Top of Sidebar
Mission Statement
Do It Yourself Tips and Tricks
Books, Equipment, Software, and Training Reviews
Film Critiques
Community Section
Savings and Links
Bottom of Sidebar
Back to the Home Page
   Book Review
    The Moral Premise:
    Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office
   Author: Stanley D. Williams
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Format: Book (160 pgs.)
   Topic: Screenwriting, movie analysis

   Cost: $24.95
   For Special Price: Click Here

   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Release Date: June 15, 2006
   Review Date: January 15, 2006

   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan

Final Score:

The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success- sounds like a pedantic how-to book about using the forces of good and evil to get good box office returns, doesn't it? I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book when I first got it; however, after reading the first few chapters, it became evident that this book addresses a vitally important aspect of screenwriting, moviemaking, and intelligent film analysis.

A moral premise is a universally recognized moral truth about life. While almost all religious texts utilize the moral premise in some way, the premise itself is not necessarily religious in nature. For example, in Aesop's fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper", the moral premise would be "Diligence leads to prosperity but laziness leads to poverty". (While the story's basic moral is usually summed up as Read ReviewPurchase_linkonly "Diligence leads to prosperity", Williams notes that the moral premise needs to have both sides of the moral, showing the results of the vice as well as the virtue.) The goal of this book is to examine how the moral premise and the conflicts it deals with are presented in today's movies. Drawing upon such diverse examples as Die Hard, The Incredibles, Braveheart, and Bruce Almighty, Stanley Williams explores the characteristics of good movies as they relate to the moral premise.

The book is divided into two parts: the first section deals with the historical and structural aspects of the moral premise, the second with its application in writing a story and/or screenplay. In the first three chapters, Williams covers the historical background and modern interpretations of the moral premise; the next three address how it fits in with writing and storytelling. It is chapters 5 and 6 in particular that I want to look at briefly, because they are the most dense.

Chapter 5 takes a look at how the moral premise fits into both the physical and psychological storylines. Most movies (with any complexity) will have two storylines: a physical one, which is the actual events that take place, and a psychological one, which is what motivates the physical story. (For example, the physical storyline of Fight Club is about men beating each other up and causing social mischief; the psychological storyline deals with the characters' disillusionment of modern men in society.) Williams goes on to describe how the moral premise becomes essential to the characters' development, and, ultimately, to the movie's outcome. Chapter 6 examines how to make the audience connect and identify with your film. This is especially important because no matter how strong your message or storytelling is, it is worthless if you cannot integrate the audience.

The second part of the book takes you through the step-by-step process of creating the moral premise, characters, physical and psychological storylines, plot development, etc. of your story.

This book is definitely stimulating (both mentally and creatively); and while there are times that it seems almost to be too philosophical for cinephiles, producers, directors, or writers, it is able to tackle the philosophy of storywriting without actually getting into philosophy. Williams explains things clearly and includes many diagrams and charts to help explain and illustrate his points.

The other thing that I especially liked about this book is that Stanley Williams not only acknowledges both the logical ("left-brain") and emotional ("right-brain") side of writing and creating, but also comes up with ideas and suggestions for using both to their best potential. Because not everyone writes and thinks the same way, it is important to not only acknowledge that, but also come up with ways to utilize those diverse learning and writing styles.

Depth of Information
The book takes a deductive approach, beginning with the general definition and history of the moral premise, working its way down through the function, place, and importance of the moral premise in movies, and concluding with a very specific walk-through that shows the reader how to successfully apply the moral premise in their own work. While Williams covers a lot of ground in this book, because of the way it's laid out, the material is not overwhelming.

Interest Level
I really enjoy reading about philosophy, especially when it applies to films and
Read ReviewPurchase_linkmodern life. I also like looking at movies and analyzing and discussing their plots, characters, values, statements about life, etc. If you're one of those types of people, you will really dig this book. If you're a writer (for film or book), you will get a lot out of it as well. However, if you're not one of the types of people described above, this book may not be for you.

I found this book fascinating because this is the kind of stuff I love to talk and read about. If you have an interest in the things this book talks about, it will definitely hold that interest; but if you're not really into this particular topic, you won't find the book that interesting.

For anyone involved in screenwriting and/or movie analysis/discussion, The Moral Premise will definitely not remain unused on the shelf. Especially if you're a writer, you will find yourself coming back to this book again and again. Even if you don't personally reread it that often, you will almost definitely be letting your other film-loving friends borrow it.

Value vs. Cost
Is the value on this book greater than the purchase price?
Let me just say this: if you get this book, you will never look at movies the same way again.

Not only will you have greater appreciation for good movies and less tolerance for superficial ones, but you will be able to tell the difference between the two in detail. You will know what makes a good movie great and a crappy movie… well… crap. I will warn you: do not read this book if you don't want to change your outlook on movies.

Overall Comment
I cannot say how glad I am that this book was written. Anyone who calls themselves a filmmaker (or a movie reviewer) should be required to read this book. At a time when we are spending so much money on movies, we are sorely uneducated on what makes a truly good or bad film.

While this book may not be for everybody, you will not be disappointed if you do get it. There is a lot of material and it is deep, but it is also easy to follow. It is not overly technical and asks nothing more than the reader having an open mind and a strong interest in good movies.

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           

Mission | Tips & Tricks | Equipment & Software Reviews | Film Critiques
Groups & Community | Links & Savings
| Home

Contact Us Search Submit Films for Critique