Exorcising Cliche

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Exorcising Cliche

    So I came across (fantastic) Screenplay Mechanic notes for a script I had long tossed on the rubbish pile, that features an exorcism halfway through and I chose for it to be off-screen because exorcisms are hokey and tired. I'm thinking of rewriting the script based on Mechanic's notes but he's adamant that I need to show the exorcism and herein lies my problem.

    How can I show this without devolving into hackneyed cliche? Priests chanting religious passages, the possessed person thrashing around, the demon saying hurtful things to break everyone's resolve, cries of 'fight it!' by a spouse, before the demon is eventually driven out by the spouse insisting 'I love you, baby!'

    Answers on a postcard. And by postcard I mean here.

  • #2
    Re: Exorcising Cliche

    Things to change things:

    Setting:Character:Method:

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Exorcising Cliche

      You could show it as a visual montage, which if well written can be quite powerful. I think that can be a sophisticated choice. CONTAGION does this well; they show the process of the pandemic's exponential growth without ever mentioning what its r-naught. The montage is set against energetic, threatening music.

      I've always admired it. It's truly compelling.

      There is not a single word spoken. There are interesting filming techniques that you can employ to emphasize the horror of what's happening, should you opt for light-handed directing on the page, which I tend to do.

      CINEMATIC storytelling is a great book that demonstrates effective techniques and also shows what the scene looked like on the page relative to the final filmed version of the scene.

      With a strong use of light, color (or lack thereof), contrast, and setting-- I'm sure you can come up with something quite compelling. The key is to NOT do what's been done before. Take what has been done and change it, elevate it, put a twist on it. Your job is to make it something no one has seen before but is still clearly an exorcism.
      "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Exorcising Cliche

        I should clarify my earlier post...I'm not pushing a comedic angle to the overall story.

        My point is to visualize all sorts of possible settings/plots points/character variables until you find that one "ah-ha" thing that makes it work better. If the Priest has been defrocked for pedophilia does that improve the tension level? If the priest is a minor character, there can still be a minor arc for the character.

        Is there during the exorcism a "reveal" moment? If so, is it revealing to one or more characters? Does something in the room change the direction of things? Is it heard by all the characters or just one?

        Is there any sort of payoff for something set up earlier in the story?


        ...just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks...

        R.O.T.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Exorcising Cliche

          How about showing the exorcism in progress with the trite dialogue on mute and use music. The Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" might be too obvious or humorous. Something else would be better. Could work.
          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.-

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Exorcising Cliche

            I'm gonna stick with my gut instinct and keep it off-screen.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Exorcising Cliche

              my contribution... don't think the exorcist has to be a man of God. He (or she) has to be someone who can face down a demon and take back a body
              I heard the starting gun


              sigpic

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Exorcising Cliche

                Cheers!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Exorcising Cliche

                  Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                  So I came across (fantastic) Screenplay Mechanic notes for a script I had long tossed on the rubbish pile, that features an exorcism halfway through and I chose for it to be off-screen because exorcisms are hokey and tired. I'm thinking of rewriting the script based on Mechanic's notes but he's adamant that I need to show the exorcism and herein lies my problem.

                  How can I show this without devolving into hackneyed cliche? Priests chanting religious passages, the possessed person thrashing around, the demon saying hurtful things to break everyone's resolve, cries of 'fight it!' by a spouse, before the demon is eventually driven out by the spouse insisting 'I love you, baby!'

                  Answers on a postcard. And by postcard I mean here.

                  Look, there is no one particular way to do anything, or for any particular scene to be or for any particular character to be.

                  "Priest" is not a character description, any more than "cop" is a character description, or "accountant" or "cowboy" or "truck driver" is a character description.

                  Those words simply bring a certain stereotypes to mind, the same way that certain scenes bring certain stereotypes to mind like "bar fight" or "exorcism."

                  If the best you can do, in creating a character or writing a scene is regurgitate stereotypes based on stuff that you've seen a dozen times in movies -- then honestly I don't know what you're doing in this business.

                  Or, I guess -- I don't know what you're doing trying to be in this business.

                  There are countless ways that any particular priest, or accountant, or cowboy can be.

                  And there are countless ways to do a barfight, or a chase scene, or an exorcism.

                  The key is to look at the ways those scenes have been done in the past -- and to NOT to do it those ways.

                  So how do you do it?

                  Well, first you have to answer some questions -- and question one is -- what purpose does the scene serve, dramatically and thematically in your story?

                  Whose story is it? What is that character's central problem, his internal tension/struggle, that's being worked out through the external struggle of your story.

                  How is this scene advancing the working out of that problem? The "exorcising" of the demon in this scene obviously has to track to your protagonist's "internal demon" -- whatever that is. I don't know what that is, but hopefully you do.

                  When you understand what that is -- how the "demon" in your person being exorcised tracks to your protag's central need/problem -- then you have the beginnings of understanding how this scene needs to unfold -- because the exorcising of the demon, in some fashion, is going to refer back to the that need/problem of your protag.

