Bookpleasures.com is honored to have today as our guest Dewey Edward Chester, Ph.D. (eq). Dr. Chester is a professor of screenwriting and is the author of Boomer: sex, race and professional football. He is a former professional football player, and was nominated for the prestigious White House Fellowship for Journalism award, sponsored by President Bill Clinton’s Administration. Dr. Chester has worked in advertising, politics, academics, journalism, and Hollywood. In his own words, he is a passionately driven Soul who believes in the Art of Dramatic writing.
Good day Dewey and thanks for participating in this interview
I notice you have worn several hats including a professional football player. How has your experience as a football player influenced your various occupations?
Football is symbolic of a Socratic method of exposing the Truth ----- Only one of two teams can win the game!
In 1963, when I was 18 years of age, the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace stood in front of an American University door and proclaimed to the United States, 'Dewey Edward Chester' will “NEVER” be allowed through the gates of Higher Education. Governor Wallace and his powerful supporters, continued ----- “Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever!”
Obviously, George was sincere, but his opposition was my team of 'Boomers' and other 'Believers,' who possessed the Zeit-Geist for Human Rights, and believed that Passion could change the world.
The game lasted most of the decade, but by 1970, with the help of my teammates, I was able to pioneer through the professional fields of Advertising, Academics, Journalism, Politics, and Hollywood. I became a part of the first great wave of American men who changed the employment face of Corporate America, forever! At the time, I had no idea I was a forerunner to President Obama, but I was!
Metaphorically speaking, Norm, football is a very serious game.
What was your most challenging occupation to date?
At age 50, after I had decided to become a full-time Caregiver for my mother, Mrs. Harriette Mercedes Tucker, I continued intense work toward the conclusion of my life-goal of publishing the great American Novel.
My work consisted of mastering an array of classical dramas, emphasizing the classics because most contemporary published work is too soon forgotten. I focused on 19th Century Creative Writer, Henrik Ibsen, and listened closely to him when he spoke of his working methods:
“When I am writing I must be alone; if I have eight characters of a drama to do with I have society enough; they keep me busy; I must learn to know them. And this process of making their acquaintances is slow and painful. I make, as a rule, three casts of my dramas, which differ considerably from each other ------I mean in characteristics, not in the course of the treatment. When I first settle down to work out my material I feel as if I have to get to know my characters on a railway journey; the first acquaintance is struck up, and we have chatted about this and that. When I write my material down again, I already see everything much more clearly, and I know the people as if I had stayed with them for a month at a watering place. I have grasped the leading points of their characters and their little peculiarities.”
But what did Ibsen see? What did he mean when he said, “I have grasped the leading points of their characters and their little peculiarities.”
I felt obligated, Norm, to discover the leading points of not only one, but all of the characters in my manuscript. I patterned it after Ibsen's ideas, and in 2001, I completed and published my first cast of “Boomer,” under the pseudonym, Michelle Stahr; an acquaintance with my characters had been struck up, and we chatted about this and that.
In 2004, I completed and published my second cast of “Boomer,” and I could see my characters much more clearly.
In 2011, I completed and published my third cast of “Boomer,” and now knew my characters as if I had stayed with them for a month at a watering place. I had grasped the leading points of their characters, and their little peculiarities.
In 1994 you wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times, Media Paint A Distorted Portrait of Black America. Do you still feel this is the case in 2012?
Well, the landscape of the Hollywood movie business was so much different. Back then. I terrorized Hollywood Executives when I challenged them to hire visionary Screenwriters, marching to optimistic rhythms of world change. Stereotypes were common fare, story lines were negative, and evil exploits were made to seem the standard of American life. Filmmakers, desperate for profit, pitched story lines embracing wave after wave of violence, designed to infect fear of marauding gangs, and I was angry at the trend.
It's common knowledge, Norm, that Hollywood shapes American consciousness. But today, all of us must become a part of deciding what kind of movies Hollywood makes. A twenty dollar ticket is a huge investment for common people, when we thirst for stories about heroes, symbolizing positive Spirits conquering evil. Our films should glorify character and teach us prudence during Depression.
I have received harsh criticism from cynics questioning my Integrity to Hollywood's “Code of Conduct.” But to those cynics I will always be a journalistic Gladiator, fighting for the Soul of the Noble American Image.
Is that why my opinions have been treated with such hostility? Do I still terrorize the Hollywood Establishment with ideas that will infect Americans with a virus called Patriotism? But my Patriotism is rooted in my experience of coming of age in the 1960's, when great modern Patriots, Martin, John, Malcolm and Robert dared express progressive opinions that ring as clear as the Liberty Bell does today.
America must not allow Stereotypes to murder us again. We should have one lamp of experience; we must judge our future by our past. Perhaps it is natural for Americans to indulge in the illusion of hope that Hollywood Executives will approach our sensibilities with movies that glorify character. They will not. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful Truth, and listen to the song of that illusion until it transforms us into beasts of ignorance.
Is this a role of wise people, engulfed in a great and arduous struggle for self-identity? Are Americans disposed to become a race of people who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the important things which so dearly concern our temporal salvation?
For my part, whatever anguish of Spirit my point of view has cost me as a Screenwriter, I am willing to see the whole Truth; to examine the worst and try and make it better.
Do you think that any of your Readers have considered that mental illness disorders are encouraged by the vast promotions of movies and video games our children trust for wisdom, but offer only sinister pessimism that is dangerous to Patriotic ideas?
Some Screenwriters cannot bring themselves to believe they work for an Industry where complex story ideas are murdered by special interest groups. They are clinging to a fairy tale notion of Hollywood respectability that lets them pick up a paycheck.
But can they seriously claim that the Hollywood System is working for them? It is easier for the Hollywood Establishment to attack me personally, than to question the System that has provoked my anger.
I am a haunted Soul that cannot sleep comfortably. I cannot repress or deny the murder, mayhem and America's moral destruction that I see on today's television shows, movie screens and video games. Doesn't anybody understand this garbage encourages the perpetrators of violent massacres that are increasing, exponentially?
Has anyone considered that mental illness disorders are promoted by evil depictions created by Hollywood Screenwriters?
In an era when top Screenwriters can make one million dollars a week, I will scream if I see one more television late night show depiction of innocent young women, dismembered, with pieces of their bodies thrown in garbage bins ----- and this crap is performed by actors who are following a written screenplay, for God's Sakes!
Between having few visionary Screenwriters on the one hand, Hollywood does not offer enlightenment to our people. And that's why we need to form coalitions to defend optimistic images.
I am compelled by a Patriotic drive to solve the most sensitive mystery: Why is mainstream media so apathetic toward visualizing the Intellect? And regardless of my critics, my passions prevent me from going quietly into the shadows of Entertainment Excess, until I find out why.
Integrity is the responsibility of noble obligations, and as a Screenwriter, grounded in the fundamental principals of American Literature, I am aware that many Americans have been kept ignorant by poor education. But ignorance is not stupidity. Self-interest, as Martin, Malcolm and Professor W.E.B. Dubois agreed, is the heartbeat of the American existence.
I predict that Hollywood will soon be faced with the fury of those of us who have been deprived for too long of noble images. Americans will not be apathetic forever. I quote from “Common Sense” written by the great American Patriot, Thomas Paine:
“If it be not now, it will come. The readiness is all.”
Rather than be unready for anarchy, I suggest that Hollywood Executives must sit down and rethink the importance of the American presence in this world. Martin's last gift to us was passionate idealism for constructive change. Hollywood Executives should follow his Dream with much passion.
Could you tell our readers something about the White House Fellowship for Journalism award and how did it feel to win such an award?
The White House Fellowship For Journalism Award is comparable to winning Hollywood's Oscar, after walking down the 'Red Carpet.' But the award is even more significant because the President of the United States is awarding it. Can you imagine, Norm, the President telling the world that you are one of the best Creative Writers, in the world?
