Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ask Me No Stereotyping Questions, I'll Tell You No Lies (Oooh, you're so smart!)

I am going on a bit of a tirade today about the New York Times interview of Whitney Cummings. Others have discussed her style of comedy and how the networks are handling her. There's a nice piece on about that. I'm more interested in the interviewer, Andrew Goldman, and the meta-message of his questions to her. So I've reprinted his questions, and put in my own analysis of their subtext. If you want to read Whitney Cummings' actual answers, read the NYT article here.
This fall, you’re coming out of relative obscurity to have two shows on network TV: “Whitney,” which you star in, and “Two Broke Girls,” which you co-created. What do you remember about being broke?
At first glance, a reasonable question given the title of one of the shows, But since she has only recently come “out of relative obscurity” it’s actually a rather dumb question when you think about it.
Hold on, you did your grocery shopping at 7-Eleven?
Imagine a guy tells an interviewer he shopped at 7-11. Would that call for such a “hold on” bit of faux incredulousness?
On those Comedy Central roasts, your fellow comedians liked to joke about how you slept your way to fame. How accurate is that criticism?
Two problems here. His lead in tries to hide his question behind her fellow comics. John Stuart likes to point out his show doesn’t have to pretend to be fair since his network is Comedy Central but that one would hope for more balance on a news network. Similarly, a joke at a roast and a “legitimate” question by the Times are not the same level of insult.

Friday, September 16, 2011

DIY as a Creative Choice

So I was going to order a banner from a printer but my design cohort, a former game show props and set gal, convinced me that the alternative-leaning crowd of Venice is unlikely to be pulled in by yet another plastic banner at the Lodge. So instead we began a 3-D collage project for this year's festival poster. Or rather, she began and I gave opinions.

Here she is laying lettering after covering a 4x8 sheet of foam core with script pages. (No submissions were harmed in the process. These are old scripts of mine...) Will keep you posted on how it turns out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Start with the Baby

I was talking to a filmmaker, a good one, about beginnings. I was trying to figure out a way to convince her to consider cutting the top of her film, but she loved it and so did her circle of beloveds. So I used the movie-as-baby analogy and took it a step further. Your movie may be an amazing baby, but if you introduce me to it by showing me the delivery or, God forbid, the act of conception, I am so outta there you have to work doubly hard to capture my heart. TMI, folks, too much information.

Seeing act of birth can be beautiful and amazing to family. The lovemaking that leads to conception is also beautiful, but not really something I want to watch if I'm not one of the parties in bed - and even then, probably not. Keep all that in your heart, and possibly in the extra value content on the DVD, but take it out of the film. Show me the shining, luminous new being already washed and swaddled in its blanket. All that other stuff you are so sure needs to be in there so I know what's happening probably is covered again later. And even if it's not, I can figure stuff out. I know where babies come from. I know that you had to do the deed and nine months later push it out. Not necessary to explain. Start with the baby, not the birth.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Down to the Wire

Selections for this year's festival are almost finished. At the moment, I am thinking about short films and how they often tend to deliver the same amount of "story" despite their different lengths. By story, I don't mean plot. Longer shorts usually have more plot, but they rarely have more "story."
Plot complications that raise the stakes are not enough. Getting the characters in a tighter spot where they are more invested isn't the point. It is the viewer who has to care more. Raising the stakes is not about the filmmaker doing it to a character in the movie. Whatever happens to raise the stakes has to induce me to raise the stakes of my participation in the ongoing story. Putting the character through hell is just a tool to pull me in and is not an end in itself or a romance between the author/filmmaker and their delight in their own oeuvre.

This gets missed frequently in documentaries where each turn of events moves the story to a new place, but on the same plane. Another fascinating fact or event or insight moves the movie horizontally and eventually leaves the viewer feeling flat. Docs have more of an excuse for this, however, since reality is often picaresque. Yet many of the narrative films make the same mistake and at some point I get antsy because the film keeps covering the same emotional terrain even as the plot moves onward. A movie, or a screenplay, needs to move me, not the plot. And if something happens in the story because the writer needs it to connect the dots but the reader/viewer is not moved to invest more by it, then the writer/filmmaker needs to dump the excess baggage and focus on saving the ship aka the viewer/reader's investment.