Todd Alcott




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mimitabu writes:

"Do [romantic comedies] usually have a protagonist? what does s/he usually want? "Get back into a family"? "Find happiness"? "Get over my ex"? "Become a better person so i can be a better father/mother"? Then i thought about the best romantic comedy, Annie Hall. i thiiiink you once wrote here that it has brilliant script, but i don't believe you've ever posted an in-depth analysis of it. Does it have a protagonist? Is it Alvy? What does he want? "To get the eggs"? Is he just living out some sort of narcissistic pathology? Are there rules that Annie Hall follows that other successful romantic comedies also follow? If so, do they do away with the idea of a protagonist altogether?

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Todd Alcott
11 February 2009 @ 10:40 pm






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What would you say are the top three pitfalls of pitching? Like, what are some rookie mistakes; what should come out of a successful pitch meeting; what are some things that you should never, never do? --pirateman

So in that situation [where some stranger walks in and ruins your pitch] do you just run with it and incorporate it or argue for your original point? --johnnycrulez

If you've been reading this journal for very long, you know that I'm the last guy you should ask for advice about pitching.

I hate pitching with a passionate, burning intensity. Partly because it's a degrading, humiliating experience antithetical to good writing, and partly because I suck at it.

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Todd Alcott
16 January 2009 @ 08:48 am




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Can we see a break-down of the concepts behind the Multiple Acts school of writing? I've had the idea of three acts only shoved down my throat for years and it feels wrong to try to shoehorn a story into this particular artificial construct. Is there some magic number of acts, or do you just need to make sure your story has a beginning and an ending of some sort and build from there or something else entirely?
-- quitwriting

Completely agreed. I don't fully understand what makes one act disparate from the next. -- erranthope

I'd be interested to see this as well. -- stormwyvern

I currently define an act as when the status quo changes into something else, and those changes are irreversible...How many acts, though? My answer right now is "however many you need to tell the story". -- Kent M. Beeson

Let me answer this the best way I know, by telling a story:

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Todd Alcott
21 December 2008 @ 12:38 am




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55seddel writes: "Will you speak to why [The Dark Knight] is a melodrama and not a tragedy?"

A melodrama is a drama where "good" and "bad" are easily distinguished (the name comes from how, when the original melodramas were staged, the band played a cue so that the audience would know who was good and who was bad), events are fantastical and emotions are heightened well beyond real life. The Dark Knight fits all those descriptions quite well -- the good are good, the bad literally walk around with big distinguishing marks on them, the action is unrealistic (although grounded in a well-realized "reality") and the emotions -- both on screen and in the audience -- are greatly heightened. One of the acts even climaxes with a damsel tied to a big friggin' bomb as the hero races to her rescue. In a traditional Victorian melodrama, the damsel is tied to the railroad tracks and the hero is the Mountie who always gets there in time. The Dark Knight plays this scenario out almost to a T -- except that its hero races to the wrong address and the damsel gets vaporized.

A tragedy is, simply put, a story where the protagonist, trying to do good, causes his own downfall. Hamlet thinks identifying and killing his father's murderer will set everything straight in Denmark, and instead he winds up getting everyone killed and losing the kingdom to an invading horde. And The Dark Knight certainly contains elements of tragedy, no doubt about it. One could find parallels to Bruce Wayne in Timon of Athens or Titus Andronicus, great leaders who boldly step forward to improve the life of their city, only to find in the end they've made everything much, much worse. And, like Oedipus, Bruce Wayne seeks to discover the source of the plague on his city, only to find that it is himself.

But to call The Dark Knight a tragedy is to overlook all the other things it does so well -- it's a great superhero movie (a genre melodramatic by nature), a great thriller, a great crime drama, and a not-bad detective movie. It is all those things on a very sophisticated level, so much so that it doesn't quite have the time to develop a true air of tragedy. Better to appreciate it for what it is -- an exceptionally intelligent, incredibly dense, impeccably crafted action thriller that smartly addresses its audience in a way its genre never has before, and raises the "comic book movie" to an entirely new level of excellence.

