Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life as it is... vs... as it ought to be.

REALITY VS. OUGHT TO BE

A great quote from a blog by Daniel McInerny (Graham Greene on the Art of Storytelling) who quotes Graham Greene (talking about cinema) quoting Chekhov (talking about novels).  Thus, I quote McInerny so like a good chain letter you can pass it on and we'll all be remembered. Uh-huh.

Here it is (my emphasis):
‘The best of them (novels/movies) are realistic and paint life as it is, but because every line is permeated, as with a juice, by awareness of a purpose, you feel, besides life as it is, also life as it ought to be, and this captivates you.’ This description of an artist’s theme [continues Greene] has never, I think, been bettered…
Had I come across Chekhov's quote when I was writing The Moral Premise I would have included the quote at the beginning of a chapter. 

When Chekhov says "this captures you" he's referring to audience identification in the moral sense. That is, you are aware that the immoral actions, motivations, and words enacted by a character do not reveal the best of humankind, or even what the character is capable of. That sense of rightness and wrongness comes through in the context of the writing, whether it be a screenplay or novel. That sense of "life as it ought to be" is the moral conscience of the writer communicated to the audience, who knows in their heart (if not in their actions) the difference between moral virtue and vice. Such conflict is absolutely necessary to engage the reader or spectator. And notice Greene's use of the term "theme" which is the root from which a moral premise is derived.

We watched Gavin O'Connor's PRIDE AND GLORY (Hard-R) the other night on our Apple Box, which deals with a multi-generational family of New York's "Finest" who struggle with where the line is between right and wrong. They joined the police force for the pride and the glory. O'Conner's story, which he co-wrote and directed, reveals that when even a taint of corruption enters in a cop's life, the pride and the glory evaporate as fast as a bullet can leave a gun's muzzle. It's the writer's honest revelation of reality in the context of hope and goodness, that allows the audience to know what "ought to be." 

What Chekhov quote begins with these words "realistic and paint life as it is". There's a term for that, which O'Connor uses to describe his work: Verisimilitude (or truthlikeness)—the quality of realism in something (such as film, literature, the arts, etc). 

THE PROBLEM OF BELLA
Verisimilitude's virtue reminds me also of a lesson that I saw in the making a few years back. This lesson reminded me that if you want mainstream audiences to see your movie (and hear your message) then you have to meet them where they are and reflect reality to them as they understand it.  If you don't, then they can't follow your story, let along understand the moral message in it -- if that's important to you -- and should be if you want your movie to be entertaining. (Yes, there's a direct connection between a film's moral message and entertainment. They are two sides of the same coin. See FIRST ENTERTAIN.)   

The lesson involved the movie BELLA which was suppose to be an anti-abortion film... which in my thinking probably involves some sexual content. (I don't need to spell that out for you,  do I?)  Because BELLA was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival with audiences, many people thought it was going to clean up at the box office. I didn't see the screening in Toronto, but some suggested that the producers (as offen happens at festivals), stacked the theater with supporters. 

Regardless, after an early promotional screening (between Toronto and the film's theatrical release) I met one of the producers and chatted. I was concerned because he had just apologized to the very conservative Catholic audience about something that evidently had been pointed out to them as "offensive" and they promised to remove it before the film was released to theaters. What was the "offensive" element? The sound of the protagonist urinating on a pregnancy test strip. There was ONLY the sound. No picture. And the fact that she was to discover she was pregnant was critical to the story's plot. It was a major turning point in the story. You have to SHOW such things. But the producer's didn't show it, they let you hear it. And then they were going to remove the "hearing" of it.  To me this attitude was the death knell of the movie; which explained why I thought the movie was modestly boring to begin with. This harkens back to Chekhov's observation.

BELLA's producers, in their desire to not offend anyone in the audience with visuals or dialogue (and also get grassroots support for the film when it hit theaters), screened the movie dozens of times with conservative Christian audiences. And they made changes based on the feedback from those audiences. They wanted to produce a "pro-life" "anti-abortion" film that didn't offend their conservative supporters. They cleaned and cleaned the edit -- until it was antiseptic of reality's edge. In their striving for truth, the missed verisimilitude or truthlikeness. The result? A box office bomb.

Here's some more evidence about that conclusion.

