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story A Quick Question

Hi All, just a quick question, one of the biggest things I'm coming up against when writing is how to factor in the main character's job. I don't want it to be the main factor or even contribute to the storyline so how do I go about letting the audience know they have a job as in not poor and know how they afford to live etc without it being involved in the storyline.
 
Hi All, just a quick question, one of the biggest things I'm coming up against when writing is how to factor in the main character's job. I don't want it to be the main factor or even contribute to the storyline so how do I go about letting the audience know they have a job as in not poor and know how they afford to live etc without it being involved in the storyline.
You could include scenes where they are dressed in a uniform/suit. Something different from their normal attire to distinguish their work and private life. If it's not at all relevant to the film, a phone call or comment about "X at work" somewhere in the dialogue might be enough. Depends really what you are trying to convey about their job and for what purpose.
 
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mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
If you don't want to show the character at work, I would simply include it - briefly - in a conversation.
It can be brief and simple - an air conditioner repair person is glad that the heat wave broke so (s)he doesn't have to work as much overtime; an accountant is glad to get through tax season; a bartender is looking forward to the busy season when tips are expected to pick u.
 
This is where set design and wardrobe come into play as well, as Jkds previously mentioned.

You could include scenes where they are dressed in a uniform/suit.

How characters dress themselves and their living space can tell the audience volumes about the characters. Just a minute or two in the opening can establish many of the things you want to say about the characters.

As an example.... STEVE drives up to a nice house with a beautifully manicured lawn and beds of blooming flowers in a top of the line BMW, gets out of the car dressed in a very nice suit and walks in the door. Once inside he deactivates the security system and very precisely empties his pockets, everything goes into a predetermined place. He goes into his bedroom, takes off his suit and carefully hangs it up in the closet, puts his shirt into the laundry bin and picks out some casual clothes. His cell phone rings, and he answers with "Bill, what's up?" Indistinct phone chatter. "No, it can wait until Monday. How are Amy and the kids doing? Oh yeah? That's great! All right, see you at the meeting on Monday, call me if you need me. Have a great weekend."

In about 90 seconds you have established that, although he's not rich, he's quite comfortable, likes things very organized and is very polite in his personal interactions.

And of course, you can go the other way... BERTRAM drives an old junker, lives in a trailer, is unshaven and dirty looking, tosses his work clothes in a corner, curses out whoever called him and immediately goes to the fridge for a beer.

These are all the things set design and wardrobe/HMU can accomplish for you.

Sound can do some of the same things as well when setting up a character or a scene. We see SHELLY waking up in bed. The set design and wardrobe/HMU tell us things about her. What we hear tells us where she is. Do we hear city traffic? Sirens? Suburban birds? Kids playing? Does the mattress have squeaky springs? Does she wake up to a buzzer, or the news, or music? Use the news to set up the present and/or the future, anything from the weather to economics to conflicts (war, street violence, etc.). (I actually created a series of news broadcasts for one film. The budget was so small I had to voice the broadcaster myself.) If she wakes up to music, what kind of music?

You get the idea. Filmmaking is all about details and layers.

Good luck!
 
It's called exposition... If you're not going to show your Protagonist going to, being at, or coming home from work, all you have to do is create some kind of expository scene or scenes where either he or someone else in the screenplay discusses his work. Since as you say, you do not want his job to be part of the storyline, this shouldn't be much of a discussion. Just enough to give your audience an idea of what he does for a living.
 
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