Saturday, January 31, 2009


Mamihlapinatapai (sometimes spelled mamihlapinatapei): a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word", and is considered one of the hardest words to translate. It describes "a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beating a Joke vs. Beating it to Death

Humor is a funny thing. The same joke can be told by two people, once it is funny, the other may fall flat. Assuming that the audience has not heard it before, why is it funny or not?

Timing, or beats, in humor is all about how the joke should play out. One must not issue it to quickly, nor in the wrong order, nor explain too far. If one rushes the joke, the humor is past before the people have time to fully appreciate it. If in the wrong order, it becomes muddled, and leave the audience confused. If explained too far, the audience fails to achieve their own humor.

Rushing it tends to be portrayed as cramming several jokes in at once. They can be orchestrated together, with skill, but are often just placed without reverence to escalating the component jokes into a crescendo of humor. Instead it will tend to fall flat. In the wrong order, it creates a discordance and it plays out poorly, leading to a disharmonious conclusion. Over explaining the joke instead interrupts the flow of the humor and leads to cacophonous resonance which echoes several beats beyond it's intrusion.

You may wonder why I've used musical terms to explain humor. The truth is they have a surprising number of similarities. Both have to be well composed. Both sound off when beats are missing or fall out of order. A single chord can throw off an entire symphonic recital, much as a single bad joke can ruin a well constructed piece of comedy.

The final problem to watch for is beating the joke to death. It's not that a joke may not be repeated or become the running joke; but it does require that they not be repeated so often as to lose their humor. Again, this is a matter of timing. Much like music or song, a chorus can be repeated, but if you repeat it too often, it strains the ear.

I'll use a personal example:

I was working on a romantic comedy, and was trying to show the protagonist in a non-harmonious relation with someone. It went well, but later in review, I found that I had stated, as part of the joke, that she was a bitch. The audience should deduce that she was being a bitch. That single line wasn't needed and it's inclusion blew the rhythm of the joke by going a beat too far.

It would or at least should get cut in editing, but never assume that the editor has a good sense of comedic timing. By removing this impediment, the scene flowed more seamlessly into the next. It also allows the audience to make their own moral judgements, which is dangerous, but a crafted risk. If you don't allow the audience to do this, you risk alienating them altogether.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lucas on Star Wars...

If you listen to Star Wars IV: A new hope on DVD, during the Geoerge Lucas commentary. Specically the last chapter (50), this is my transcription:

The first three films I couldn't even have considered at this point and time ... I mean there's no way. This film was very carefully constructed around the technology I had available at the time. It's very, very controlled where we go. It's very limited in what we see. And decisions were made in the storytelling, to say well, I'll only go here and I'll only see this. It'd be great to do all this other stuff, but I can't.

No I can't do that ... like ... in this particular film, well, going to see the Emperor on Coruscant was not a possibility. Psshhtt! No way I could go there. Y'know I kind of knew what the planet was and everything but I didn't... I didn't ... there is no planet. So Y'know I had to create it. I couldn't .. Y'know. Just physically, you can't do that. It's too big. It would take a huge, huge miniature that would be that would be vastly expensive. Y'know on all these films I had limited resources; so I was sort of saying, well, can't do that.

I was very careful not to deal with alot of the other issues that would come up, especially fashion issues and cultural issues. Y'know just enviromental issues that...I was able to do it all in a desert... that kind of looks spacey... and then I'll do a little bit in the jungle. But, Y'know I had ... I controlled my enviroments very carefully, and then...went to the next film. And now we'll do snow...and, y'know, pretty much used up every ... in the couse of these three movies ... every bit of natural terrain that looks exotic, that I could find.

But to go places, to other planets, that were truly exotic, was unthinkable.
And so you couldn't tell a story like that. Like the first three stories .. I mean the first three parts of the trilogy could never have been told using this technology. I mean, it just couldn't be done. So you just don't think about it.

I mean, you could write it as a book or something, but you .. it'd never be a movie. And now ... using digital technology, we're able, esecially in terms of fantasy films, go to places, and make them realistic. That wasn't possible before. That... it's something that was a literary idea. And most science fiction is literary in nature, it's perfect for a book, but it's not ... very good for cinema. It's very easy to create those magical worlds in language. It's very hard to create them ... in a realistic way on the screen... and make them believable. And, the one thing that digital effects have allowed us to do, is to create these alternate realities, in a believable fashion. And tell more fantastic stories, than we were able to do before. Which is, y'know, great for the people trying to put these things into a cinematic medium.

The bold section in the italics is the most important area for Low-budget Indies.
1) Find your limitations, whether financial or technical, and write/shoot within them.
2) Control where the characters go and what is seen, don't build more than you need.
3) It's great to want to do lots of other stuff, but being limited by finances or technology, don't write it in.

It worked in Star wars, he had to keep it tight and personal, because it allowed him to trim expenses. But I think it was why it worked best. You might need a wide-shot or three, but if over-used, it pulls you out of the story.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Do You Love Obama?

In other news, if you love Obama, then now you can truly love obama.

My niece is dating someone who works in an adult store, who told me about this. I just had to look it up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

SAG pulls plug on Indy stoppage waivers

SAG pulls plug on stoppage waivers
Suspended program covered 800 productions

With a SAG strike becoming less likely, the Screen Actors Guild has announced it's pulled the plug on offering waivers to indie film producers that would allow production to continue if there's a work stoppage.

SAG made the brief announcement Friday evening, suspending a program that's covered over 800 productions in about a year.

The so-called guaranteed completion contracts provide for a producer to be allowed to continue shooting if a work stoppage occurred, in exchange for agreeing to observe the terms of whatever new deal SAG negotiates with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

The move comes on the heels of SAG national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg announcing that they've delayed sending out the strike authorization vote to explore making a run at a last-ditch round of negotiations with the congloms. Allen was nearly fired earlier in the week at a bitter national board meeting by the moderate majority with Rosenberg and his Membership First allies filibustering to block a vote.

SAG said in Friday's announcement that the national board had made the decision to suspend the waiver in a meeting Friday.

"Screen Actors Guild today announced that in light of the over 800 productions signed to Guaranteed Completion Contracts, SAG’s national board of directors has determined that the GCC’s have served their purpose and has decided to discontinue offering GCC’s," the announcement said. "Screen Actors Guild will continue signing independent productions to the terms of the 2005 Codified Basic Agreement for Independent Producers."

The waivers were granted solely to non-AMPTP companies. [more]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Late Night Film Festival

I swear I've seen porn that boring before. I know I've seen non-porn movies that were that bad, yet I wanted to see it through to the end (must be some masachistic streak).

At least it's not the kind of porn that makes you run screaming for the brain bleach.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ice Storm Inbound

There's nothing to be done about it, not to mention the snowstorm following it.
So I borrowed a selection of DVD's from the library.

Rush Hour 3
The Bank Job
August Rush
The Great Debaters
December Boys

Hopefully, I'll have reviews ready soon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Every once in awhile I come across a term that works, rather than because people have created a term to be lazier in writing or because they transposed letters.

Here's one such instance of it working.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Resolution!

This year's resolution is to write and film* a short. Even if that short is only a minute. Hopefully, I'll do something more than that, but I've established the minimum.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

Well it can't be much worse than the last one. I'll do a Resolution later.