That same year there were two other "pro-life" "anti-abortion" films that came out. The films were KNOCKED UP and JUNO. These two films found the right balance. They realistically painted life as it is, but permeated the scenes with the juice of what it ought to be. Great balance, and great entertainment. Check out the worldwide box office scores, divide by $5 and you'll know about how many people saw each film:

BELLA (PG-13) -          $12,083,296  (02 M tickets)
KNOCKED UP (R) -   $219,076,518  (44 M tickets)
JUNO (PG-13)  -        $231,411,584  (46 M tickets)

Two of these films went mainstream, the other one was only seen by a very small niche, that had probably already seen the film during the screening tour.  You have to ask yourself the proverbial question:  "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it fall, did it make any noise?" 

One final note I found particular ironic. Notice that BELLA garnered a PG-13 rating. That baffled me. I would have guessed PG at most. Here's what the film rating board said:

BELLA - "PG-13 for thematic elements and brief disturbing images."

Now here's the ratings why for the other two films:

KNOCKED UP - "R for sexual content, drug use, and language."
JUNO - "PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language."

Do you notice how one of these is not the same as the others? (I learned this watching Sesame Street with my kids. Okay, I was watching after my kids graduated from college.)

BELLA was suppose to be about sex. But sex, which the reality of American culture "worships", was evidently absent from the film -- at least to the point that the ratings board didn't think the film had any sexual content. So much for reality. 

To close, one more reminder of what Chekhov wrote:
‘The best of them (novels/movies) are realistic and paint life as it is, but because every line is permeated, as with a juice, by awareness of a purpose, you feel, besides life as it is, also life as it ought to be, and this captivates you.’
In other words...when you do this, there's chance that people will see your movie.


Friday, August 19, 2011

WARRIOR (2011) - A FIGHT FILM LIKE NO OTHER

My thanks to Mary Kochan of CatholicLane for her editorial assistance. Catholic Lane published this review on August 24, 2011.

Director: GAVIN O'CONNOR
Writers: GAVIN O'CONNOR (screenplay), Cliff Dorfman (screenplay, story)
Starring
Tom Conlon - TOM HARDY
Brendan Conlon - JOEL EDGERTON
Paddy Conlon - NICK NOLTE
Tess Conlon - JENIFOR MORRISON
Frank Campana - FRANK GRILLO

Release Date: September 9, 2011
LIONSGATE

RATING: PG-13 for fight sequences and language.

[This is mostly a review of the film. I'll do a little moral premise analysis at the end.]

Synopsis
Tommy Colon and Brendan Conlon are estranged brothers who end up fighting each other inside a cage for the Mixed Martial Arts championship popular with ex-marines. At first punch and bruise (and there are a lot of them in this movie) it appears to be just another pugilistic movie filled with gratuitous violence designed to entertain the battered minds of a bitter disenfranchised generation. And it may be all that — but only in part. For this story is a gripping, won’t-let-you-go study of what it means to fight for noble causes, what it means to love, forgive, and find redemption.

Haunted by a tragic past, Marine Tommy Conlon (Hardy) returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of Paddy, his father (Nick Nolte). Tommy wants Paddy, a recovering alcoholic who’s returned to his Catholic faith, to help him train for Sparta, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts (MMA) history – with a $5 million purse. A former wrestling prodigy, Tommy blazes a path toward the championship with quick, frightening knockouts. Meanwhile, his brother, Brendan (Edgerton), an ex-MMA fighter-turned high school physics teacher, returns to the ring in a desperate bid to save his family from financial ruin (the bank is ready to foreclose on their house). To the ringside crowd and the sports commentators (played by themselves), Tommy is a mystery fighter that came out of nowhere while Brendan is an over-the-hill fighter who is expected to be dispatched in the first round.

But what the experts don’t know is what’s driving the two men. Neither are fighting for glory, money, or egos — but something much more important — the redemption of their lives, which is complicated by a father they both despise for abusing their mother so badly that she ran for her life from him years earlier. “Pop” has now been sober for 1,000 days, has returned in a meaningful way to his Christian faith, and agrees to coach the deeply bitter Tommy even though ringside Paddy roots for Brendan. In the end, the two brothers must confront each other and the forces that originally pulled them apart in the MMA finals. The climax is perhaps one of the most unforgettable in the history of cinema.

