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An Error of Comedy? (1 Viewer)

qwertyman

WF Veterans
An acquaintance, liked a short story of mine and asked me to write the screenplay.

He had just been accepted at a film school and knew that he would be required to produce a fifteen minute film by the end of the first year. As it turned out the story was not feasible within the tight budget available.

Maybe if we had cut the Hungarian Revolution it would have stood a better chance.

I got the message and as an alternative I wrote a budget screenplay. There is a cast of three, with interchangeable sexes (I mean by that all three parts could be played by either men or women or any combination thereof.)
There was only one interior location, with minimal props and set dressing.

The trouble is - it is a comedy!!! - And I am having second thoughts. Am I doing the right thing?

(I could post it but it is 1600 words)
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
how can we tell if you're doing the right thing, or not?... what could be 'wrong' about what you're proposing to do?... why should comedy be a problem, if that's where your quandary lies?
 

qwertyman

WF Veterans
Appologies, I should have gone on to say, that comedy on film needs the highest quality of acting to succeed. This piece is static (one room) and relies heavily on timiing and pauses. I am presuming that the actors available will be amateur.
The screenplay was conceived to provide a challenge and a showpiece for the Director I might not be doing him a favour.
 

qwertyman

WF Veterans
Dark.
Thanks for the reply.
Do you think that dark is easier. I don't mean for the Director; for him it's meant to be a test, but for 'church hall' actors?
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
the first requisite for successful comedy is not the cast or director... it's the need for the highest quality of talent and skill on the writer's part!... writing good comedy, like acting it, is much harder to do than writing action or drama...

so, instead of worrying about who's going to direct or act in it, you should only concern yourself with whether you can write good comedy... if the writing's good enough, effective acting and directing can follow... from what you're saying, it seems you have a much lower opinion of directors and 'church hall' actors than of your own writing abilities... but the best writers will inspire and enable all who come after, in the production process...

and many of our finest actors and directors got their start in those 'minor league' arenas you seem to be disparaging...
 

qwertyman

WF Veterans
Mammamaia said:
writing good comedy, like acting it, is much harder to do than writing action or drama...
I agree, my question is - am I starting from a bad place in offering a comedy?
I think you have provided the answer. In order for a comedy screenplay to succeed you need a brilliant screenplay and then brilliant actors and as well, a brilliant director.
Whereas with a screenplay that is not a comedy is less demanding in all quarters. (thirds).
from what you're saying, it seems you have a much lower opinion of directors and 'church hall' actors than of your own writing abilities...
I have no opinion about the ability of this Director I am just trying to do my best for him. 'Church hall actors' - come on Mamma,I have read your comments, I have always considered them valuable and honest, don't devalue the coin and tell me you don't know what I mean.
and many of our finest actors and directors got their start in those 'minor league' arenas you seem to be disparaging...
I am not recommending extermination, for fecks sake. I am asking: am I making the directors job too difficult by sending him a comedy? In my opinion capable actors are unlikely to be available. Am I wrong? I am trying to be realistic. Please be the same. This is a genuine question. I have spent a lot of time on this screenplay but I am thinking of junking it and starting again because I don't know the answer to this question:-
Should I have written a comedy screenplay for a 'Director' in first year Film School?
 
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jughead

Member
If the director understands the comic timing of the script and if the range of emotion required for the actors isn't too nuanced beyond timing then a comedy is fine. An audience will forgive a weaker performance for a great line. Drama may be easier to write in some instances because there are universal themes which isn't something that exists with a joke.

Write good jokes and make sure you communicate with the director. Make sure you read your lines out loud, even better have a couple of friends read and say them. Timing is so crucial in comedy and often what reads great on the page when read in your head falters when spoken.

The director can, to a degree, overcome the inexperience of actors by reharesing, blocking, table reading and such.

If the script calls for a great deal of physical comedy by the performer then be wary. There are very few seasoned performers who can pull off good physical comedy.

