Saturday, February 14, 2009

Around Blogosphere – 2/14/08

First, Julie’s great article on Theme and the Entertaining Question:
A significant part of the screenwriting learning curve is figuring out what theme really means. Many new writers say that the theme of their script is something like: love is all you need. Or an eye for an eye. Or time heals. Or family ties endure. Okay, these are not themes. They are truisms and - I'll go ahead and say it - cliches. Kill me with a spork and do it now. You know why these tired cliches are a no-go? Because the answer is freaking self-evident. When anything is self-evident in life - it's boring because now I have no reason to engage with it. Yup. Love heals all, alrighty....oh forgive me, I nodded off there for a minute…

…So one might go from, on a global level, "time heals all" to something very focused and entertaining like "If your brother slept with your wife, could you forgive him? Ever?" See what I did there? I mean, you're going to start off with whatever your premise is, but the entertaining question is an expression of theme in a very personal way which allows the audience to engage it in a WWYD way.

Bill Martell on the Writer's Bloc Show! (You were great,
Part 1 - How did I get started?
Part 2 - Write the best idea.
Part 3 - How to get pages written.
Part 4- Scriptwriters Network & Writing Cable Movies.
Part 5 - What's next?

Mike Le and
Jesus Christ Superstar

David Bordwell on Flashbacks
What purposes does a flashback fulfill? Why would any storyteller want to arrange events out of chronological order? Structurally, the answers come down to our old friends causality and parallelism. A flashback can explain why one character acts as she or he does. Classic instances would be Hitchcock’s trauma films like Spellbound and Marnie. A flashback can also provide information about events that were suppressed or obscured; this is the usual function of the climactic flashback in a detective story, filling in the gaps in our knowledge of a crime. By juxtaposing two incidents or characters, flashbacks can enhance parallels as well. The flashbacks in The Godfather Part II are positioned to highlight the similarities and contrasts between Michael Corleone’s plotting and his father’s rise to power in the community. Citizen Kane’s flashbacks are famous for juxtaposing events in the hero’s life to bring out ironies or dramatic contrasts.

John August on
Which project should I write?
If you have four ideas, all equally viable, I’d recommend writing the one that has the best ending. That’s the one you’ve thought through the most, and the one you’re least likely to abandon midway. But whatever you do, just pick one and write it without delay. If you have great ideas for your other projects, absolutely take some notes, but don’t switch. Finish what you’re doing, or you’ll have a folder full of first acts.

Alex Epstein on
How To Take Feedback
My rule of thumb is: readers are usually right that there's something wrong. They're often right about what's wrong. They're usually wrong about how to fix it.

Epstein’s article reminds me of Piers Beckley’s post
on Readers
Paying a reader to give you notes on your script is like paying a prostitute to give you notes on your sexual technique. Yes, they're a professional. Yes, they're good at what they do. And yes, if you're just starting out there's a case to be made that advice from someone who's been around the blocks a few times is going to help. But in the long term, both of them have a vested interest in continuing to receive your custom. And that means two things. One: You're never going to be told you're that bad. Two: You're never going to be told you're that good.

Joshua James has a 20-minute Elizabeth Gilbert video on
Writing and the Creative Process.

Emerson’s latest
opening shot – The Producers
"The Producers," Mel Brooks first film, uses its first shot to break taboo by sexualizing old women. The character Max Bialystock is based on a producer Brooks worked for as a young man. This producer would, like Max, make love with old women to get funding for his plays. But Mel Brooks, whose films "rise below vulgarity," doesn't end his taboo-breaking here. He goes on to apply the same gleeful irreverence to ex-Nazis, homosexuals, and voluptuous foreign blonds. Indeed, if the studio had not objected, Brooks would have called this movie "Springtime for Hitler."

Tom Stempel’s latest in his series on
Understanding Screenwriting

Salva and the
4-types of non-arcing characters:
1.Characters whose essence can't be changed:
-The Serial Characters
2.Characters who won't realize they must change:
-The Quixote Characters
3.Characters who can’t change, although they’d like to:
-The Tragic Characters
4.Characters who decide not to change:
-The Mafioso Characters

Lucy on
Screenplay Dialogue
When it comes to dialogue, I find it helps to think of dialogue as more than mere words: there are so many variations of saying the same thing (especially when it comes to English and its many synonyms and dialects) that WHAT is said by a character is often more important than HOW, since the way in which they express something (or not, even) is often indicative of WHO they are (and thus HOW they would say it anyway… Phew – what a long sentence! I’m sure I could’ve said that a lot more concisely…. See?!). Anyway.

Dizzy from the Altitude, Happy to Plummet
Pre-Code Cinema and the Post-Code-Shock Syndrome

Out of His Head
Metaphysical Escape Attempts in the Screenplays of Charlie Kaufman

Sex, Drugs, and Exploitation

Julie Gray on
Structure: The Rhythm of the Dance
Structure is like the bass guitar - it keeps the rhythm. It's the 1-2-3 and a 1-2-3 of your script. And it is best plotted out in your outline first. As in a dance, the rhythm is obvious and yet subtle at the same time. You may not notice it but you feel it. It drives the dance.

Alexandra Sokoloff on
Plants and Payoffs
I very strongly encourage novelists to start watching movies for Plants and Payoffs. It’s a delicious storytelling trick that filmmakers are particularly aware of and deft at… it’s all a big seductive game to play with your audience, and an audience eats it up. Other names for this technique are Setup/Reveal, Plant/Reveal, Setup/Payoff, and sometimes FORESHADOWING (which can be a bit different, more subtle).

Scott W. Smith’s
Screenwriting Quotes Series

Kevin Lehane’s
Definitive List of Cliché Dialogue

A couple of articles from the new
Senses of Cinema:

Naked Bodies and Troubled Souls: Antonioni and the Ways of the Flesh
Tony McKibbin examines what he calls the “ontological problem of nudity in Michelangelo Antonioni’s work”. A refreshing focus on an aspect of Antonioni’s films not often discussed in commentaries on his work.

In Bed With Bond
Senses Co-editor and James Bond aficionado Scott Murray puts the many claims made about the sexual politics of the Bond films (and books) under the microscope.

And finally…

Not only is the Inglourious Basterds trailer available (above), as many of you know, but Empire has Tarantino EXPLAINING the trailer. When asked why he has the extra u in "Inglorious," Tarantino replies, "I can't tell you! But the 'Basterds'? That's just the way you say it: Basterds."


Christian M. Howell said...

Yet more gems from the finder of lost cinematic knowledge.

PIPER said...

It's interesting. I'm not a fan of the Basterds trailer, but reading Tarantino's thoughts makes me like it more. It's cheating, I know. Perhaps if I could read the thoughts behind every trailer, I might enjoy all of them.

Mystery Man said...

Christian - Hehehe...

Piper - Yeah, I was a touch disappointed as well. I'm not sure we even saw the French girl who took up so much of his script.


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