Fill in the Gaps, Part Two
Ask yourself, “What’s missing?” Then fill that gap. What’s missing in the menu of your new restaurant? What have we left out in planning our youth center in the slums of São Paulo?
Did you ever see the movie True Confessions, starring Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro? The story is set in 1940s Los Angeles; De Niro is a rising-star monsignor for the L.A. diocese; Duvall plays his brother, a homicide detective investigating a Black Dahlia–type murder. The script was great, the direction was tremendous. But in mid-shoot, De Niro’s instincts told him something was missing. The audience had seen his character wheeling and dealing on behalf of the Church, hosting big-money fundraisers, getting schools built, playing golf with L.A. heavyweights. De Niro went to Ulu Grosbard, the director, and asked for a scene where the audience gets to see where his character sleeps. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? The result was a simple sequence, without dialogue, of De Niro’s monsignor returning home in the evening to the dormitory (a former mansion) he shares with other senior priests of the diocese. He mounts the stairs alone, enters a room so bare it contains nothing but a bed, a chair, and an armoire, all looking like they came from the Goodwill store. De Niro’s character takes off the cardigan sweater he is wearing and hangs it on a wire hanger in the armoire, which contains only one other shirt and a single pair of trousers. Then he sits on the bed. That’s it. But in that one moment, we, the audience, see the character’s entire life.
Pressfield, Steven. Do the Work (p. 15). The Domino Project/Black Irish Entertainment. Kindle Edition.