(Many thanks to faithful reader The Editor.)

 
 
 
Todd Alcott
16 December 2008 @ 11:50 am





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berkeley314567 asks:

"I wonder if you're more interested in the structure than the actual content of the script?"

In a screenplay, there is no difference between structure and content, "actual" or otherwise. A screenplay is a collection of scenes devised in a certain way placed in a certain order to achieve a desired dramatic effect. In the same way that "character" is nothing but habitual action, the "actual content" of a screenplay is nothing but the scenes that fill its pages and the order in which they're placed. To say "I like the screenplay's structure but I don't like its content" is to say "I like that guy but I don't like the things he does."

David Mamet once said that the only question in an audience's head during a movie should be "What happens next?" The screenwriter's job is to keep the audience interested in the story. When the screenwriter does his job well, the audience gets sucked into the story and experiences the thrill of drama. When he does his job very well, the thrill of the experience is so powerful that the audience comes back again and again, even though they know how the story turns out. Spectacle may amaze and movie stars may charm, but if the screenwriter has not done his job well, the movie will still turn out bad and the audience will stay home. The Dark Knight engages the audience on a level unseen in movies lately, and does so while employing a number of bold innovations, which I will discuss as we move forward.

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Todd Alcott
12 November 2008 @ 06:31 pm






noskilz writes:

"Do you think the rapid turnaround from theater to dvd is a problem? One of my friends refers to theatrical releases as "trailers for the dvd" and I usually don't worry about catching a film at the theater unless it's the sort of thing likely to benefit from a gigantic screen and sound system."

 
I think the rapid turnaround from theater to DVD is a problem -- but apparently not for the corporations that own the movie studios.free stats

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Todd Alcott
11 September 2008 @ 03:02 am






samedietc asks:

"Do you have a theory/working principle about adaptations?"free stats

Funny you should ask; I've recently reversed myself somewhat on the subject of adaptations. I used to feel that producers were willfully obtuse, that they labor diligently to purchase the rights to popular works and then, for no good reason, fundamentally change the nature of the piece out of sheer ego or sheer perversity. I felt that, if you're going to go to the trouble of purchasing the rights to a book or play or comic or video game or bumper sticker or whatever you've spent your hard-earned money on, you might as well stay as true as possible to the source material -- I felt that there had to be a reason why the original is popular, and the movie had to address that or else it would fail.

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Todd Alcott
20 August 2008 @ 11:30 am






With regards to yesterday's animated discussion of prologues:free stats

I was in my local video store the other day. I found a copy of Oliver Stone's 2004 bio-pic Alexander for $3. My wife is a sucker for ancient Greek history and I'm a sucker for biographical drama and I said "that's my price!" and snapped it up. I took it home, put it in the machine, and what do you know? It starts with an elaborate prologue! About the history of ancient Greece!


 
 
 
Todd Alcott






My son Sam (6) is a natural-born movie buff, and that is a good thing. His younger sister, Kit (5), not so much. Sam wants to know how movies are made, how effects (both narrative and special) are achieved, how "they get it to look that way." Kit is attracted to characters.

I've tried to carefully manage my kids' exposure to movies, not so much to keep them ignorant of subversive material but to present a canon: Star Wars movies are good, Barbie movies are not. Justice League is good, The Wiggles is not. Pixar is exceptionally good, other studios require a more project-by-project assessment. The purposed end result of this cultural editing is that, when they become old enough to choose their own entertainment, they will be able to recognize quality over crap. I also want them to have an understanding of movie history and be able to appreciate older movies (like, you know, Raiders of the Lost Ark).

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Todd Alcott






It is 1995 and I have purchased my first PC.

A friend of mine tells me about this game Doom that is the wildest, scariest, freakiest, most addictive thing he has ever encountered. I happen across a free shareware version of the game at Staples and think "What the heck, I'll try it."

The next 24 hours or so are a blur. I'm aware afterward that my arms hurt from working the keys so frantically for such an extended period of time, but otherwise it's just me and the game.

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