How will imagining an "Ideal character" help me find the heart of my story?

Ahmed E. asked: I didn't quite get the part about coming up with "imaginary characters that embody The Big 3 Things." How will doing that help me find the heart of my story?

Well, we often don't know where to look and exactly what we are looking for. More than that, those in our stories don't really know story or filmmaking. So while we could try and explain why people are central to story, what makes a strong character, and the Big 3 Things--It can help us and them to just give an example.

In other words, it's a thought experiment so you can push and develop your own thinking about who would make an amazing character. This then gives you a tool as you talk to people. You can say 'I'm looking for somebody like this....' and while they usually don't know that person, it's surprising how often they say, 'oh, you should meet so and so'.

For our documentary on home/homelessness, we built that archetypal character for our story - somebody with incredible complexity, uniqueness, and desire. And then in conversation we brought him up as an example. One Housing Authority manager actually heard our example, and said 'oh my, you need to meet Graydon', and that led us to a family who had lost everything several years ago due to Graydon getting cancer at 3, but public housing turned their life around and now he has an award from President Obama. That example helped the person we were talking to see what we were looking for, and it led us to the right person.

One last thing is that it also gives you a mental bar. As you build your imaginary character, you'll start getting excited about the potential of tell this story with that character. As you then meet real people, you can get a sense of how much they move you versus that person you saw in your head.

Try it. It works wonders!