The uniqueness of the story is that neither Tommy nor Brendan are fighting for personal glory. Tommy is an AWOL marine from Iraq. Why he’s AWOL harkens back to the story of Ishmael and Moby Dick and the biblical story of Job. Throughout the movie, Paddy (Pop) listens to Moby Dick on tape, and in a climax of his own, Paddy confronts the forces of nature that he (like Ahab) has brought upon his crew/family. Tommy is fighting for the families of the marines that were lost on the tragic day in Iraq that sent him running. He feels guilty that he alone survived and winning the $5 million dollar purse, which he intends to give to the families of his deceased warrior friends, will go a long way to erase his guilt for not dying with his comrades in arms.

Meanwhile, Brendan, who long ago gave up a successful career as a MMA fighter to become a humble but popular high-school physics teacher, gets upside down on his mortgage, and a hawk-like loan officer isn’t going to lose any sleep about foreclosing on Brendan, his wife and kids. But then, when Brendan begins to moonlight as a MMA fighter again, and wins a fight in the parking lot outside a local strip club bringing home the $500 purse to pay on the mortgage, the school board suspends him from his job without pay. Fighting outside strip clubs isn’t exactly the role model the school expects of its teachers.  In this there is humor when  his school principal ends up cheering him on with every ounce of his being. Also coming to his support is his wife, Tess who initially tells him: “I will not watch you fight” — but nonetheless puts her heart in the ring with him. As the audience, we cheer Brendan on as well, because, as his trainer tells him when he’s about to lose the second round championship fight, “Why are we here? If you don’t knock him out you don’t have a home.”

Dual Protagonists?
I want to say that the movie has two (dual) protagonists, Tommy and Brendan. But that isn’t really true. Brendan is the protagonist, and Tommy is the antagonist. Each has a tangible, physical goal, yet each is prevented from reaching that goal until they confront the psychological vice that blocks their progress — each must confront the truth that the movie is about (see “The Moral Premise” below). One of the endearing qualities of the picture is that the audience wants both Tommy and Brendan to win for different noble reasons. Consequently, the irony behind their estrangement makes the final two rounds of the final fight a love affair, in a very real way. I won’t reveal the ending here; it must be experienced. But I am looking forward to watching the movie again when it’s released to theaters and I can vote with my wallet.

Metaphor and Redemption
WARRIOR is like DIE HARD in the metaphor department , and both movies use the same theme music “Ode to Joy” that you may know as ” Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Few women or mothers may understand what I write next, unless they are responsible for earning the family income and paying the bills. I suspect that most responsible men (and I consider myself one of them) have battled month after month, most of their lives, trying to pay bills and keep the family’s financial head above water. It is a constant battle in our consumer, materialistic society, where even as Christians we’re even harangued into giving every last dollar to the thousands of worthy causes that make us feel guilty if we don’t give way beyond our means. In DIE HARD, John McClain battles a tower filled with terrorists, who end up humbling John’s arrogance so John is ready to be a loving, caring and serving husband once again. The bloody fight with Hans Gruber and company is a metaphor for what John’s going through psychologically to get his wife back.

In WARRIOR the physical fighting is a metaphor for the psychological battle Brendan and Tommy (and Paddy/Pop) go through to find psychological redemption, and financial security as well.  The fighting seems over the top and gratuitous until the last moments of the film, and then the metaphor and the brutality make sense. Watch and listen carefully to the last moments of the final fight. Sit on the edge of your seat and don’t miss it. What happens… what both men do… is nearly impossible for any other man to do in most casual situations, let along a championship MMA fight in front of millions on live TV.

Thus, the story beat that will grab you is how the brothers reconcile with each other and their father. It doesn’t seem possible, but then miracles do happen.

Moral Premise
If you’ve read my book, The Moral Premise, then you know that all successful movies (indeed, all successful stories in any medium) are about a conflict of values that prevent all of the main characters from achieving their physical, or outward, goals, until they confront the psychological blockage in their system of moral values. In WARRIOR the conflict of values is about bitterness vs. forgiveness. And until forgiveness takes place, no one is going to win any fight. Here’s WARRIOR’s moral premise statement:

Bitterness leads to hatred and separation; but

Forgiveness leads to love and relationship.

In Conclusion
WARRIOR is an exciting and engaging human drama film, with award winning acting, direction, sound, editing, and a genre setting benchmark ending. It’s an Oscar contender and worthy film for adults and mature teens that explores the values in the human condition that are worth fighting for.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

American Christian Fiction Writers Conference - Early Bird Workshop

On September 22, 2011, in St. Louis, I'm presenting the five-hour long Early Bird Workshop for the annual American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference. Individuals who are registered for the workshop should be getting an email notice of what I'm posting below so they can come prepared by pre-reading and viewing the works I'll be referencing.

