Last week I posted a blog on how Story, Character and Theme represented the Holy Trinity of screenwriting. I received generally positive comments on the post, a couple of which referred to it as a “back to basics” post and crediting me for reminding people about the importance of the foundations of screenwriting. In truth, the reason that I wrote that blog was because, as a professional screenplay reader, I cannot tell you how many times I receive a screenplay, especially an early draft, that is very weak in one or more of those components. It might seem like a basic idea, but in reality putting all of that into practice is one of the great challenges of writing a good screenplay.
With that in mind, I have something to share that I found on The Uncool, a website devoted to Cameron Crowe. The link that I’m going to share with you will take you to the entire 25-page Mission Statement that Crowe wrote for Jerry Maguire. While the release of this Mission Statement serves as the catalyst for everything that comes after it in the film, we are exposed to only a very few lines from it. Crowe could have easily written just what he needed, or perhaps a little more, to tell his story and called it a day. That’s not what he did, however. He wrote the entire Mission Statement from Jerry’s point of view, knowing that it would have been impossible to get it all into the film, but also knowing that it was crucial in knowing who Jerry was and what was motivating him.
We’ve all done character bio’s. Those if you who have used David Trottier’s The Screenwriter’s Bible have probably used his questions and guidelines to create all of your characters so that you feel like you really know them. The difference here is that Crowe actually got into the head of his main character. He became Jerry Maguire for however long it took him to write and re-write this document as though it was going to be in the script, but probably knowing that 95% of it would go unseen. This Mission Statement plays an integral role in the story, and is often referred to but very few details of it are ever revealed. However, Cameron Crowe took the time to meticulously write it because he knew that within it was the story of his main character. The things that motivate his character are within this document. The fears and desires of Jerry are all in it as well. Reading this document allows you to see why Jerry acted the way he did throughout the film and accurately predicted the man he would become. We believe that Jerry could change in the ways that he did because Cameron Crowe took the time to write the Mission Statement that would not only serve as the film’s inciting incident (story), but would also define his main character and show what that character’s growth would be (theme).
With that, here is a link to the Mission Statement, and I encourage you to read it if you’re interested in developing deep and interesting characters.