Recently I saw someone on the internet say that Revenge Of The Sith was so powerful because of an effect called "Emotional Projection." This means that when you see the movie, your brain is not seeing Obi Wan and Anakin fight, it's "replacing" them with you and your best friend. That makes it really emotional and powerful, even if the actual relationship between the Jedis is (sadly) not fully compelling.

I really want to know more about this topic from a screenwriting/production point of view. Specifically, how to actually write/direct something that triggers the audiences to project their lives in the film so they can have a way more powerful experience.


I ask this because I am planning on doing a YouTube video explaining some of these concepts so aspiring filmmakers and screenwriters can use these techniques in their favor; so any additional information you might think is useful is much appreciated, along with some examples of writers/directors that have purposefully used emotional projection, if such cases exist.

How is "emotional projection" created in screenwriting? Where can I find information and resources about it? What are some other good examples?

  • 2
    Hi John! This site is less of a forum and more of a Q&A. Do you think you could rephrase your post to be more of an answerable question? Including what your working definition of Emotional Projection is, and what you're specifically hoping to get out of an answer. (Something that starts with "How can I...", for example.)
    – Kitkat
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 15:17
  • Welcome to Writing. Screening writing is very on topic here. But I agree with @Kitkat about how to word questions.
    – Cyn
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 15:24
  • Great, just edited it, let me know if it works! Thanks!
    – John F101
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 15:31
  • 1
    Much better post-edit! I am concerned about the idea of teaching a topic you've never done before, but it's still possible to answer the question regardless (well, I can't answer it either way but hopefully someone can).
    – Cyn
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 16:44
  • Thank you very much! Is there another StackExchange where I can get this question answered?
    – John F101
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 19:04

4 Answers 4


In the case of Revenge of the Sith, these characters are you and your best friend because you have been able to empathize with them and their relationship. You've seen them fight together, take wounds for each other, banter, and show-off. You've just spent the last hour-and-a-half watching one of them spiral out of control partially because the other wasn't there for them.

The key is to create empathy between the audience and the characters relationships. The final fight hits hard because these friends, that we've seen being incredibly close, are now put on opposite sides of the battle over another person, despite still holding the same ideals, just different ways of carrying them out. It's a much more violent version of the "drift apart" style of ending friendships, but that's what it needed to convey to show how these characters are now on opposite sides of a dichotomy.


I agree with @awsikris and @dan. I have a slightly different perspective, which may help you understand the concept.

I teach acting. Here, my students already have a script. I teach them to find the humanity in their character. To think of a real person that acts the way the written character does.
Ex: I'm choosing my brother's wife, because she is a total B----!
Ex: This character needs to be compassionate, so I'm choosing to think about Dr. Waller, because he is the most compassionate person I know.

I find that, when I write, If I make myself angry, the readers feel angry when they read it. The sam is true for happy & sad.

The same is true for your project. Make that emotional connection with your characters when writing, hire actors that can bring out those emotions.


In order to create emotional projection, you need to portray common experiences that every in the audience has had or can relate to. They must be able to put themselves into one of the roles on the screen, at least metaphorically or emotionally.

Most of us can relate to "two best friends fighting". Depending on the age of the audience, most of us can relate to somebody we love dying, a sibling, a child, a parent. Also age dependent, but most of us can relate to finding romance, struggling with school or a job or an abusive boss. Work through the list of life experiences you have had, good or bad, and decide if they are unique or others have probably had similar experiences.

Now for most of us, these common experiences don't involve fighting to the death, but that is what you do next: ramp up the experience (be it romance or a terrible job) to 11 or 12 on a scale of 10. In the comedy "9 to 5" they take a common bad-boss scenario everybody can relate to, ramp up the bad-boss to 11, and ramp up the response to 12 (they kidnap the sexist tyrant of a boss and run the business themselves).

Or in your example, a rift between best friends gets ramped up to lethality.


You may be having trouble finding more information on the subject because of the nomenclature you're using.

The term "projection" here might be a bit of a misnomer in this context. Without knowing the direct source, I can't say for sure how it's usage was intended. But what you're describing is how writers create empathy for characters so that the audience becomes emotionally invested in them.

In any case, you might find more success searching for discussions about how writers attempt to generate empathy in their writing (or, relatedly, sympathy) rather than specifically looking for the word "projection," as it doesn't tend to be used this way.

Here is one to get you started: link

(As a side note, I find your example curious, as I would personally argue it demonstrates a failure to accomplish generating empathy or sympathy. But that's a subjective debate perhaps better suited for chat.)

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