Genre and Theme

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  • #16
    Re: Genre and Theme

    Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
    Both Paranormal and Blair Witch have a classic horror movie theme.

    Those who trespass upon forbidden realms (really, those who seek forbidden knowledge) will be destroyed.

    The theme of the "trespass" -- the mortal who enters into the realms of the gods or violates some taboo and is then destroyed for it is a classic one.
    Do you think that the writers started out with that theme and built the story around it?

    Originally posted by nmstevens View Post

    Despite the updated epistolary style of story-telling, these works are classically constructed.
    Is the classic construct preplanned or something detected with hindsight 20/20 vision?
    Story Structure 1
    Story Structure 2
    Story Structure 3

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    • #17
      Re: Genre and Theme

      It seems very unlikely to me that someone could:

      1- Write an entire story without any idea of what the theme is.

      Then:

      2- After the story is done, discover what the possible theme is.

      Without:

      3- Going back to square one and do massive changes, cutting, tweaking, and additions.
      "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
      - Clive Barker, Galilee

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      • #18
        Re: Genre and Theme

        Originally posted by ricther View Post
        Is it necessary that every script, or rather movie, have a theme?
        No. Nor is good dialogue or good characters necessary in every script or movie.

        - Bill
        Free Script Tips:
        http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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        • #19
          Re: Genre and Theme

          Originally posted by Timmy View Post
          Do you think that the writers started out with that theme and built the story around it?



          Is the classic construct preplanned or something detected with hindsight 20/20 vision?
          I don't know that every writer is necessarily conscious of the theme of his work. Some writers, no doubt, work instinctively.

          But I believe that, in any traditional western narrative form, at least, that theme as the term is generally used, is a fundamental aspect of any properly constructed story.

          The premise is what the story is about -- its defining problem. The theme embodies how the story comes to its resolution.

          So people say "beginning, middle, end" -- but that can really mean anything -- a guy comes in a room, crosses the room, goes out another door.

          But that's not a story, and everybody really knows that it isn't. I get up, I stand for a little bit, I sit down. Beginning, middle, end -- but no story.

          No. Defining Problem. Growing complications. Resolution. That beginning, middle, and end constitute a story. That constitutes three acts.

          The first act is the premise -- it's what you put in a log line.

          And the third act -- the resolution, is a statement of the theme (which is also, of course, foreshadowed in the first act). It amounts to an answer to the question that the first act poses.

          First act question -- what happens if you enter into forbidden territory/seek forbidden knowledge/defy the gods/defy the forces of darkness?

          Third act answer -- you're screwed.

          Statement of the theme.

          Now, it's obviously possible, since so many stories have been told using this thematic template -- going back to Frankenstein and, of course, all the way back to the legend of Prometheus, that someone might, in essence, simply use the template without really understanding the underlying theme.

          Just as one might use the three act structure without really knowing what the heck one is doing -- what it's for -- why you're using it.

          But doing something in any field of endeavor without knowing why you're doing it isn't optimal, as far as I'm concerned.

          NMS

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          • #20
            Re: Genre and Theme

            We watched the Man On A Ledge DVD this weekend. Although it's not the genre being discussed here I think it's a good example of what happens when theme is so thin it's virtually non-existent: weak dialogue; unnecessary exposition; plot points that strain the outer limits of disbelief suspension; scenes that meander; a film even solid actors can't save.

            That's the risk we take when we ignore theme.

            The thing is -- I think there was a kernel of an idea in MOAL but without attention to theme it was never allowed to orgasm, for lack of a better term.
            Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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            • #21
              Re: Genre and Theme

              NMS,

              I agree,

              I just think theme is too nebulous a word.

              I don't think the writers of, say, BLAIR WITCH thought "what happens if you enter into forbidden territory/seek forbidden knowledge/defy the gods/defy the forces of darkness?"

              I think they thought, "lets take some kids into the woods and start killing them off."
              Story Structure 1
              Story Structure 2
              Story Structure 3

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Genre and Theme

                Originally posted by wcmartell View Post
                No. Nor is good dialogue or good characters necessary in every script or movie.- Bill
                I don't understand. Are you being sarcastic?

