Yesterday I started a look at two movies that inspired me as a storyteller. First I touched upon Terminator 2 and the way its lengthy action sequences inspired my approach to action. The other movie I want to touch upon is the 1995 film Hackers. I’m one of about 137 people who ever saw this movie in the theater, but Hackers has remained one of my favorite movies for over 20 years now. In case you don’t know (let’s be honest, most people don’t know), the movie tells the story of Dade Murphy, a genius hacker who crashed all of Wall Street when he was only 10 years old. Murphy (aka Zero Cool, aka Crash Override), is banned from using computers until he turns 18. On his 18th birthday, he moves with his mother to New York City and immediately takes up his genius hacking pursuits once more. He falls in with a group of hackers and has to try to clear their name as an evil corporate hacker tries to frame them all for an ecological disaster.
So yeah, that’s more than you ever wanted to know about Hackers. What inspired me as a storyteller in Hackers is the way it makes you care about someone inconsequential. At the end of the day, Zero Cool is just a teenager who messes around with computers, but the movie does an incredible job of bringing you into his world. Once you care about him, you care about his situation, no matter how inconsequential it might be.
This was a revelation to me because I generally was drawn to more epic stories. In the movie Independence Day, the characters mattered because if they failed the earth was going to be destroyed. Same with T2, if Arnold fails then the machines wipe out humanity. Hackers showed me that when the focus is on a well-developed character, even a smaller scale conflict can matter a great deal. If Zero Cool failed, he was gonna go to jail for being a hacker and some corporate weasel was going to get rich. Big stakes for Zero Cool, I guess, but you know, the Earth was still going to be okay. Yet his story still mattered, because you knew him as a person and cared about the outcome, small in scope as it may be.
I think you’ll see this influence in Brother Dust in several places. Some of our supporting characters fall into this category, as do several characters with smaller roles. Even if we’re only going to spend a short time with some of our characters, Steve and I have endeavored to make them feel developed and fully alive. Their fate may not influence the war between Brother Dust and the Solovot Empire, but hopefully, you’ll still care about them and what happens to them. Some of these lesser characters have made so much of an impact on us that we’re looking at creating some short stories to tell more about their lives and histories.