Archive for the ‘Writing’ category

You don’t have to explain everything, part 2…

March 2, 2008

Three things an aspiring movie maker needs to know about writing:

  1. Each movie operates by its own set of rules.
  2. You can’t make up the rules as you go, but you can make them up.
  3. The rules don’t have to be explained, but the audience does need to know what they are.

TypewriterIn today’s installment, we’re going to examine rule #2: You can’t make up the rules as you go, but you can make them up.What I mean by that is that the rules don’t have to make sense outside the context of your movie, but you have to know the rules before you start playing the game, and then you have to play by them for the duration of your movie (or series of movies.)

A really good example of rule creation is in the movie 5ive Girls. It’s not a particularly good movie, but it follows this rule almost as if the producers read this blog before hiring a writer. The rules this movie operates under are the most non-sensical and derivative of any movie I’ve ever watched, but they’re established early on and solidly.

Anakin Skywalker as a rugratA series that violates the rules? Star Wars. Example: midichlorians. In Episode 4, “A New Hope”, we’re told by Ben Kenobi that “the force” is an energy field created by all living things. In Episode 1, “The Phantom Menace”, we’re told it’s a side effect of a bloodstream parasite.

‘Scuse me?

Anyway, thanks, George, for making my point. (Disappointingly, the Matrix trilogy does the same thing, though it’s much more subtle.)

So, to sum up: when you’re in the early stages of working through an outline, start thinking about the rules that will govern the characters and situations. If necessary, write them down as a list and post them by your computer. If you change the rules in the middle of the film (or series), the audience will catch it, and you’ll lose them.

The smart ones, anyway.

Next up: Rule #3. The rules don’t have to be explained, but the audience does need to know what they are.

Preview:

When you were a kid, did you ever get caught with your hand in a cookie jar? Your mom, glowering down at you over her horn-rims, demanded, “Explain yourself!” And the best you could reply was, “I dunno…”

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You don’t have to explain everything…

February 28, 2008

Three things an aspiring movie maker needs to know about writing:

  1. Each movie operates by its own set of rules.
  2. You can’t make up the rules as you go, but you can make them up.
  3. The rules don’t have to be explained, but the audience does need to know what they are.

Let’s look at each point, briefly.

Number 1: each movie operates by its own set of rules. This point applies more to science fiction/fantasy/horror than to your average coming-of-age’r or costume drama. Many movies have rules in common: gravity works, for instance. The hero gets the girl but has to be tested to – but not beyond – the limits of his endurance. The bad guy (or girl) dies at or near the end, onscreen, and in the most spectacular fashion imaginable. In the eighties and early nineties, there was a rule that there was no aphrodisiac more potent than nearly being killed by the bad guy, so about an hour in to the film the hero and heroine would end up in bed and, if us 18-40 year old guys were lucky, having sex in decent lighting.

Unfortunately, it was another rule that sex was poorly lit. See Terminator for a great example.

Next Up: Rule 2, Making up the Rules.

Preview:

A really good example of rule creation is in the movie 5ive Girls. It’s not a particularly good movie, but it follows this rule almost as if the producers read this blog before hiring a writer.