Avoiding dourness?

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  • Avoiding dourness?

    Hi there.

    I'm determined to finally bash out my passion project - an idea I've been nursing for over a decade now. I wrote one very junky draft (now lost on a crashed computer, but not much was worth retrieving) before I went back to outline it very differently.

    I'm getting happier with it, but without going into too many specifics, it is still suffering from what feels like a pervading sense of dourness. Its setting is actually very pretty and appealing, but it takes place against some unpleasant or at least morally ambiguous times. I don't want to throw the satire switch, but at the moment it just feels like heavy going at times. I'm definitely not averse to down endings (or beginnings or middles), but sometimes too much knitted-brow stuff seems to distance and ultimately lessen the impact.

    Does anyone have any tips or theories about shedding some emotional weight of an otherwise serious project? And especially some good models to consider? I suppose something like Apocalypse Now - however I don't think I want to go as surreal as it did (even the non-Redux version).

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Re: Avoiding dourness?

    If it's a passion project, I don't know. I wouldn't talk you out of a girlfriend/boyfriend unless she/he was abusive/cheating etc.

    Think of your ending, think of why you're taking us along this journey.

    No project ever gets easier, only more complicated.

    Maybe drink more vodka. It helps me.
    #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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    • #3
      Re: Avoiding dourness?

      And read all the posts on theme, characters and what not that's floating around here. A ton of wealth froma ton of knowledgeable people.

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      • #4
        Re: Avoiding dourness?

        Originally posted by 60WordsPerHour View Post
        Does anyone have any tips or theories about shedding some emotional weight of an otherwise serious project? And especially some good models to consider? I suppose something like Apocalypse Now - however I don't think I want to go as surreal as it did (even the non-Redux version).

        Thanks in advance.
        To give you some ideas, take a look at this link http://www.filmsite.org/comedyfilms.html which discusses various forms of film comedy with examples. Black or dark comedy. Spoof. Farce. Parody. etc.

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        • #5
          Re: Avoiding dourness?

          If it's a serious story, tell it seriously, and don't worry about it.

          I don't think Schindler's List would have benefited from inserting some slapstick.

          Watch David Fincher films, or Spielberg's dramas (SL, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, War Horse, etc.) -- you don't need an iota more of "lightness" in your movie than they put into theirs.

          .

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          • #6
            Re: Avoiding dourness?

            Watch David Fincher films
            Gotta say for me he's not my most-loved. I liked Zodiac the best - but Fincher does something in it that that annoyed me (and I think goes to the heart of his attempt to deal with the dourness factor): the - in my opinion - overly-played banter between the Ruffalo cop and his sidekick. However, I doubt it gave many others much pause, though.

            This is a fine point that I'm probably over-thinking, but thanks everyone for the comments. The secret is likely to be character - make them compelling enough and the audience will stay engaged.

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            • #7
              Re: Avoiding dourness?

              I sympathize with your plight. Here's my suggestion, though I don't think it is that helpful: People don't roll their eyes at dourness or melodrama when they are totally immersed in the story and characters.

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              • #8
                Re: Avoiding dourness?

                Even in the most dour of movies, audiences need a break; little moments to catch their breath or even chuckle. One reason that THE ROAD didn't connect with audiences is that there was no break from the bleakness.

                Examples:

                CHILDREN OF MEN - Contains some amazing action sequences, great snarkiness from Clive Owen, and its secret weapon - Michael Caine. Every scene with Michael Caine allows us to relax and catch our breath.

                TAKEN - Liam's overall badassness and resourcefulness keep the subject from getting too dark.

                SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - Obviously the scenes that pop in this movie are between Hannibal and Clarice. But she's never in physical danger in these scenes. It allows us to turn off "terror mode" (it rubs the lotion on its skin), and just enjoy the cleverness of the characters and the creepiness of their interaction.

                SCHINDLER'S LIST - There's a reason that arguably the most powerful Holocaust movie is not told from inside the camps. We delight in seeing Schindler outmaneuver and outsmart Ralph Fiennes. The movie shows us the atrocities of the Holocaust, but then lets us relax with Schindler who lives in relative safety.


                Two tricks jump out from that list:
                1. Characters having moments when the weight of their mission is temporarily lifted. Meaning, for right now, they're safe.
                2. Characters who are clever. The heavier the subject, the more we grin when we see the hero do something we never would have thought of.

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                • #9
                  Re: Avoiding dourness?

                  Another example is the Precious (...Push a novel by Sapphire) script.

                  I agree with Bunker. Moments to breathe, moments of safety. Both the audience and the protag need those.

                  And I apologize for being glib.
                  #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

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                  • #10
                    Re: Avoiding dourness?

                    Even in the most dour of movies, audiences need a break; little moments to catch their breath or even chuckle
                    You wouldn't happen to be suggesting that a good film is an emotional roller coaster are you?

                    That's like crazy talk or something.

                    Does anyone have any tips or theories about shedding some emotional weight of an otherwise serious project? And especially some good models to consider? I suppose something like Apocalypse Now
                    Re-watch Apocalypse Now. It's not a one note film. It has emotional weight but is also has humor and epic awesomeness. Pay attention to the characters. Sheen and Brando are the heavies. The rest of the cast add humor and other emotions.

                    Smells like victory.
                    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue

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                    • #11
                      Re: Avoiding dourness?

                      Originally posted by Bunker View Post
                      Even in the most dour of movies, audiences need a break; little moments to catch their breath or even chuckle. One reason that THE ROAD didn't connect with audiences is that there was no break from the bleakness.
                      Thanks - some good thoughts.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Avoiding dourness?

                        Originally posted by christopher jon View Post
                        Re-watch Apocalypse Now. It's not a one note film.
                        Oh, hell no. It's brilliant and multi-layered - one of the best films ever made. I meant it as a great example of heavy subject matter that doesn't come across as dour. But as stated, I don't think I could take my project along its path - my thing needs a straighter treatment.

                        Munich was brought up earlier - and actually for me it's a good example of a film that I think is overly dour and monotone. There's a lot going on, but I don't ever feel convinced or engaged by it. Same with Inception.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Avoiding dourness?

                          Reprising this - there's two Italian TV shows (both incidentally set in Sicily) that speak to this issue:

                          One is called Inspector Montalbano - and it's got a fantastic mix of light and dark. It has pure stock Italian buffoon characters, but the cases that the Inspector gets involved with normally take on a pretty dark turn and you take them seriously. I've always really admired writing that manages to pull off funny and serious together.

                          The other is The Octopus. There's not much light about this one - the main character (an anti-Mafia chief) makes Job look like a whiner. Progressively, he has absolutely everything taken from him, and you feel his pain without it ever seeming melodramatic or lazily bolted-on. It's the opposite of how I feel about something like Mystic River - which to me comes across as unearned pathos.

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