Take a minute to watch the clip from the movie and you’ll see what I mean. Elsa begins the song in her lovely coronation dress. At the end of the piece, she’s created her palace of ice and her own outfit, which is exponentially tighter with a big slit up the side. Now Elsa looks kind of, well, slinky as she wiggles her hips around during the last few measures of the song. (Why is it that Hollywood’s idea of liberation always involves releasing your inner sex kitten? It’s becoming a little monotonous.) Her new attitude isn’t good. The end of the movie confirms this. But that’s the song all the little girls are latching onto. That’s the song all the little girls are recording and putting up on Youtube. And that’s a problem.

This is the challenge of writing scripts, as far as I’m concerned. I’m taking a lesson from Frozen, especially since I’ve started my second movie script. Yes, reality has to be portrayed. No, people don’t make the right decisions all of the time. So my challenge, as a script writer is to write realistically without making clearly wrong attitudes or actions more attractive than the right ones. It’s quite a balancing act, but it has to be done. I’ll need to weigh each sentence, each scene, each portion of dialogue. Because words and especially pictures and words together are powerful and they can influence people for good or bad.

And now, for my personal favorite from the film. I see no one’s done a cover for this one yet. It’s about time.

Film Festival!

Official-selection-laurels-blackIt has been yet another interesting week. My car broke down again, stranding me in Kalamazoo overnight. So much fun. Thank God for my aunt who let me crash at her house. As I am sick of car trouble, I assume you must be too. Therefore, that is all I shall say about it!

Last year, we got to meet the Kendricks.
Last year, we got to meet the Kendricks.

The time is drawing near for the Christian Worldview Film Festival in San Antonio. This year, my brother, myself, Seth Haley, Harmony Haley, and Baby Haley will be taking The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club there. We just got the film schedule this week and it looks as though the movie is going to be shown twice. At one of the showings, they’ll also be playing our extra feature, “The Hoary Head.”

I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to this. There will be warmth, good friends, things to learn, the San Antonio River, a possible visit to the Alamo, and best of all, I will not have to look at my ornery car for an entire eight days. On a more serious level, though, I’m looking forward to sharing the film with a big group of people once again.

There are quite a few big things coming up for me, actually. The film festival would be the first thing. When I get back, there’s a recital that some of my students will be performing in. Then, in May, I’ll be doing a mini concert for a Ladies Tea at a church in Otsego. After that, another recital for my students. I’m going to be quite busy in the next few months.

Also, it thundered this morning. There’s snow piled all over the place and it thundered. Michigan is so weird.


The beautiful river walk
The beautiful river walk


My Favorite Fiction Part 5: Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes

9780689860218I came across this book in my late teens on one of my many trips to the library. It looked interesting, so I brought it home. If I remember correctly, I read it all in about one sitting. I loved the book so much I read it to my brother. By the end, we were both in tears.

Soldier Boys is the story of two very different young men. Dieter has grown up in Germany, knowing nothing but Nazi propaganda. Like most boys his age, he adores his Fuhrer and can’t wait to defend his country from foreign aggressors. Spence is a good Mormon boy from Utah. His two main goals in life are to impress LuAnn Crowther, the prettiest girl at school, and to avoid getting in trouble with his parents. But two years after Pearl Harbor and a world still at war, Spence risks his dad’s displeasure by begging him to sign his induction papers. He figures if he turns into a tough-as-nails paratrooper and comes back from the war with a  chest full of medals, then LuAnn and everyone else who thinks of him as plain, old, underdog Spencer Morgan will have to think again.

After months of grueling training in broiling hot Georgia for Spencer, and a lifetime of training and indoctrination in the Hitler Youth for Dieter, Spencer and Dieter’s paths intersect on the cold Western Front during the Battle of the Bulge. The harsh winter and the realities of warfare slowly strip away Dieter’s idealism and Spencer’s hopes.  During a brave charge up the hill Spencer’s company occupies, Dieter is shot and wounded. Left on the hill during the cold night, Dieter realizes his only chance at survival will come through an American he has been taught to hate.

