Friday, August 6, 2010

TODAY'S 2nd NUGGET: William Goldman & a 2nd @#$)(*%!! Great Introduction

Goldman does it again.

Dang.

Here's the description of Coop, the lawman. Watch how Goldman:

1) describes Coop as the lawman every man wants to be;
2) inspires our trust in Coop.

" As Maverick turns --

JUST AN INCREDIBLE-LOOKING MAN

[THIS IS#1.  I want to be called "just incredible looking," don't you?!]

--we'll find out son enough his name is ZANE COOPER.

He is raw-boned, blue-eyed, muscle & sinew; rugged as they come.  There is also something about him we don't know yet but we will: Coop is so good, so fucking honorable, he seems like someone out of another era --

--which in point of fact, he is.  Coop is the western hero who dominated movies for the most of this century. In other words, we are looking at John Wayne or Gary Cooper.

Not only has he never done anything bad, the thought of doing anything bad has never crossed his mind."

[THIS IS #2.  We now believe anything Coop says. This continues until Act 3 when he shows himself to be a double-crosser. But by that time, we've been rooting for Coop so long that it really is a surprise.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  This intro is crafted very specifically so the audience has complete, utter confidence in Coop.  

Why is this important?  Because too many scripts today try to be smarter than the audience.

Here, Goldman sets up our expectations & doesn't betray us.

No red herrings.

No "look how clever I am" hints.

Until the crucial moment.

Then WHAM!  The twist.

This is why he's William Goldman.  Story is first.

TODAY'S NUGGET: William Goldman & a @#$)(*%!! Great Introduction

My Ode to Goldman:

"William Goldman, I bow to thee.
You are one oh one in clarity.
Your intros are deceptively easy.
Oh, how I love the simplicity."

In the script "Maverick," notice how Goldman:

1) describes Maverick;
2) makes us like him;
3) adds conflict so we're waiting for Maverick to act.

"MAVERICK's 30, give or take.  Enormously appealing. Whether that's because of his considerable physical skills or his sunny personality, who knows. It might be his quiet wit.

[THIS IS #1 & 2. I like him. I don't know why. But I do.]

In any case, we are looking at a handsome young man that everybody likes --

--oops --

--make that almost everybody."  [THIS IS #3. I can't wait to see who doesn't like him.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  Goldman's writing is not just simple and clear.

It also has conflict, a sense of humor, fun, & keeps escalating.

Brilliant.

Monday, August 2, 2010

TODAY'S 2ND NUGGET: "Recipe" for Rom-Coms

In line with my previous "recipe" for comedy scripts, here's my "recipe" for rom-coms:

Rom-coms are like fruit cobblers.

Why?

Because it's 80% fruit (romance b/t protagonist & lover). 

[Romance = an emotional ride in which the conflict between them reveals flaws & issues ---> which then MUST MUST MUST be resolved by showing why the protagonist & lover are good together as a team.]

The crust is 10% butter (protagonist & lover against the antagonist) plus 10% flour (comedy).
-------------------------

NOTE: Many people don't like fruit & that's ok.

THREE common reasons people don't like rom-coms b/c:

A) Fruit is too predictable!

My two cents: Rom-coms are predictable b/c the emotional arc for falling in love tends to take a predictable journey. 

ex. Cute meet --> a period of discovery & courtship --> tests --> then a moment the parties admit they're in love.

If any part is missing, it feels false. 
If it's too much out of order, it feels unorganized.
But ask anyone how they fell in love & it follows a certain arc.


B) Fruit should be mashed with other fruits!

My two cents: I'm all for making cross genre films.  However, action films w/ romance, or dramas w/ romance, are mostly about the ACTION or the DRAMA, not purely about the emotional journey of falling in love. 

Rom-coms are about the trials & tribulations of figuring out how to put your heart in someone else's care.  We don't really care about the action or events around relationship.  We care about the RELATIONSHIP.


C) Fruit is kinda rotten these days!

My two cents: I am not a big fan of recent "so called rom-coms" either. 

There are lots of things that sour audiences:

ex.  We don't believe the girl should choose a guy who abuses her.  Why is that funny? Or romantic?

ex. We don't believe a guy who obviously doesn't "get" a woman, but suddenly falls in love w/ her in Act 3.  That's shallow.  It's a disaster.  How is this going to last when they're not even a good team in Act 1 & 2?

ex. We want to believe that these two are going to be ok together.  If they fall apart in the end, then it's not a rom-com. 

I WANT A HAPPY ENDING.  The End!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: Seeking Romance

Rom-coms - the Final Frontier.

I'm fascinated with how hard rom-coms are to write. 

Billy Mernit describes the rom-com plot essentially as "why 2 people should be together." 

But oh, how that often fails in the movies.

I recently found Popcorn Dialogues, a podcast/blog by two highly acclaimed, award winning, romance authors Jennifer Crusie and Lucy March.  (And, oh yeah, they've both taught romance writing for years.)

Every Friday night, they watch a classic rom-com movie & simultaneously host a Tweet chat (#PopD).  On Saturday, they post an hour long iTunes podcast analyzing & rating the structure, romance & comedy.

The goal is to see how the romance does/does not develop in the film. 

I was very surprised how many good movies suck at romance, but are still considered "classic rom-coms."

I've listened to #1-9 so far, & love the nuggets hidden within:

- Farce usually squashes any romance (Bringing Up Baby)

- If the romance isn't there, all the craft in the world can't save it (Pillow Talk)

- Wanting to be together isn't enough. You must show the characters relating & connecting.
(every single movie)

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The mistake too many screenwriters make is that the man (usually) doesn't show that he "understands the woman."  

Now THAT'S romance.

Please adjust accordingly.

('Cause if you don't, Crusie/March won't sell you the movie rights to their books.

Just kidding. I have no idea if the movie rights are sold.

But if they're not, they should be.

Preferably to me.)