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                • #23
                  Re: Genre and Theme

                  SNAFU,

                  He's saying you don't have to have a theme or good characters or good dialogue to write a script, the same way you don't have to use salt or pepper or fire to make a steak.

                  You can write a script or grill a steak without those ingredients. But will it be good? No.

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                  • #24
                    Re: Genre and Theme

                    I'm not sure audiences value "good" writing as much as writers do... Actually, I'm sure they don't.

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                    • #25
                      Re: Genre and Theme

                      Good movies or good writing? Because of course audiences don't care about the writing. But they care about whether the movie is good/great or not.

                      And that does start with the writing.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Re: Genre and Theme

                        Originally posted by Rhodi View Post
                        You might start with a single word or concept you wish to explore - "loyalty, friendship, greed"
                        I'd suggest that you have to go beyond a word or concept, and establish a statement or argument ("loyalty trumps self-interest" "friendship is destroyed by mistrust" "greed makes us dangerous") that the hero learns during the course of the story. He believes the opposite of the theme at the start.

                        Mazin has written about this, I think here or on his old blog.
                        ==========

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Re: Genre and Theme

                          Originally posted by Timmy View Post
                          NMS,

                          I agree,

                          I just think theme is too nebulous a word.

                          I don't think the writers of, say, BLAIR WITCH thought "what happens if you enter into forbidden territory/seek forbidden knowledge/defy the gods/defy the forces of darkness?"

                          I think they thought, "lets take some kids into the woods and start killing them off."
                          There are artists who paint who have a clear and conscious understanding of the rules of composition, who understand the golden mean and all the rest.

                          Then there are other artists who simply copy those artists, or who do it by instinct.

                          But it's a mistake to think that those artists who aren't sitting down ahead of time and thinking specifically about the rules of composition aren't nevertheless *using* the rules of composition when they paint.

                          Every successful painting is properly composed -- whether the artist has arrived at that proper composition through an analytical understanding of those rules, through instinct, or simply through imitation may be a subject of debate.

                          But a fundamental aspect of every traditional painting is that it is properly composed.

                          And a fundamental aspect of every traditional narrative motion picture has a theme.

                          Look, here's the deal with Blair Witch -- and I can tell you because I was one of a bunch of writers who got hired, in the aftermath of it's more-or-less completely unexpected enormous success to write the sequel (the script that I wrote was one of the ones that wasn't used -- more's the pity).

                          The original consists of a series of scenes that were improvised based off of written instructions that were given to the actors (actually hidden in film cans) -- so they didn't know at the beginning of each scene what they were going to find or what was going to happen. The actors actually shot the scenes, improvising it on the spot.

                          Of course, the whole point about improvisation (those who know anything about it) is that it yields a lot of stuff that's not all that good and much of Blair Witch was ultimately shaped in the editing room.

                          But the point is -- the directors certainly didn't just go off into the woods and shoot stuff. The scenes were clearly structured. The beginning set up the mythology (including the business with the killer who made his child-victims face the wall before killing them - which was paid off in the Act 3). The second act elevated the danger and the third act brought them to the damned house for the final confrontation.

                          To suggest that they're just bringing kids into the woods and just killing them is simply to ignore the clear structure of this movie.

                          Now, maybe you don't like Blair Witch. That's fine. There are plenty of people who agree with you.

                          But to suggest that it doesn't have a clearly defined traditional three-act structure is to ignore the fact -- that it does.

                          And the theme is inherent in that structure.

                          You can always argue to what extent they thought about it, in the same way you can argue about the extent to which any given artist thought about the golden mean or positive and negative space when he painted this or that painting.

                          But whether they thought about it or not -- it's there nevertheless.

                          Just as the theme is there in the structure of the story.


                          NMS
                          Last edited by nmstevens; 08-23-2012, 06:24 PM.

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                          • #28
                            Re: Genre and Theme

                            Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
                            the directors certainly didn't just go off into the woods and shoot stuff.

                            To suggest that they're just bringing kids into the woods and just killing them
                            I didn't mean to suggest that they didn't plan or that they didn't know what they were doing. Of course it has three acts and structure and all that.

                            I was just trying to say that maybe they didn't go in there trying to solve an "intellectual question" as your theme implies.

                            I'm not arguing. Just talking.
                            Story Structure 1
                            Story Structure 2
                            Story Structure 3

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