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Four things you can learn from Lucas and Spielberg about story development

A lost copy of a concept meeting between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for Hunter of the lost treasure is no longer so lost.

Every story starts with an idea. This idea might be simple, not complete, but once this idea is thrown around and shaped into a full story, something cool can be done. That’s how it is done Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark have come.

In 1978, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and Larry Kasdan sat down to develop the story for Indiana Jones. The transcript of this conversation shows how Lucas and Spielberg created Indy from characters like Sean Connery’s James Bond and heroes from the spaghetti westerns like Clint Eastwood, and how the plot of the story came about. After you’ve listened to the transcript, here are a few tips to help you get your next idea into action.

If you’d like to listen to the full transcript, check out the video below!

Create rounded characters

The idea for Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) comes from the spy and spaghetti western genre. He’s the 1930s version of James Bond – calm, cool, and collected – but still a brave and sturdy hero like Clint Eastwood in every one of his films. Like Clark Kent, he wants to persist and protect history that is precious to the world.

He’s human, which means he can be a little messed up, but not so much that the audience won’t want to promote him. Like any hero, he has the power of choice, the bullwhip. It’s an extension of him and uses it to get out of most situations. All of these little details create the Indy that we all know and love.

The supporting characters are also important. The goofy character can be a bit aloof, but is still deadly like Tuco (Eli Wallach) out The good, the bad, and the ugly. They still serve the story and increase our hero’s stakes. They also make the hero look cooler than everyone else.

The love for the hero of an action-packed story must be able to assert itself. in the Hunter of the lost treasure, the love interest, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), is tough and does what she has to do to survive. This could be flirting with the bad guy or slapping someone in the face who doesn’t respect them. You and Indy make an unbeatable team.


Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost ArkRecognition: Paramount Pictures

Every great hero needs an equally great villain

A hero is what every story needs, but what is a hero without a villain?

The villains in this story are obviously the Nazis. Just like Indy, Gestapo agent Major Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey) and rival archaeologist René Belloq (Paul Freeman) seem unstoppable. From killing anyone who gets in his way to wanting to tease Indy, these men are the same as Indy but want the opposite.

A villain who turns up against someone as cool and savvy as Indy must be threatening. The moment they are on screen, the audience fears them and their intentions.

Villains like this work so well because the audience doesn’t know how the hero is going to take them out. Lucas and Spielberg let Toht and Belloq end up with the ark. It is the characters’ ignorance of their power that becomes their downfall.


Ronald Lacey as Major Arnold Toht in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost ArkRecognition: Paramount Pictures

Ground the story in reality

While there are scenes that are dramatic and a little exaggerated, Lucas and Spielberg wanted to make a story that could be real. In every situation Indy found himself in, there was a very realistic way for him to get off.

If Indy could get out of any situation too easily, the movie would feel too awesome. There would be no stakes or tensions.

The scene in which Indy was trapped in a grave originally started with water slowly rising to the top. The idea was quickly scratched when Lucas and Spielberg considered that there would be no excess water in the desert. The next idea was an animal. A tiger, to be more precise. But how do you fly a tiger to a part of the world where they are not very common? That should make the villains rich, but not practical. Eventually Lucas and Spielberg landed on snakes. You don’t need a lot of snakes, but enough to stack them on top of each other to make it look like there are a lot of them. Sound design helps create the overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by snakes.


Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” Recognition: Paramount Pictures

Get the audience not to trust the story

Lucas and Spielberg wanted to make a film that resembled a Disneyland ride. There is action lurking around every corner and the audience doesn’t know when these moments will strike.

There was a simple rule for the film: there should be a cliffhanger every 10 minutes. A cliffhanger whets the appetite for more action and heroism from Indy. We don’t know who could work for the bad guy or who will hire Indiana Jones to get the Ark, but audiences always end up firing for Indy while still trying to catch their breath from the wild ride.

The opening of the film justifies this idea. We enter a cave full of booby traps. The wrong step will set off barbed death traps or poisoned arrows that could fly out of one of the holes covering the walls. That’s not even the fact that Indy is almost crushed under a massive boulder. All of this happens in five minutes, and the audience has no idea what else the film is going to throw in their way.


“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”Recognition: Paramount Pictures

Creating a story has many moving parts, but start with the simple elements first. Who are the main characters? Why are they doing what they are doing? How do they get from A to B and is there a way back? By keeping these ideas in mind, you can build a fully realized story.

Don’t worry about missing details while brainstorming. You can always go back and add small details, such as: B. that the hero is afraid of snakes that make certain situations even more exciting.

Let us know what you think of these tips Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in the comments below!

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