Yet I was simply happy that my nomination came from established Institutions of Writing Excellence: The Los Angeles Times, The University of Southern California, and the Western States Black Research Center.
Significant Intellectuals had watched me grow as a Writer in California, and when they supported a nomination for such an award, I was dumbfounded; I foolishly felt I'd been a failure. The Honor was the second most important event in my life; the first came when a huge glass-framed picture of my mother and I was hung in the Gallery of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
As I mention in the introduction to our interview, you claim to be a passionately driven Soul who believes in the Art of Dramatic writing. Could you elaborate?
A man sits in his workshop, busy with an invention of wheels and springs. We ask him what the gadget is; what it is meant to do? He looks at us confidingly and whispers: “I really don't know.”
Another man rushes down the street, panting for breath. We intercept him and ask where he is going. He gasps: “How should I know where I am going? I am on my way.”
Our reaction, and the world's ---- is that these two men are mad. Every sensible invention must have a purpose, every planned sprint a destination.
Yet, fantastic as it seems, this simple necessity has not made itself felt to any extent in Hollywood. Reams of paper bear miles of writing ---- all of it without any point at all. There is much feverish activity, a great deal of get-up-and-go, but no one seems to know where he is going.
Everything has a purpose, or premise. Every second of our life has its own premise, whether or not we are conscious of it at the time. That premise may be as simple as breathing or as complex as a vital emotional decision, but it is always there.
We may not succeed in proving each tiny premise, but that in no way alters the fact that there was one we meant to prove. Our attempt to cross the room may be impeded by an unobserved footstool, but our premise existed nevertheless.
The premise of each second contributes to the premise of the minute of which it is part, just as each minute gives its bit of life to the hour, and the hour to the day. And so, at the end, there is a premise for every life.
This is the first step toward learning the Art of Dramatic Writing.
Could you tell our readers a little about Boomer: sex, race and professional football and what motivated you to write your book? What do you hope to accomplish with the book?
I worked on “Boomer,” Norm, for years before discovering I needed a premise to show me the destination of my story, which I had already decided would be about Love. But what kind of Love did I want to write about? It had to be a great Love, one that would overcome prejudice, hatred, adversity, one that could not be bought or bargained for. I wanted the Reader of my story to be moved to tears at the sacrifice my lovers make for each other, at the sight of Love triumphant.
But still, I had no premise. What I had was an idea for my story, but until I formulated a premise, I could not write it. I knew there was an obvious premise implicit in my idea: “Love defies all.” But this was an ambiguous statement. It said too much and therefore said nothing. What was this “all?” I could only answer, that it is obstacles, but I could only conclude, what obstacles? And if I said that Love can move mountains, my Reader would be justified in asking me, “What good will that do?”
In my premise I realized I must designate exactly how great this Love is, show exactly what its destination is, and how far it will go. I wanted to go all the way and show a Love so great that it conquered even death.
Then suddenly, Norm, my premise became clear-cut: “Does my Love defy even death?” My answer is “Yes!” It designates the road my lovers will travel. They will die for Love. It is an active premise, so that when my Reader asks, what will Love defy, it is possible to answer, “Death,” categorically. As a result I not only know how far my lovers are willing to go, in “Boomer”; I also have an inkling as to the kind of characters they are, to carry my premise to its logical conclusion.
Can my girl character be silly, unemotional, scheming?” Hardly. Can my boy character be superficial, flighty? Hardly ----- unless they are shallow only until they meet. Then their battles begin, first against the trivial lives they had been living, then against their families, their racial differences, their religions, and all other motivating factors aligned against them.
As my story moves along, they grow in stature, strength,determination, and at the end, despite even death ----- in death ----- they are united. Indeed, I found a clear-cut premise for “Boomer,” and automatically the synopsis unrolled itself. I elaborated on it, provided minute details, personal touches.
“Great Love defies even death.” I believe in this statement. I 'must' believe in it, since “Boomer” proves it. “Boomer” shows conclusively that life is worthless without the loved one.
