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Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Write Movies....the unexpected part 2

The original piece, "How to Write a Horror Movie...part one", can be found here:
It is only by the serendipity of a journalistic opportunity to critique films for the New York Examiner, and their submission requirements on the application, that this sequal actually exists. What I'm saying is this: If a add "part 1" to a particular post , it doesn't necessarily mean that a sequel is imminent. Rather, it means that, there were more ideas dancing in my head than I cared to note at the time of writing . It is a friendly reminder to myself to finish off a task. When last checked, my to-do list items completion rate was holding steady at 1 to 3 (or 33.3%), get it?

Horror films are certainly loads of fun to create. Basically you can stay focused on the development of a psycho-killer and the hunt for the hottest, unknown, affordable, grateful and obediant actress who will surely have trouble landing the three shower scenes. The rest of the film produces itself.
As we move on with the tutorial, it is logical that the next genre to learn about is the Horror flick's sequel-infested, low-budget cousin, the slapstick comedy, including the romantic comedy, which incorporates the same model. There are also many other sub-genres and hybrids such as the dark comedy and the action/comedy, each with their own distinctions, however, for the purpose of this polite instruction, we will deal with these two basic types . Actually, most comedies do have a romantic element which is indirectly proportional with the comedic content.

So, as you begin, try to avoid being overwhelmed by the burden of making people laugh. Most of your witty one-liners and silly scenerios can be refurbished and recycled to suit your needs. This reduncancy, which causes a passionate artist to cringe, actually serves you well. The same principle is used by top radio stations when they forcefeed the same song to their listeners every twenty minutes. Eventually people are so familiar with the song, they have to love it. So, have faith. They will laugh.

Your main concern is deciding where you will place on the (funny(x), romantic(y)) graph, where "z" represents the level of booze, debauchery and overall degradation of the female gender and the equation is x=zy. Sorry, too much algebra? Just use this standard method of gauging your film: Would this film do better starring Adam Sandler or co-starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore? This will give you a pretty accurate idea of where you're headed; John Hughes or National Lampoon's? Once that's resolved, you're off and running.

Look back to the slasher movie and use the same basic principles to build the characters for this barrel of laughs. If you recall, we wanted young adults, either late high-school or early college, played by highly attractive thespians just short of thirty. The difference between this gang and your screamer cast is that now they must possess a decent amount of skill as a performer. This can be compromised somewhat by long blond hair and a tight body, but, keep in mind, they must deliver jokes using funny and obnoxious facial expressions while displaying a certain brand of physical comedy, albeit unoriginal. These requirements alone call for a superior skillset than the previously gathered group of bloody victims found by scanning music videos and beer commercials. Some tips for a well-rounded cast include:

  • an egotistical jerk, most likely an athlete, rich kid or otherwise over-priveliged bully who plays the villian with an air of arrogance which begs for the revenge which will ultimately find its way to him. He is usually accompanied by a few pea-brained henchmen.
  • a female lead, molded again by the ever-important romance level. For your true romantic style comedy, think angelic and wholesome girl next door and work toward the playboy mansion as you zoom out. Either way, she will begin the movie attached to the jerk described above and will end up with our hero. She, too, should be padded with some girlfriends. Throw in a fluzy or a ditz.
  • Of course, the hero. From the romance champs Vince Vaugn and Tom Hanks to Van Wilder, this dude is the main character. Either a cool customer or a nerd you love to cheer on, he must meet some standards. First, he begins the story at a disavantage when it comes to the jerk, usually by being the new kid in school, often from a lower class neighorhood or by simply being a nerd. Second, he always comes with pals, most likely misfits, like the nerd's clan of...... nerds, or the nerds who are quick to befriend the new kid. This group is important and not to be brushed over. They actually deliver a good part of the laughs. Make one really over-the-top, extra-geeky, hard-up, or even outrageously foreign. They are also there to help the the hero win over his lady.
  • Finally, the adults. Recall the Horror film, where the adults were completely ignorant to what is unfolding and exist to impede the characters as they march to victory. It's basically the same. Popular grown ups used as the butt of jokes and victims of teenage shenanigans are parents, a principal or dean who has it out for the good guys, cops, security guards, you get the idea.

This is a start, now, don't be afraid to completely copy a plot from your favorite laugh-fest and superimpose it over your baby. Soon you will find that these "templates" are passed around often, which reminds me, beer and pot work wonderfully here.

There you have some basic guidelines for developing a good comedy. By following them, you can develop a very respectable flick, and, really, as long as you double your investment, a review of "not bad" ain't too bad. The comedic model can also be modified to serve as an added side plot in most action/adventure films. Bad Boys comes to mind. The keys are:

  1. The script. Recycle only the choice jokes and deliver them in unique ways.......and
  2. The cast. Besides picking the most talented, It is recommended that you use actors with a sense of humor, rather that a crab-ass. It seems obvious, but until you have to drag a smile out of one, may be overlooked. It also never hurts to find the funniest looking characters you can drag out of a hole. Why not get a head start on the laughs?

Funny shit,take one.

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