Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Yr2 Week 3 (Mon 21 Oct - Screenwriting the Short Film)

Today in the lecture, we examined that most tetchy and temperamental of genres, Comedy. Comedy is one of three genres genres across all entertainment and media that depends on a direct outcome (the other two being horror and action), in this case: laughter. Comedy can be classed in one of four categories:

  • Superiority: The teller of the joke/gag asserts superiority, or the audience can assert. It's a little like mystery, since it deals with the witholding of information.
  • Incongruity: The coming together/contrasting of ideas i.e. puns
  • Ambivalence: Jokes about grey areas in society/taboos, often playing on the desires within all of us i.e. sex, marriage issues etc.
  • Release: Releasing tension i.e. setup and then the payoff, again often using jokes centered around taboos, though a little less sharp
In fact, on the note of the last one, jokes often work in 3s - setting, pattern and then the subversion/payoff, and through this, as mentioned before, we can discuss and express a lot of ideas that we wouldn't mention in normal, 'civil' conversation, and so comedy has both a subversive and conservative quality, and can play on both emotional (low brow humour, slapstick, bodily functions, things that can an instant reaction) and intellectual (wit, things that require a little more setup and thought than just slamming a custard pie in someone's face or farting) levels.

To further bring these points home, we asked to get into pairs and tell each other a joke. Frankly, given the early time of day, we all struggled and fumbled trying to think of something, and some just went for the obvious staples (knock, knock, why did the ...) and well, gorans and embrassed chuckles ensued.

Moving along, we then watched some examples of how to achieve this in the short fil form, starting with the Lumiere brothers' piece Le Jardiner et le Petit Espiegle (1985), where an old man is watering his garden, and a boy steps on the hose. Obvious punchline ensues, and incensed, the old man chases the boy, and proceeds to smack him. This one has all 4 elements (Superiority, as we know what is happening to the hose, Incongruity as the short balances the thing, the boy and old man being the butts of both gags, Ambivilance since we want to see what happens to both characters and how, in particular, the boy gets his comeuppance, and finally Release, in this case, literally with the hose).

Next up was Desserts, a more surreal short where Ewan McGregor, as an angler, strolls across a beach, and finds an eclair. Tasting it, he then proceeds to eat it, only to be hooked and reeled into the sea (presumably, by fishes or perhaps even mermaids). Here, we have a reversal of roles (the fisherman is fished, and the use of an appealing food item (eclair) instead of worms for fish), which sort of goes back to the superiority element, since the film knows, but not the audience, as well as Release, since we find out why the eclair was there.

Then, we were asked to come up with a one page joke, much as Desserts did: mine was to have a man walk towards a modern art-style arch, seeing some dropped money. However, when he grabs it, the arch comes down on him like a giant mousetrap. Sort of live action Looney Tunes/Tom and Jerry with a Monty Python/Terry Gilliam tinge of darkness.

Next up to the plate was The Short and The Curlies, a short by iconic British film maker Mike Leigh, famous for his improvisation-heavy approach to film making. Here, we follow a group of four characters; a hairdresser, a pharmacist, a young man who tells cheesy jokes and the hairdresser daughter, and their day-to-day lives, especially how the boy and the young pharmacist being a relationship. The jokes and often humourous writing here often deal with intimacy, making frequent references to sex and genitalia, and the film as a whole seems to be a jab at the superficiality of people in relationships, given that the young man seems, at first, irritating and not particularly attractive, but grows on the girl and us during the film.

For the penultimate feature, we watched a late 90s offering from America, George Lucas in Love, which essentially told the origins of the original trilogy (this was before the prequels came out) in the style of Shakespeare in Love. A lot of the humour here came from the little background jokes and references sprinkled throughout the film (various students resemble Chewie, Vader, R2 and C3PO, and there is a teacher resembling Yoda) as well as the final gag with takes a direct cue from the original three in that Lucas and the girl are brother and sister. Finally, we watched a breif clip from Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy, which was a scene where Peter tries to throw a dead frong out of a window, and the bjoke comes from how many times he lazily tries to throw it out,l never attempting to pick it up with his hands but using the box in different ways.

Then, in the seminar, we began to share the memory we were asked to write down in a sort of narrative-descriptive from, among the group: Mine was my Grandmother's funeral (circa 2008) -

It was up on a little hill, and the air was frigid, but not in a mildly irritating 'city cold', but in the type of cold that drill.s into your bones and really makes you shiver all over. There was a little white church on the hill, surrounded on all sides by Spanish tombs, which differ from other ones since they are built upwards, in levels. We walked in side, the sounds of sobbing ringing all around me while burnt incense wafted about in the air like another phantom. As we laid here to rest, as as tears streaked down me and my mother's faces, it gave me a realization, a sense of how fragile human life is and how easily someone can pass on, regardless of how much we love them, and that in some ways, we never fully appreciate them until they are gone.

After this, we were given our assignment for the following week: create a quick pitch for a short film/short film script. It had to be about 2-3 minutes in length, and discuss the story, characters, style/genre, and the 'hook' that would bring people in. To close today, we certainly had a lot of laughs, both intentional and unintentional, for reasons good and well, not so stellar, and it made for a very enjoyable lesson, one of the most so far in the course, I'd say. However, it was the seminar that really struck me, since everyone really opened up about a lot of darker, less pleasant material, and it gave me a greater respect for my classmates, both as creative mind but also as fellow human beings, since it takes some serious courage to talk about things like rape, near death and actual deaths, gangs and robbery. I salute you all from the bottom of my soul, ladies and gentlemen.

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