shakespeare
Shakespeare book image via Shutterstock

Much ado about concept

by Winston Perez

What are Film Concept Models? Based on Winston Perez’s Concept Modeling work, these are cutting edge analysis tools on the raw material or basic ideas that glue a film together; he assesses all the ideas that lie underneath the story, plot and character. He calls it the stuff the audience intuits within a story.

Shakespeare was a concept guy. It is a big part of what made him great. Much Ado about Nothing is great example of a play (in our time a film directed by Kenneth Branagh and released in 1993) driven by a tight, clear, underlying concept.

If you are writing or directing a film, you can think of your idea or your source material, as a brown lump of conceptual clay. It is a shapeless, hopefully malleable and uniform, mass. A writer takes it and mold its; he shapes it. He or she gives it form through structure, plot, character, character ark or story. This last element, story, can be the confusing part: Concept and story are linked together tightly, yet they are very different. Concept goes deeper than story.

The story behind Much Ado centers on the nearly-tragic events impacting lovers Claudio and Hero. The drama of that plotline is set against the comedic events involving Benedick and Beatrice. Drama and comedy are blended masterfully within the play. Yet, the concept finds it source in none of these four main characters. It is found in the villain, Don John – his character “carries” the two core concepts that drive this masterful play.

In the story, Don John tricks Claudio into believing Hero has been unfaithful. As a result, an enraged Claudio rejects Hero’s love at the marriage alter – the beautiful wedding turns tragic, bringing with it much sorrow, pain and drama.

However, Don John has nothing to do with the mishaps involving the second couple, Benedick and Beatrice, who are “tricked” by a conspiracy (perpetrated by their friends) into revealing their deeply hidden love for each other. Interestingly, though Don John has nothing to with it, one of the “concepts” housed at the base of his character does: Trickery.

Shakespeare uses the play to ask simple yet powerful questions about the most basic human emotions: Love and Hate. Keep in mind that “concept” itself is layered and this case is involves two concepts, split into four questions, all joined at the hip.

The first deep layer, or concept, is the question we are all familiar with: Can you fall in love at first sight? But the twist in that concept is the second question: Can you fall in hate at first sight? Don John’s hatred of both Hero and the love he sees between her and Claudio is instant. He hates at first sight. This is exactly the opposite of Claudio, who falls in love at first sight. The conflict between those raw emotion-packed questions set the stage for events that follow. The two powerful forces, love and hate, go head-to-head, leaving the audience to ponder, which will win.

The second concept driving Much Ado is “trickery.”  Shakespeare asks: Can you be tricked into hate? Can you be tricked into love? Claudio has been tricked into hate by Don John’s carefully staged deception: In the shadows of the night, Claudio sees what he thinks is Hero in the sexual embrace of another man who cries out her name.

But with our second couple, it is not Don John, but their friends that execute the trickery. Through a series of highly comical intrigues, Beatrice and Benedick are each tricked into believing the other has fallen for him or her. The power of gossip (a better definition or the actual word “nothing” used in the title of the play) and circumstance are used to execute the cupid-like strategy. As it turns out, the tricks work and the end result reveals the truth: They do in fact love each other deeply – perhaps something that had been there all along.

In this story, or this case, the core concept buried deep within the story can be phrased in the four questions I mention above. But notice that those questions have “Nothing Ado” about the story, plot, characters and dialogue. Yet, the core concept informs all of them. With that in place, it is up to the master playwright to execute on the concept, or raw material.

Trickery and hatred are used to reveal the hidden greatness of true love.

Concept drives Much Ado and the reason is clear: It is what connects the story to us. In all his plays, Shakespeare utilizes concepts – they are the key to his mastery of the art form.

Shakespeare is definitely, Much Ado About Concept.

Winston Perez

About Winston Perez

Winston Perez is the founder/CEO of Concept Modeling, perfecting ideas in film, biz & tech. His clients include NBC/Universal, Interscope, Warner Bros. For more information about Winston, please check out The New York Times article. For questions, please email Winston@conceptmodeling.com.

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