October 11, 2011

Steve Kaplan Comedy Intensive seminar notes pt 3

Here it is, my lovely lumps of learning!
Part III (and the end) of the notes from Steve Kaplan's Comedy Intensive seminar. By now you probably believe what I said about it being a lot of information and the kind of thing you'll only truly benefit from by being there in person.

It's funny though how one little piece of advice may impact your writing. If you hadn't heard of the straight line/wavy line principle, would you have thought to infuse it into all your scenes? I hope when you've been watching Big Bang Theory or Frasier re-runs you've paid attention and witnessed the straight/wavy balance at play.

Alright, let 'er rip!


* The Greeks developed comedy (and tragedy?) Then the Romans appropriated it, then the Visigoths came and destroyed culture (the bastards).
* Commedia dell’Arte teaches us that a character creates plot, action, and movement.
* There are 8 comedy archetypes in Commedia. They may serve dual roles (in the categories of servant, master, or lover), but they are always the same. Drop the Harlequin in any situation and he will live up to his established nature.
Read up on Commedia and you may learn about character archetypes that you can use in your own writing.
* Characters are a closed universe. Use a small number of people to tell story.
* Have a duo with different character types. One should be smarter, higher status. Don’t fall into the trap of making your characters essentially the same. People aren’t in real life.
* Problems are GOLD!
* Crazy characters are joyful and optimistic. If they’re depressive, it won’t work.
* Groundhog Day has 6 acts. Recommended read: Groundhog Day script, second draft.
* Character needs a big hole to throw themselves into at the start.
* How to create a comic premise:
* Think of something that would not or could not happen.
* Ask yourself, what happens next?
* Once your premise is established you cannot tell another “lie”. Blake Snyder called this ‘Double mumbo jumbo’. If you have gotten your audience to ‘believe’ in a world of aliens, don’t add a talking shark halfway through. Don’t push the audience’s suspense of disbelief too far or you lose them.
* Your theme can be a question. ‘What’s the nature of being a kid?’ ‘How can you play God without becoming the Devil?’ etc.
* Follow the goal! No tangents. And don’t fragment reality for the joke’s sake. Your character is a ‘real’ person so don’t bend them to the joke. Bend the joke to them.
* Want to keep that joke? Simple! Just have another character doing it.
* Your protagonist needs to go through the impossible situation.
* Characters are brought on through theme or need.
* Premise in the engine – it starts everything. Theme is the rudder.
* The BIG DECISION – between two equal choices (two bad or two good).
* Characters determine events and structure. NOT the other way around!
* COMEDY PARADIGM (Comic hero’s journey):
- Man thinks his “out of balance” life is the norm.
- Fate/premise intervenes
- Man attempts to return to his norm, but in the process discovers a new norm; one that’s more balanced.
* Make the story believable for the character’s age.
* Keep friends/allies/the girl close physically. If your protagonist is trying to become the president and trying to win the girl, he should be with the girl and going after her as much as possible.
* Resist turning your protagonist into a true hero until the end (or kill the comedy).
* If a character is acting irrationally (being a straight line – look at Steve Kaplan Comedy Intensive seminar notes part II by scrolling down), you need a wavy character present to provide comedy, OR change the irrationality to a human response.
* Steve’s advice for overcoming writer’s block? Write the crappiest thing you know. You can’t fall any further – everything will be better after that.

Well, that's all folks. I hope you've injected your funny bones with all this juice, so you can write something that's not only funny, but well-written. 'Cos I am so sick of inferior comedies I will pay you to make me laugh (at least the $15 at the cinema).
Put something of yourself into your film or TV show. Don't make just another sitcom or blockbuster. Infuse your experiences, parts of real people, your personality and past, and that little something extra that will make people remember your movie long after the credits roll.

Next time on Screenwriters Anonymous I bring highlights from Scriptchat about writing action films, which will be followed by vital advice on writing a good pilot spec script from the all-knowing brains of TVWriterChat.

Until then, get watching comedy and seeing Steve's principles in action. Will you spot a metaphorical relationship, a protagonist who only becomes a hero at the end, or a scene where the familiar is put into the weird?

Feel free to comment and tell me if these pointers have improve your writing or ability to analyse comedy.

Screenwriters Anonymous - where everyone's secretly hoping you'll succeed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment