ON THE LOSS OF AN ACTOR
by Michael Chasin Screenwriting Mentor, IAFT/Miami
The passing of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was a tragic loss to the creative community—and to the public at large.
Over a twenty-plus year career Mr. Hoffman masterfully moved us in a wide variety of character portrayals.
His very public mourning triggers consideration of how other contributors to the greater good are mourned.
Few candlelight vigils are held for scientists—who created cures for diseases.
Few networks provide extended coverage—on great educators who inspired lives.
Few tributes are given—for business leaders whose products made our lives easier.
Yet the actor—is so publically grieved.
Why? Because the very nature of their craft—makes their loss so felt.
The most vital part of any movie is gaining audience identification with the characters.
This powerful storytelling tool makes us care about the characters—so their defeats feel like our defeats—and their triumphs—feel satisfyingly as if they are our own triumphs.
Adding movie magic—such as the extreme close-up and inner-thought voice-over narration—creates even more intimacy between us and the actor.
This is the core of why movies are so impactful—and why we grow to emotionally bond with actors, such as Mr. Hoffman, that we see in great roles year after year.
Perhaps this is why the loss of an actor—who we really don’t know in real life—resonates so profoundly in us.
It seems fitting then—even required, as closure—that their mourning be open for all to participate in.
While we may have never known Philip Seymour Hoffman, as was his right, we do get to enjoy, as was likely his desire, his wonderful character portrayals, forever.