Monster Factory Webisodes

I will be making my internet acting debut on September 6th.  I play the drama teacher in 'Breaking the Fourth Wall'.

Stay tuned.


The Useless Character

My ankles were ravaged by Mosquitoes last weekend and it has been taking it's toll on my sleep (the damn itch!).  I got up at five this morning scratching myself into madness.  I decided to get up and go downstairs and try to distract myself.  I ended up throwing on a thriller that was playing on the movie channel  - 'Whiteout'.  I didn't bother to check it's ratings on rottentomatoes but I did remember seeing the movie poster and thought an Antarctica thriller might ease the itch.

I don't intend to do movie reviews here but I did find that this film had a recurring problem that I've seen over and over in the thriller genre - the useless character.  This is a character in the film that keeps on popping up only to console or help the protagonist.  It's usually very easy to spot the useless character because they are often an actor of some stature and they have very little to do with the plot.

Spoilers Ahead.

'Whiteout' is a little murder mystery/thriller involving a female Marshall who is serving her last duty in the Antarctic and is about to hang up her badge for good.  A few days before she is set to leave she discovers a man murdered out on the tundra and is determined to find out what happened.  Her confidant and best friend on the continent is a doctor.  He is soothing to her.  He is trying to help her and to protect her.  He is also played by Tom Skerritt.  You may need to IMDB that name if you are young but you'll definitely know who he is when you see him.  A half hour into the movie I said to myself, 'why the hell is Tom Skerritt needed for this crappy role'?  He's barely a character.  The answer is that he is the culprit.

Next up is 'Angels and Demons'.  Ewan McGregor is cast as the helpful and passionate priest who is aiding our protagonist along the way.  He is absolutely useless to the plot so a half hour in you know that he's the bad guy.  Why else cast Ewan McGregor in this boring role?

A few lesser watched films - Robert Downey Jr. in 'US Marshalls' or Micheal Caine in Depalma's 'Dressed to Kill'.

It takes a lot of craft to write a thriller and it is essential that all characters have their own needs.  The problem with the films that I've just mentioned is that these characters have no need of their own except to 'help' the protagonist.  A good rule of thumb could be to turn the point of view of the film around.  Can the film work if you change the protagonist to Tom Skerritt's character?  What happens if you write it from his point of view?  What is his selfish desire?  Does he want to help her because he's desperately in love with her?    What is his own motivation in the story?

I'm sure some members of the audience were surprised by the ending but with a 7% rating on the tomato meter most people found it predictable and boring.  It sure didn't help my itching (as I continue as I'm writing this).


The trailer is nothing like the movie.  As relating to my last post - the trailer does a decent job of making the film look far more interesting than it is.