What is Substance?



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  • #16

    Substance is something you take with you.

    What is substance to one person may be BS to another. I think most writers, producers, and directors attempt to include something of substance in their work. It only becomes substance to those who are infuenced by it or already believe in it.

    How and what makes the story enternaining, with or without substance, is style.


    • #17
      Re: Substance


      You answered both your own question and your "intellectual challenge."

      I have to challenge your assumption about actors. Maybe not some Hollywood bimbos and beefcakes. But good actors, au contrare, they are trained to do the very things you were talking about added to the natural instincts required. Don't ever underestimate their contributions. Without them and the rest of a good team, as a screenwriter, you have no way to bring your story to life. They are not robots and can bring brilliance and things you never even knew were there to your work.

      Who but a extreme movie buff, student or another writer is going to sit around reading screenplays?

      Thanks for starting the thread. I will step out now and make room for others.



      • #18
        Re: Substance

        I almost edited that part of the post. I just knew someone was going to jump on that one :lol

        I agree. I was thinking of beefcakes and bimbos at the time of my post. You're quite right that actors and actresses can bring a lot to a character. However, I still think us wacky writers make more of the weird observations on life than the average actor.

        Yes, I need to step down too. I've spent my 2 cents and then some. I'd like to hear what others have to say.



        • #19
          Re: Substance

          Hey! Without Bimbos or Beefcake there would be no "B" movies! Get it? "B" like in bimbos and beefcake!? :rollin

          That joke was NOT an example of substance.


          • #20
            Re: Substance

            Wow, I'm flattered that such an interesting topic started out with Tom quoting one of my previous posts.

            Now, I'd like to weigh in on this a little, though most of what I would say has already been written:

            First off... Tom, I'm glad you explored some of the substance of Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and American Pie. One of the reasons those films were so good, so well received (by audiences and critics) and DID transcend their genre is because they all had a degree of substance that many of their knock-offs don't. The same can be said for Pulp Fiction. One of the reasons the Pulp Fiction wannabees don't quite cut it (for me at least) is because the filmmakers who have copied its "style" fail to realize that the title Pulp Fiction itself was a bit of a misnomer, considering that the story explored the deeper themes of redemption and loyalty and was really anything but "pulp".

            Personally, I think substance is tied in pretty closely with theme... HOWEVER, there's much more to it than that. Someone (Strange Mind?) mentioned "moments" in a film. Those moments may be quiet moments of reflection or moments of realization or revelation, but they're always recognizable as bringing something a little deeper than the "surface" to the experience of watching the film. This is actually very striking in the original Rocky. That film is built on those "moments". Moments of doubt, moments or reflection, moments of agony, moments of triumph (just think of Rocky at the top of the steps). Human moments. Those moments seem to contain something that is more valuable than all the cgi and all the camera tricks (though many great moments in films are also beautifully shot as well) in the world. Especially if all you have in a film are cgi and camera tricks. I agree with Crash here... The Cell could have been SO much more than it was. Same with Cast Away (oh, what they COULD have explored...).

            Tom, you asked a question about how to get your theme across without being preachy. Personally, I think the answer is to explore those very human moments that are UNIVERSAL. All human beings have hopes, dreams, fears, foibles, neurosis, pet projects, passions, addictions, loves, hates, etc., etc... Explore those aspects of the human experience that we can all identify with. Don't be too anxious to try to get a point across. This is one of the reasons, I think, that movies like Pay it Forward and (perhaps) Family Man fail. Because the message in films like that seems to be "if we all acted like THIS (whatever this may be) we'd all be better off". Phooey!! I act like myself. No one else. Explore human drama, but don't try to get across too many "conclusions" or "solutions" in your work. Otherwise you invite the inevitable human stubborness to surface (another VERY human trait). If you explore the inevitable consequences of greed in your film (a la Treasure of the Sierra Madre or A Simple Plan)... fine. Greed is something we all experience, and the consequences are usually some variation of a disaster. However, don't come out and tell me "you're way too greedy. You shouldn't be so greedy. In fact, you should be altruistic and philanthropic and give away more than you receive"... because my immediate reaction is to respond with a "F uck you!!! Who do YOU think you are, buster". That's the difference between exploring a very human trait and being preachy. That's my take anyway. I hope it gives ya something to think about.


            • #21
              Re: Substance

              I would've replied sooner, but I was waiting to see if anyone else was going to jump on this thread and I didn't want to go into debt. I only have so many pennies, y'know.

              Your quote off another thread was great. It got me thinking which is why it kicked off this thread. Good writing makes you think. Hmmm. Maybe that goes along with substance?

              Rocky is a great example of "moments." Erin Brokovich has a lot of "moments". The entire tone of Erin's character was set right at the start with her swearing about breaking a nail and getting a parking ticket. People can relate to being pissed about getting parking tickets and I know women don't like to break a nail (my girlfriend made that very clear to me a week ago).

              I'd also raise the spectre of is the substance good? The message of the substance may be of a content or viewpoint that makes the substance bad. I'd bring up "Fight Club." A great film with lots of substance. The first time I watched it, I wanted to boycott the studio for making it. The substance all focused on, are Americans sheep? If you don't believe me, listen to the beginning Voiceover. Really hear what the writer is saying (BTW It's an example of a truly powerful writer's voice that made it to the screen). I was offended. I thought the substance was bad. I told friend's that were thinking about watching it to avoid it like zits before a date. (Sidenote: Since then, I've been having second doubts about the validity of the writer's statement. He may have really been onto something there based on my observation of a group of guys that tried to reenact Fight Club immediately after seeing it. Real scary! Americans are sheep? Hmmm. Sad. I'm starting to think that many of them are.)

              "Explore human drama, but don't try to get across too many "conclusions" or "solutions" in your work. Otherwise you invite the inevitable human stubborness to surface (another VERY human trait). " by Tony

              Great quote. It relates to my own opinions and solidifies them.



              • #22
                Re: Substance

                Well "substance" is one of those abstract terms applied to art that just to use, someone has to define and explain in order to convey what they are saying. I think does a work have meaning, does it contribute to or explore or illuminate the human condition and if so how and why?, well that maybe means more.
                Mileage may vary.