What struck me to the core with this book was the ending message—love your enemies and do good to them that hate you, even if it comes at a great cost to yourself. I enjoyed the way Mr. Hughes developed the characters of both Spencer and Dieter. Spencer originally joins the army with foggy ideas of defending his country from Japs and Germans. But for the most part, he really signs up to prove his manhood to himself and others and to impress a girl. As the story progress, his character is tested and grows until he sees life through wiser eyes. Dieter grows, as well, though more tragically. As the lies of the German propaganda machine are stripped away, his confidence is shaken and the purpose and idol of his life falls and shatters. We see the immense impact that can have on a young life, especially when there is nothing good and true to replace the idol.

You can find Soldier Boys on Amazon used or new. I heartily recommend it for mature readers. Although descriptions of wartime violence are not sinfully graphic, they are realistic.

Bonus: The Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” has a special place in my heart since reading this book. If you read it, you’ll know why.



Teaching Music

It’s about eight-thirty in the morning. I’m sitting at my table with Cora perched on my leg, wondering what the day may bring. Hopefully, nothing too exciting or catastrophic. All I really want to do today is normal stuff like teaching and writing and practicing violin and drinking coffee and things. Speaking, of which, I think I’ll go make some of that coffee.

Ah, much better.

Anyway, today is the day that I teach in Three Oaks, MI. I drive down to that sleepy little town every Thursday afternoon. I never thought I’d have any business in Three Oaks a few years ago. But last summer, Priscilla contacted me and asked if I would teach violin at a non-profit organization she and several Three Oaks dwellers started–School of American Music. After pondering it a while, I agreed to take the job. I started out with exactly one student in July. Now, I have about seven.

Now the School of American Music is aptly named, for blue grass seems to be the specialty. A lot of the students take guitar. I get the violinists and a motley assortment of piano/vocal students.  So, I feel a little bit like a fish out of water, in some respects. I don’t do Blue Grass. Wouldn’t even know where to start! And I think I’m the only one that does classical. But it’s working out pretty well and I’m enjoying the other teachers and my students. First, there’s J–  who wants to learn how to sing so badly, she nearly weeps with joy over any and all progress. Then comes little M– who trudges all the way from the elementary school to my studio, loaded down with her back pack, violin, assorted bags and huge coat. We don’t usually make a whole lot of progress in her lessons because she seems prone to itches and fidgets and will often stop three or four times in the midst of a song to scratch something. This doesn’t work out so well with the violin. Oh, well, it’s a good patience builder for me. After M—leaves, A—walks in. A—is a junior in high school and also wants to sing. She’s got a pretty nice voice and wants to make a career of it on “the stage.” I simply nod and swallow my urge to demystify life for her. You know, even if you’re the best of the best and brimming full of talent, it’s kind of hard to make a living in the arts. After all, I’m not such a bad singer, myself, and I’m just kind of scraping through. I haven’t even seen “the stage.” She’ll figure it out, eventually. In the meantime, learning to sing well is still useful. My next student is another A–, eleven years old and just starting out on the violin. She’s a dear heart with a wonderful attitude. Her last teacher must have been a relic of the old Suzuki school because A—has a habit of bowing and saying, “Thank you for my lesson,” after we’re done. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a student bow to me before, and it feels a little odd. But, that’s what she was taught, and I’ll be hanged before anyone makes her feel self-conscious about it. Then comes H–, fourteen years old, quiet and shy. She doesn’t say a whole lot, but seems to enjoy her lessons. She is tired of the same old Suzuki books. (Can’t say I blame her.) But Suzuki book four seems to hold more interest for her. L— trots in after H–. He is twelve and very quiet. He decided he wanted to play the violin after watching an episode of Sherlock. Hmmm. L—loves math and he was extremely excited when I pointed out the mathematical in music. He’s the only student I’ve ever had that looks for and finds patterns in music. He’ll probably grow up to be the next John Nash, coming up with brilliant mathematical solutions to the world’s problems.

Those are the people I’ll be seeing and teaching today.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll be back next Thursday for another installment of My Favorite Fiction.