The Meaning of X

I have a theory.

Everyone, deep down, is seriously afraid of being the stupid kid. Because everyone, at some point in their life, has found themselves in a classroom situation where the teacher is explaining something, and everyone is nodding their heads, and, oh, man, it can’t be possible that I’m the only person who doesn’t get this, right?

The day I got my first actual check for something that came out of my own head, I had three thoughts.

Man, I need to call my parents.

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The Power of Laughter

'Airplane' movie poster
‘Airplane’ movie poster

Here’s an entertaining way to pass the time at your next screenwriting seminar. When the lecture concludes and the presenter asks if there are any questions, raise your hand boldly into the air. When you are called on, ask the following question:

“How do I write comedy?”

The quick-witted lecturer would probably be best served by answering something along the lines of “Think of something funny. Then write it down.”

Pleas have been made to numerous writers a lot more famous and talented than myself to write an article or book stuffed with useful information about how to make comedy work on the page. People have asked what movies to watch, what scripts to read, and what books to peruse.

People ask for a lot more than they realize.

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More Questions Than Answers

I broached this subject with my friends before, so please forgive me, because I can’t help myself. It’s like I have some kind of sick addiction, some overwhelming inability to contain myself, but every time I see a critic lambaste a movie because it fails to reach any conclusions or provide any real answers, I want to retch.

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The Mise en Falcon: Examining ‘The Maltese Falcon’

From left to right: Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet in 'The Maltese Falcon'
From left to right: Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet in ‘The Maltese Falcon’

Director John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon was made in 1941 and starred Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Peter Lorre.

Within the realist-classicist-formalist continuum this film would fall under the classicist with formalistic tendencies. For example, the film makes use of low angles, especially when the main characters are in the same room together and interacting at pivotal moments. Plus, when Mr. Guttman’s knocked out gunman awakes to realize they have all sold him out to become the fall guy, we see a low angle close up point of view of the four other people in the room. This gives an unsettling view of the action that will come to his man.

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Style and Substance

Mark Wahlberg in 'Boogie Nights'
Mark Wahlberg in ‘Boogie Nights’

Staccato edits. Extreme camera movements. Bombastic audio assaults. All are trademarks of contemporary American cinema. P.T. Anderson’s second feature-length film, Boogie Nights, employs many of the techniques favored by a generation of filmmakers weaned on Scorsese and MTV. The filmgoer is quickly overwhelmed by Anderson’s giddy pyrotechnics and visual bravura.

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Pen to Paper

With big budget films, a good script is doubly important, because so much money is riding on it. For the most part, Hollywood has ignored the concepts of good story and three dimensional characters. And in exchange for that, independent films have risen in popularity and have gained respect in the mainstream. It isn’t difficult to take the time to make characters more interesting, or making the story more plausible or more exciting. Unfortunately, many producers don’t seem to realize this.

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Planning Ahead

It’s a brilliant idea and sure to be a cinematic masterpiece. You can’t wait to start shooting and allow all those stunning ideas to unfold for the camera. Great! But first, take a moment to slow down and let’s do a little planning, you and I.

Creating a story is a wonderful experience. Then, to see the concept you had unfold on the screen — be it wide or television. But most people who have a terrific idea never see it come to fruition. Why? Simple — they never complete pre-production.

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