Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Creating fictional characters based on real people!

Another of my ‘opinion’ pieces (though I prefer ‘discussion starter’ myself) has fallen foul of Encore censorship. Inspired by a story in today’s newspaper, I thought my few words might open up a discussion about the thorny question of how to represent, in our stories, fictional characters based on real people – especially those who are alive.

"Imagine, dear Encore Reader, through circumstances beyond your control, that your association with someone (spouse, parent, child or friend) you become an object of public curiosity - so much so that some filmmaker thinks that the story of which you are a part (no matter how small) is one worthy of being immortalized on either the silver or plasma screen. There is only one problem, however, and that is that the realities of narrative story-telling necessitate that some liberties be taken with the biographical details of your life. In order for the character based on yourself to serve his/her dramatic function you need to be presented in such and such a way - even if ‘such and such’ a way is our of sync with the realities of your life. You may be a perfectly delightful, generous easy going person but the role calls for a bitch. You may be a decisive, no-time-for-bullshit, take-no-prisoners kind of guy who calls a spade a spade but the screenplay calls for a sensitive soul who would never call a spade a spade for fear of offending. The bottom line is that the dramatised version of yourself is nothing like the way you see yourself or, indeed, the way your friends (and/or enemies) see you. Does it matter? Do you have a right to complain? Are filmmakers under any obligation at all to consult with you before they immortalize your persona in pixels? The case brought by Ita Buttrose’s husband about his portrayal in PAPER GIANTS highlights a dilemma confronted by all screenwriters and other filmmakers who seek to portray characters based on living people whilst at the same timeserving up to audiences compelling drama? What do my fellow filmmakers think?” 

Tim Burrows, editor of Encore, declined to publish on the grounds that the matter was sub judice.

So, there is now another question worthy of discussion: Can we have a debate within the industry about the ethics of presenting real people as fictional characters in drama or must we remain silent for as long as the PAPER GIANTS case is in the courts – which could be years? Alternatively, I suppose, we could have a debate and make no reference at all to PAPER GIANTS!

No comments:

Post a Comment