At the end of the day, if the jokes are good, tightly scripted and surprising, go for it.
 

qwertyman

WF Veterans
Thanks Jughead.
jughead said:
Write good jokes and make sure you communicate with the director.
I don't know if they are good lines but obviously I have done my best. Unfortunately communication with the Director is limited he is a long way away. How vital is this? This instance apart, does the writer normally get the opportunity to sit in on read-throughs?
If the script calls for a great deal of physical comedy by the performer then be wary. There are very few seasoned performers who can pull off good physical comedy.
That's interesting, I would have thought the subtle stuff was the more difficult. Well, there is no physical comedy in this.
At the end of the day, if the jokes are good, tightly scripted and surprising, go for it.
Of course there lies the rub, he might think it a load of tosh and bin it. Thanks for that.
 

jughead

Member
qwertyman said:
Thanks Jughead.

I don't know if they are good lines but obviously I have done my best. Unfortunately communication with the Director is limited he is a long way away. How vital is this? This instance apart, does the writer normally get the opportunity to sit in on read-throughs?

That's interesting, I would have thought the subtle stuff was the more difficult. Well, there is no physical comedy in this.

Of course there lies the rub, he might think it a load of tosh and bin it. Thanks for that.

Typically the writer does not get to sit in on read throughs for films. For TV, quite often if I am story editing or one of the senior writers on a project I will sit in so the rewrite and polish process can run more efficiently and so you can get a better understanding of how the actor will play the character. For series work this is beneficial so you can do a better job of writing to character.

With respect to the subtle stuff it is easier to direct provided the director has an understanding of how to pace comedy. The subtle turns of comedy tend to be more akin to drama performance. Broad physical comedy is difficult for actors to pull off. It is a bit like dramatic actors having to cry on camera. There are some very good actors who can't do this without looking silly.

Given the nature of your project you are likely in a position to discuss the script/jokes/pacing etc. with the director on a level that you wouldn't likely get in the real world.

I have worked with directors a long way away as well and have read lines back and forth on the phone so they have an idea of how it was intended to read.

At the end of the day, if the script is tight and the jokes work then they should be self evident to the director - and here's the rub - if the director has a good understanding of comedy.

I get the impression that your script is character and dialogue driven so just remember, brevity is the soul of wit. Set-up, punchline, move plot forward while doing so.

I have worked with a few great directors who have come up through the ranks doing drama who ended up a little lost trying to translate comedy so it can work both ways.
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
don't get your bowels in an uproar, qwerty, as my first ex-husband used to say rather indelicately! ;-) ...without my knowing the quality of those actors' and the director's talents, i could only be general in my comments, right?... so, please take them in that light and don't get mad at me for doing so, ok?...

imo, you're asking a question here that no one but you can answer with any logic... if you don't think those folks can do right by a comedy, then don't write one for them... on the other hand, if you'd like to take a chance with them and see if you can perhaps lift them to a higher plane, give it a shot...

make sense?

hugs, m
 

qwertyman

WF Veterans
[QUOTE-mammamaia]don't get your bowels in an uproar, qwerty, as my first ex-husband used to say rather indelicately! :wink: ...[/quote]
That's a problem particular to Americans - telling the difference between their bowel sounds and there vowel sounds (chuckle chuckle.)
...without my knowing the quality of those actors' and the director's talents, i could only be general in my comments, right?
I don't know either, I have to guess like you!
if you don't think those folks can do right by a comedy, then don't write one for them...
The trouble is I have already written it. If I was starting again I wouldn't write a comedy. I was on the verge of junking it and I thought I would post the question, get some general comments/advice, and then decide whether to start again or not.
please take them in that light and don't get mad at me for doing so, ok?...
I'm not mad. Well, I am mad. A little bit mad. Not, a little bit mad, with you. Just a little bit mad. Maybe a little bit more than a little bit. But not mad. Are you calling me mad? Now I'm mad!....
 
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