RocketJump and VGHS writers Matt and Will walk us through a really useful tool that can help you develop your characters: The Character Tree!

Some of view may already recognize this video, as it originally aired December 2014 as part of the RJFS beta test!

Download a simplified version of the Character Tree guide!

Or check out Film Crit Hulk’s more detailed version for more guidance!

Questions for Matt or Will? Leave them below!

Griffin Flynn: The Character Tree
What do I do now?



Yay it’s back! Should we post extra credit character trees here? (even if it’s the same as in the beta test)


I’m loving the writing series! Looking forward to trying this. :smile:


Here’s the main character for an untitled fantasy movie I’m writing!

Crown (psyche): Cute/underestimated archetype.
Right Cheek (art/beliefs): Idealistic, almost naive. Prefers to see the world through such a lens.
Left Cheek (logic): Very booksmart, but through books she thinks herself very practically smart. Great problem solver, never discouraged.
Throat (voice): Loud when needed, often too confident in boasts, but she charms those around her. She charms people, but she herself doesn’t see it.
Heart (needs): Unconditional love/friendship, constant change.
Groin (wants): Wants adventure, and to show up her parents and bullies. She likes guys, but she’s looking for an adventurer such as herself, not the oafs in town. Sexually innocent, but she knows stuff.
Feet (appearance): Golden hair (long but tied back), blue eyes (glasses?), full of wiry strength. From a small farming town in the Dwarven Foothills. Bullied by town children because she’s “odd” and because she won’t marry.


here is the main character i am thinking of creating a trilogy

Crown (psyche): understandably evil
Right Cheek (art/beliefs): he sees the world as a movie no one know about. he knows he is wrong but he knows if he doesn’t things will never change.
Left Cheek (logic): a little absent minded although has streetsmart and overcomes his lack of booksmarts with his streetsmarts.
Throat (voice): he is quiet but he communicates threw his actions but when he speaks everyone will remember what he said
Heart (needs): constant reassurance and alone time to keep him sane
Groin (wants): what his brother has and his family to learn what he learned in his life and to stop doing crime but he can’t for many many reasons. and a girl to change him into a good person
Feet (appearances): completely different than his brother. lived at a small home grew up with a special ed level of education.
soul (true self) he was made fun of but had one best friend when his life was falling he started learning how people worked but he didn’t like it one bit so he wanted to teach his new friends he obtained by using the things he learned so he wanted to teach his brother by becoming a criminal to test his skills of his knowledge

the next one will be lighter i promise. haha


Here’s the one I did for the extra credit during the beta run. Would love some feedback from the professors or anyone who is experienced in using this technique. i also recommend anyone who wants to see more character trees to look at the other posts in this older topic, there are some really good ones.


Well this helps a ton for the script im writing! Was having a bit of trouble keeping my characters personalities organized, and this is a great way to do it.


Never sitting still, nervous. Wishes he was somebody important but is pretty average.

___Left cheek _____________________________ Right cheek
Process oriented. Analytical. Thinks he is above silly laws like drunk driving.
Almost autistic.

Tries to act like he is an industry expert when at home or work, not that in reality.

Natural laziness, just wants to go live in a small house on the beach. Wants to be closer to his family.

Really wants to impress his wife by becoming as successful or more than she is. Always fails to be a good dad.

Well maintained expensive clothes. Didn’t shave for a few days. Got out of the shower and did nothing to his hair. Is never seen without bags under his eyes and a cup of coffee. Very analytical.

Would love feedback as to if the character needs more detail or if I missed something.


Thats pretty deep. I like it.


Loved this discussion. I find that it’s good practice to do things like this with already existing characters, like my favorite superheroes and such. It seems to make creating original characters easier. And since most of my personal projects these days are fan films anyway, the characters I am writing about are already existing, so it’s both practice and productive :grin:


Ahhh just love this film school!
Thanks guys, this will make character development much deeper.


could you tell me why you like it and if he is a character people will understand


I recently watched the RJFS video on character trees, and I found it extremely useful, so I decided to do one for the lead character in a TV series concept I’m developing, so here it is, Let me know what you think.

Griffin Flynn: Character Tree


Skinny, lean, a fighter, but not a brawler. Punk clothing and hairstyle, tattoos and piercings to match. Wears eyeliner to display a slightly feminine side, but also to draw attention to his intense stare. Handsome, in a rather androgynous fashion.


First and foremost, Griffin wants to survive. With a life of poverty surrounding, his most pressing goal is to sustain his existence from day to day, as well as the existence of his immediate friends and family. As a former resistance fighter and convicted traitor, he also attempts on most occasions to avoid danger, something which causes him to clash with many of his friends.


Griffin’s sarcastic and melancholy nature leads him to a need for practical jokes and witticisms. He is at home when he wins an argument and even takes pleasure in belittling his opponent. His artistic passion and repressed need for rebellion often leads him to graffiti or mild vandalism, as well as writing politically charged literature. He also enjoys his fair share of wine, women and rock music.


Griffin exudes a quiet, controlled power with his voice and mannerisms. He is always thinking, and as such often has little physical tick, which he hides well. His dress, piercings and tattoos all attempt to intimidate and, in some cases, make up for his slim stature.

Left Cheek

Griffin is smart and tactical. He attempts to maintain an economical and logical approach to most things, backed up by a large IQ and vast general knowledge.

Right Tree

Griffin’s true rebellious nature often shines through his practicality and he often finds himself falling into flare and extravaganza. His passionate and thrill-seeking nature has lead to bursts of excitement and severe drug binges.


All in all, Griffin is a rebel with a brain and an impossible purpose. He maintains a teetering balance between Will Hunting and Tyler Durden, juggling his impulsive, passionate bursts of inspiration with keen wit and sharp, pragmatic thinking. He is an untamed poet, engaging in both unruly behaviour and womanising, as well as smart, passionate and engaging writing.


I absolutely loved this video. It broke down Film Crit Hulk’s character tree in a much more visual way that was much easier to understand than when I was just reading the book. It was extremely helpful.

I’m wondering tho. Are you going to do anymore videos about overall structure or underlying theories? I’d love to see RocketJump’s take on the classic 3 act structure and other major story structure stuff.


Super secret insider info: we’re working on a new curriculum next year that will cover real introductory building blocks for each department, in a more structured order… much like a real film school curriculum. I am constantly adding these suggestions to the plan!


oh wow! that’s awesome! I will eagerly await your new curriculum


Hey there, I have a Question. If you had to Characterize a schizophrenic person, would you do it in one Character Tree or in Two?


Just one - schizophrenia doesn’t imply any division in personality. You might be thinking of dissociative identity disorder?