I'm posting it here for convenience, since the ACFW Conference cannot post it on their website. In case you're wondering if you want to attend (my workshop) the following provides the antecedents of my examples.  If  you want to know "generally" the outline of my workshop you can read about that HERE. Although what I do in St. Louis will be significantly abbreviated due to time and revised to include some novels in the mix.

I've also decided to spend more time than I have in the past on examples and clips, since SHOWING is far better than TELLING. (As a writer, have you heard someone tell you that before?)  I love sharing this stuff and revealing the secrets of what makes great stories and movies. The title of my talk will be The Top 20 Secrets to Successful Storytelling (in Movies and Print).

========

Early Bird Workshop Reading/Viewing List
ACFW Conference September 22, 2011

Dear Early Bird Attendees:

In the course of the few hours we will spend together exploring the world of story structure, and the magic of moral and physical premises, I will reference a number of motion pictures and novels. You will get more out of the workshop if you are familiar with the following works. I am listing them in two categories:

I will spend the most time on these works:
  • “Where the Heart Is” (novel by Billie Letts)
and the following movies
  • DIE HARD (Bruce Willis)
  • KARATE KID 2010 (Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan)
  • RATATOUILLE  (Pixar)
  • WHERE THE HEART IS (Natalie Portman)
I will mention these works but not spend as much time on them:
  •  “The Mark of the Lion” novel series by Francine Rivers
and the following movies:
  • A BEAUTIFUL MIND (Russell Crowe, Ed Harris)
  • BRUCE ALMIGHTY (Jim Carrey)
  • CITY SLICKERS (Billy Crystal)
  • CITY SLICKERS II (Billy Crystal)
  • CRAZY HEART (Jeff Bridges)
  • DATE NIGHT (Steve Carell, Tina Fey)
  • GRAN TORINO (Clint Eastwood)
  • IN THE BEDROOM (Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek)
  • LIAR! LIAR! (Jim Carrey)
  • MY NAME IS EARL (TV) (Jason Lee)
  • PRECIOUS (Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey)
  • THE BLIND SIDE (Sandra Bullock, Quinton Araron)
  • THE INCREDIBLES (Pixar)
  • WHAT WOMEN WANT (Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt)
I’m looking forward to meeting you and sharing with you the excitement and focus that this workshop will give your story writing.

Please share this with your other writing friends and associates.

Stan

Friday, August 12, 2011

"WHAT DO I WANT?"

I'm working on an analysis of Billie Letts' book WHERE THE HEART IS for my Early Bird Workshop at the annual American Christian Fiction Writers Conference September 22 in St. Louis. Because I use movie clips in my presentations, I will illustrate my comments analysis of Letts' book with clips from Matt Williams' movie, the screenplay of which was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell.  Ganz and Mandell are two of the most sought after writers in Hollywood, with a long list of credits and awards to their names.

In an Ari Esiner article about a conference interview with the writing duo:
Ganz says his earliest writing lesson came from actor Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple TV show. When presented with Ganz's script, Klugman walked up to the writer and promptly shouted in his face, "What do I want?" And there endeth the lesson on the foremost rule of writing for the young television scribe: always have your characters want something. 
In the last month I've reviewed the work of numerous writers (both professional, and students) and this Ganz observation must be one of the most often violated principles of story writing. Characters always need an outward motivation, a physical goal — they must always want something. They don't necessarily NEED what they want, and what they want might be impossible to achieve because of an inner flaw (a psychological vice).... but they must want it. 

AND, the audience or reader must know they want it.


While screening KNIGHT AND DAY, starring Tom Cruise (Roy Miller) and Cameron Diaz (June Havens), I was astonished at how quickly writer Patrick O'Neill and director James Mangold tell the audience what the main characters want... on a number of levels. The movie is one long chase scene, so to keep the plot and the chase interesting, giving depth to the characters, both Roy and June have multiple goals related to different aspects of their lives.


