March 23, 2014
A Writer’s Passion
“The heart of an engaging story resides in the heart and mind of the person writing the story. It is passion and where that passion takes you as a writer.”
So says Don Vasicek, the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing and filmmaking company. “This passion is reflected through the writer’s characters and the story. Each character, each location in the story, and each occurrence that takes place in, with and between the characters and in the story, should reflect that passion.
“The Crown, the first screenplay I wrote,” says Vasicek, “is a coming-of-age story about a boy who sets out to win $25,000 in a car race to use for an operation to save his Gramps from dying. The heart of the story emerged from within my heart and mind. I possessed a desire to show how vital love is.”
Driven by a Will to Succeed
“This desire was exacerbated by my will to succeed because I grew up in an environment that rejected my efforts to love and to be loved. The Crown shows how love elevates a boy to success and happiness. That passion still burns very deeply inside of me. It is like a roaring fire and it has been reflected in the heart of every engaging story I have written. Love is my passion. It always results as the heart of the engaging stories that I write.”
Indeed, Vasicek’s passion has lead him to teach, mentor, and consult on scripts for over 400 writers, directors, producers, actors and production companies.
“The Crown went on to win several screenplay competitions,” he says, “snared me a WGA agent, opened other writing doors for me, received a stage reading, and was purchased and produced by Incline Productions Inc. and aired on cable.”
Story: Beyond the Mere Telling to Magic
Vasicek believes all writers should be aware of the difference between showing and telling when writing a story. “The key here,” he says, “is the use of verbs. Write a sentence with a passive verb. For example, ‘The sky is blue.’ Well, that is something all of us know. But, where is the magic? It is absent because the sentence shows no action. The sentence shows no action because the verb in the sentence, ‘is’, is passive. So, what if, instead, the sentence was written with an action verb: ‘Space constitutes a vault over the earth that is blue in color.’ Here, the action verb, ‘constitutes’, imparts information about the sky that goes beyond blue.
“Look at the usage of verbs in a screenplay or story that you’ve written. What do you see?” Vasicek asks. “I would be willing to bet that those sentences that contain action verbs give you far more confidence that your writing is going where you want it to go than with sentences that contain passive verbs.
“For practice, if you want to improve your writing, take sentences you have written using passive verbs and change those verbs to action verbs. You will find that doing this is hard work. It causes you to think through what you are wanting to accomplish in the sentence.
“The resultant effect is that you will improve the sentence, which embellishes and dimensionalises your story, and you have grown as a writer. This, to me, is taking your writing beyond telling and making it magic because you’re adding heart/passion to what you have written by expanding upon what you have written. Making your writing magic through the use of action verbs deepens your ability to take your writing to the next level.”
Story Elements That Transcend All Media
I asked Vasicek if there are elements of story that transcend all media, even non-fiction and personal branding. “If you watch television commercials (how can we not these days?), you will notice that the good ones eclipse failures non-fiction and personal branding media exhibit because they have a beginning, a middle, and an end to a story.
“Effective TV commercials sustain a theme that holds the story, characters and action together. They contain a main character and they have an antagonist.” Vasicek clarifies that television commercials can have a person or persons or an inanimate or animate object opposing the main character, but unlike in fiction, not a villain because no one wants to involve evil in their TV ads. “Both the main character and the antagonist are seeking the same goal, but the main character is going about achieving it via positive means while the antagonist is doing what he/she can do to succeed via negative means.”
Saving Animals With Detergent
“Dawn soap’s ‘Saving Animals from Oil Spills’ is an example of a cogent commercial. It contains a story, animals and oil spills. The story is oil spills. It has characters. The bad guy is oil spills. The good guy is the animals. The theme is oil spills. The goal of both the main character and the bad guy is to utilize the environment, the good guy for survival, the bad guy for survival (by getting rid of harmful oils into the environment).
“Elements of story that transcend all media, including non-fiction and personal branding, require a story, a main character with a goal, a bad guy with the same goal, a theme that holds everything together, a literal mixing of oil and water, e.g., ‘Saving Animals from Oil Spills’, which creates conflict, and without conflict, there is no drama, and without drama, everything you write falls flat and will not evolve. So, a mixing of dualities, the mingling of opposites, or a dichotomy seals together the story, the character and the action to take your writing to a level that exceeds what media, even non-fiction and personal branding, spend thousands of dollars striving to achieve.”
Unsung Hero Come to Life
Vasicek’s current passion is a feature film, titled The Captain,about Silas Soule, a US Army captain who refused to participate in the slaughter of native Americans at Sand Creek, Colorado, in 1864. When a treacherous massacre was ordered against Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribe members camped near a Colorado fort, Silas held his unit back from the killing. He became a symbol of heroism for his bravery in bringing the truth about the massacre to light. Later he paid the price as the victim of an assassination at the hand of one of the soldiers involved in the massacre.
Marcinho Savant, the executive producer on the project, says of Vasicek, “His passion has become my own. I’m honored to play some small role in telling the truth for the benefit of the Cheyenne and Arapaho victims of this horrendous slaughter.”
See more on the Sand Creek Massacre film.
About Don Vasicek
Don Vasicek serves on the board of directors of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston. He is presently raising money for Ghost of Sand Creek, a mini-series/documentary.
Vasicek studied producing, directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under Dov Simens and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay, Inc., with Sally Merlin (White Squall), daughter of the famed Hollywood Merlin family of screenwriters and writers, as his mentor.
Vasicek has written and published over 500 books, short stories and articles. His books include How To Write, Sell, And Get Your Screenplays Produced and The Write Focus.
For more see Don Vasicek’s website.