Sunday, September 26, 2010

Change of Value

Although considered the "three act Nazi", Robert McKee has some really good points about writing and structure in writing.  One of the things he talks about is that Story is Conflict.  I agree.  Without conflict, you have a 90 minute PSA.  (And this is a problem for the Christian Film Nazi's-- because you're not allowed to show conflict, but that's another post).

He talks about scenes or sequences have a change in emotional value for the main characters in it.  In other words, if Jane enters the scene happy, she needs to leave sad.  Or mad.  Or ecstatic.  That moment in the scene where the change from "happy" to "sad" happens is what I call the beat of the scene.

If you main characters leave the scene with the same emotional value they entered, then the scene is exposition, and as most writers know, exposition is to be avoided at all cost.  To exposit necessary plot information, always much more preferred to do it through conflict.

For actors, when I direct, I try to point them to that beat-- that moment there's a change.  When I pick sides for auditions, I pick sides that have a beat.  I want to see that the actor can change their emotional value in an honest way.  Then on the set, we'll talk more indeth about it.  Maybe find the backstory that would drive the emotional change.

For you writers, chart your story.  Take a close look at your main scenes.  Do your lead characters change in emotional value in these scenes?  If not, you might want to adjust or even cut.  Those scenes are probably exposition and you can work in that necessary info through conflict some other way.

On my second movie, I will confess that I took this too far.  In my quest to exclude all exposition, the story was a bit confusing at times.  And the lead characters became ping pong balls hit across the table of emotional value.  So don't go all nazi on the emotional value change.  But do avoid exposition.  It's all a balancing act.

No comments:

Post a Comment