  • Roy's professional goal is to keep the Zephyr battery and its eccentric inventory away from the bad guys.
  • Roy's personal goal is to take a vacation by driving to Cape Horn.
  • Roy's romantic goal is to keep June from harm.
  • Roy's family goal is to be reunited with his parents who think he is dead.
  • June's professional goal is to restore her dad's GTO (she owns a garage back in Boston).
  • June's personal goal is to give the GTO to her sister to keep it in the family.
  • June's romantic goal is to land Roy.
  • June's family goal is to get to her sister's wedding.
Thus, depending on the scene, the audience always has several things to root for. 

THE REASON WE ROOT FOR CHARACTERS
Now, why do we root for characters? Why do we want them to get what they want?

Because we like them. 

In narrative theoretical terms, we identify with them. Michael Hauge says there are five ways you, as the writer, can foster likeability in a character:
  1. Make the character sympathetic, the victim of undeserved misfortune.
  2. Put the character in jeopardy. We ID with people we worry about.  Many stories start with an orphan.
  3. Make character likable, kind, goodhearted. They need to be relatable, not likable.
  4. Make characters funny. We like to be with people who make us feel good about ourselves or have the courage to say things we don't.
  5. Make characters powerful, or very good at what they do.

So, do we like Roy Miller and June Havens? Sure. June is undeserved in her misfortune of being tangled up with Roy, and is therefore in great and repeated jeopardy. She's also an orphaned traveler being kicked off her flight. She is goodhearted and kind. She's funny and encouraging. And she's very good at what she does, which we discover as she explains to the TSA agent the tailpipes and carburator in her carry on baggage. It also doesn't hurt that June comes packaged in Cameron Diaz's body,  quirky smile, and damsel in distress persona.

Likewise, Roy seems to have been thrown undeserved misfortune when he is overpowered by both the Federal government and the bad guy cartel. We worry about him, because he's a spy without backup, and later a boy without his mom and dad -- a orphan. He's goodhearted in that he repeatedly protects, selflessly hapless June. His nonchalant way of dispatching bad guys is sarcastic and funny. And he's very good at what he does. Oh, yes, he has a million dollar smile and he's a hunk with sex appeal.

All together these are personas we'd like to hang around with. We wish we had them for friends. So, we root for them and hope they get everything they want. And by the end of the movie it seems they do. Cape Horn sequel anyone? Mom and dad and flying down.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stories and Premises in Medieval Art

On August 20 the small class of classically trained teens that I teach screenwriting to, will accompany me to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) for a lesson in visual story telling by the masters -- centuries before photography and cinema. But the stories, along with their physical and moral premises, are nonetheless poignant and relative even for today. (all photos via my iPhone, today)

For those of you outside of Detroit, the DIA is perhaps best known for Rivera's Court, where Diego Rivera's renoun frescoes tell the unblemished story of the industrial revolution, and the moral struggle involved in balancing the values of labor, capital, product, and economy. The Rivera Court is particularly attractive because of the bold, bright skylight that illuminates the work of the controversial Mexican artist.
But on the day we visit we'll not spend but a few minutes in Rivera's Court. Instead, we'll head for the galleries either side of it. To the Southwest are the European: Medieval and Renaissance galleries, and to the  Northwest is one particular room in the American collection.

The roots of Western Civilization (e.g. American civilization) came from Medieval Europe, that  culturally was dominated by Roman Catholicism. It was the Catholic institution that saved literature, fostered agriculture, established education, embraced parts of the Renaissance that didn't threaten it's teachings,  encouraged scientific discovery(*), and promoted the arts. This was during a time when the populace could not read, and if they could there were no books.  It was through the visual arts (as movies principally are) that the Church and its constituents communicated stories. Among the hundreds of artifacts on display at the DIA, we'll see how visual story telling hasn't really changed that much in hundreds of years.

TWO CLASS ASSIGNMENTS are below -- my students should keep reading.



FROM A PLACARD IN THE GALLERY:
"In much of the 15th-century Europe, saints were an integral part of everyday life. People imitated them, honored them, and called upon them in times of need. Churches, guilds, cities, and nations all had patron saints.

"At the time, believers often felt unworthy to appeal to God directly and prayed to saints to intercede with God for them.

"The Catholic church recognizes as saints virtuous people to whom miracles are attributed.

"The mother of Jesus has a special role. Many Christians hold Mary in special regard, above even the saints. Believers consider her, as the mother of Jesus, the closest to God and the most important assistance in communicating their prayers." (to Jesus and God.) 

"This room is filled with sculpted and painted images of saints and Mary that helped 15th-century Christians in prayer. A believer might have lit a candle or laid flowers in front of an image in respect and honor."