As you are a professor of screenwriting, could you tell us what you believe are the essential ingredients of good screenwriting?
What did Ibsen see? What did he mean when he said, “I have grasped the leading points of my characters and their little peculiarities.”
The essential ingredients of good screenwriting, again, is discovering the leading points in all the characters in a story. Consider this: every object has three dimensions: depth, height, width. Human beings have an additional three dimensions: physiology, sociology, psychology. Without a knowledge of these three dimensions we cannot appraise a human being. It is not enough in a screenplay, to know if a woman is rude, polite, religious, atheistic, moral, degenerate. You must know why. You need to know why a woman is as she is, why her character is constantly changing, and why it must change whether she wishes it or not.
The first dimension, in order of simplicity, is the physiological. It would be idle to argue that a hunchback sees the world exactly opposite from a perfect physical specimen. A lame, blind, a deaf, an ugly, a beautiful, a tall, a short woman ---- each of these sees everything differently from the other. A sick woman sees health as the supreme good; a healthy woman belittles the importance of health, if she thinks of it at all.
Our physical make-up colors our outlook on life. It influences us endlessly, helping to make us tolerant, defiant, humble, or arrogant. It affects our mental development, serves as a basis for inferiority and superiority complexes. It is the most obvious of a woman's first set of dimensions.
Sociology is the second dimension to be studied. If you were born in a basement, and your playground was the dirty city street, your reactions would differ from those of the girl born in a mansion and who played in beautiful antiseptic surroundings. But we cannot make an exact analysis of your differences from her, or from the little girl who lived next door in the same tenement, until we know more about both of you. Who was your father, your mother? Were they sick or well? What was their earning power? Who were your friends. How did you influence or affect them? How did they affect you? What kind of clothes do you like? What books do you read? Do you go to church? What do you eat, think, like, dislike? Who are you, sociologically speaking?
The third dimension, psychology, is a product of the other two. Their combined influence gives life to ambition, frustration, temperament, attitudes, complexes. Psychology, then rounds out the three dimensions. If we wish to understand the action of any individual, we must look at the motivation which compels her to act as she does.
Let's look first at her physical make-up. Is she sick? She may have a lingering illness that she knows nothing of, but the Screenwriter must know about it because only in this way can you understand the character. This illness effects the woman's attitude toward things about her. We behave differently during illness, convalescence, and perfect health.
Does a woman have big ears, bulging eyes, long hairy arms? All these are likely to condition her to an outlook which will affect her every action. Does she hate to talk about crooked noses, big mouths, thick lips, big feet? Perhaps it is because she has one of these defects.
One human being takes such a physical liability with resignation, another makes fun of herself, a third is resentful. One thing is certain, no one escapes the effect of such short comings. Does this character of ours possess a feeling of dissatisfaction with herself? It will color her outlook, quicken her conflict with others,or make her sluggish and resigned. But it will affect her.
Important as this physical dimension is, it is only part of the whole. We must not forget to add the background for this physical picture. These two will round out each other, unite, and give birth to a third dimension, the mental state.
A sex pervert is a sex pervert, as far as the general public is concerned. But to the psychologist, of importance is his heredity, his education. If we understand that these three dimensions can provide the reason for every phase of human conduct, it will be easy to write a screenplay about any character and trace his motivation to its source.
Analyze any work of art which has withstood the ravages of time, and you will find it has lived, and will live, because it possesses the three dimensions. Leave out one of the three, and although your premise may be exciting and you may make a fortune, your screenplay will still not be a literary success.
Where can our readers find out more about you and your book Boomer: sex, race and professional football?
Your kind Readers can find my book, and more about me on Amazon Books.com
As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Americans need heroes symbolizing positive Spirits conquering. Our films should glorify character and teach us prudence during Depression. For only daring Screenwriters should write our movies, and only the morally courageous of them is worthy of speaking to us for two hours in the dark.....”
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and read your work. Good luck with Boomer: sex, race and professional football.
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