FROM ANOTHER PLACARD IN ANOTHER GALLERY: 



"In this gallery you will find works of art created in Western Europe during the latter Middle Ages. You will see some of the materials and artistic techniques prized during the period: ivory carving, enameled metalwork, tempera painting, and stained glass." (At right: Diptych with Scenes of the Lives of Christ and the Virgin, about 1320. Carved from Ivory by an unknown Parisian artist.)

"Most of these objects have religious themes, reflecting the importance of prayer and devotion in the daily life of a medieval Christian. Many objects performed a particular function, whether it was a chalice to hold during during Mass or a sculpture of a revered religious figure to adorn a church altar.

"The medieval collection of the DIA is one of the most important of the country, notable for the excellent quality of the objects."



 

THE FIRST ASSIGNMENT for my class during our visit.

Take an hour to wander through the 10 galleries of the Medieval and Renaissance collection.  Note that EACH work of art features the elements of drama that we've been studying present in motion pictures, yet at at no time are words used. (The best cinema still uses very little dialogue. SHOW don't TELL is the rule, even in contemporary novels.) Considering principally the elements of a log line  (i.e. a protagonist, a verb, an antagonist, a goal, and stakes) select TWO works of art and for each list the following:

A. Name of the work.
B. Artist's name.
C. Type of media.
D. Year of it's creation.
E. The protagonist.
F. The battling verb.
G. The antagonist.
H. The protagonist's goal.
I. The stakes.
J. The virtue at work in the story.
K. The vice at work in the story.
L. The moral premise of the work.
M. The most striking emotional element of the work. (That is, what tugs at your heart and pulls you into the work emotionally?)

You'll obviously have to use your knowledge about some stories apart from the exhibit, just as the Christians of the period listened to sermons and teachings that explained what the works were about.

Try not to select the same work that others select. Let's get a good variety.  After we're done we will let each of you take us to one of the works you selected and describe your observations to us as a class. (typically the DIA is not busy on Saturday so we don't be disturbing anyone.)

THE SECOND ASSIGNMENT is this:
As a group we will take our stools (provided by the DIA) and enter one of the American collection galleries, and sit before American Rembrandt Peale's 12-ft by 24-ft oil-on canvas painting "The Court of Death," which he completed in 1820.

It's the big screen of the 19th century, and like movies today it carries a powerful moral premise about virtue and vice and their physical consequences as one approaches death.

The painting depicts eight principal characters and a number of minor characters, not including Death who sits on a central throne...holding court. (There's a webpage dedicated to this painting. HERE.)

When my class arrives in this gallery we will cast lots and match up each of the students with one of the principal characters in the painting.  Then we will sit on our stools before the painting and write a short and dramatic life story of the character we've been assigned. The ending of our story will place them in Peale's painting. Taken altogether we will have a powerful piece of explicit story telling that the painter intended for us to imagine.

Needless to say, bring a good pad of paper (your journal will do if you have pages left) and some good writing instruments.

I will post links here to the results, after they are edited.  (Thanks WB for the suggestion.)

==============

(*) Story telling is much like scientific discovery in one respect. They are both based on the assumption that there is a natural law of rationally ordered cause and effect. In scientific discovery the cause and effect are both physical. In storytelling, while there is the same physical cause and effect relationship as in science, there is also, and more importantly, a cause and effect between the psychological (cause) and the physical (effect, or consequence) as described in my book, The Moral Premise.

The success of story telling is much the result of most religions' assumption (and science's fundamental assumption) that the universe is ordered and not random

Thus, the Church was principally (although indirectly) responsible for the scientific discoveries of the Renaissance. Catholic teaching assumes that the natural laws of the universe are ordered, structured predictable through rational investigation. The scientific method (1. observation 2. hypothesis. 3. Test. 4. Law) is dependent upon a observation that can predict cause and effect based on order that is a benefit to man's existence. If physical phenomenon were based on random events, or some set of laws that did not have mankind's survival as it's primary purpose, the scientific method would be useless -- and a box of dice might be as good as anything.  Thus, it was, that many of the great discoveries in science were made by devout Catholic men...including Galileo. And thus, it was, that almost all of the great artists of the time, who could have been movie directors if alive today, were devout Catholics as well. And, you'll discover, that not a few of Hollywood's best directors have Catholic backgrounds and understanding.