                  And if it's coming in the middle of your movie, presumably it's tracking to your mid-point -- that is, to your point of no return moment. So it should be serving an important structural purpose.

                  So -- what is the "demon" being exorcised? How does it relate to your protagonist's central problem -- the central over-arching problem of the story that needs solving? How does exorcising it here represent a sort of "point of no return" for your protagonist? A key decision that he (she? they?) makes that sets them on a course of action that determines all that follows?

                  When you know what the demon embodies, then you will have a clearer sense of the means and methods of the exorcism that will be appropriate -- because all of this, understand, is just made up. It doesn't have to track back to anything real.

                  Could it be a priest that does it? A medium? A psychic? A channeler? Could be anybody, using any sort of means, either one that you've researched or that you've made up out of whole cloth.

                  Back when I was story editor on a show called Monsters, we got tons of submissions that featured demons being summoned for this or that and it reached a point where I just said -- no more demons in pentacles -- none of that traditional stuff. If you want to have somebody summoning a demon you have to do it in some completely different way because that whole "pentacle" thing is just a bore.

                  And a bunch of writers came up with a bunch of different ways of conjuring demons that were much more interesting.

                  So if doing it the way that you've seen it a hundred times seems boring an cliched -- don't do it that way. Do it some other completely different way. Nobody is going to arrest you.

                  All that matters is that it "feels" real, that it has detail and gravity - and most importantly, that it connects to your story in a way that has thematic legitimacy.

                  Hope this helps.

                  NMS

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Exorcising Cliche

                    Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
                    "Priest" is not a character description, any more than "cop" is a character description, or "accountant" or "cowboy" or "truck driver" is a character description.

                    Those words simply bring a certain stereotypes to mind, the same way that certain scenes bring certain stereotypes to mind like "bar fight" or "exorcism.".

                    There are countless ways that any particular priest, or accountant, or cowboy can be.
                    Hi HM, thanks for contributing. The thing is, though, it's not an issue about writing priests (or any other character) or of how the exorcist and demon relate to the protagonist's internal/external conflict, but in the act itself. Every exorcism I've ever seen has been along the same lines with the exorcist (priest, medium, whoever) reading holy/trusted passages, demanding the demon leaves, and imploring the victim to fight it, usually topped off with a distraught loved-one crying from the sidelines and being the one thing that empowers the possessed to force the demon out. (How my eyes rolled when the much-vaunted The Conjuring had this very scene).


                    Well, first you have to answer some questions -- and question one is -- what purpose does the scene serve, dramatically and thematically in your story?
                    To show that it doesn't work, that no-one can help, that it ends badly for those who try to interfere, leaving the affected feeling isolated and helpless. It demonstrates the power of the demon, the size of the task, the growing desperation of the protag, and kicks off the ticking clock.

                    The first thing the characters do once they accept they're dealing with a possession is get the exorcists in and they find out it's not that simple.


                    Whose story is it? What is that character's central problem, his internal tension/struggle, that's being worked out through the external struggle of your story.

                    How is this scene advancing the working out of that problem? The "exorcising" of the demon in this scene obviously has to track to your protagonist's "internal demon" -- whatever that is. I don't know what that is, but hopefully you do.
                    I'm not seeing how this applies as it's the process of the exorcism itself that I'm having trouble with, seeing only cliche in how an exorcism is performed, not internal/external conflict of a character.


                    Could it be a priest that does it? A medium? A psychic? A channeler?
                    It's a group of mediums but again, I stress it's not the characters that are my issue, but of cliche in how an exorcist goes about an exorcism.


                    The good news is that I think I've come up with a novel way for this to go down. It starts off with the usual cliches (as I can't see a way around them) but have managed to play out the carnage without having to have it off-screen. However, I'm really interested in hearing your response because I don't like not understanding what you're telling me and all help is appreciated.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Exorcising Cliche

                      Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                      Hi HM, thanks for contributing. The thing is, though, it's not an issue about writing priests (or any other character) or of how the exorcist and demon relate to the protagonist's internal/external conflict, but in the act itself. Every exorcism I've ever seen has been along the same lines with the exorcist (priest, medium, whoever) reading holy/trusted passages, demanding the demon leaves, and imploring the victim to fight it, usually topped off with a distraught loved-one crying from the sidelines and being the one thing that empowers the possessed to force the demon out. (How my eyes rolled when the much-vaunted The Conjuring had this very scene).



                      To show that it doesn't work, that no-one can help, that it ends badly for those who try to interfere, leaving the affected feeling isolated and helpless. It demonstrates the power of the demon, the size of the task, the growing desperation of the protag, and kicks off the ticking clock.

                      The first thing the characters do once they accept they're dealing with a possession is get the exorcists in and they find out it's not that simple.



                      I'm not seeing how this applies as it's the process of the exorcism itself that I'm having trouble with, seeing only cliche in how an exorcism is performed, not internal/external conflict of a character.



                      It's a group of mediums but again, I stress it's not the characters that are my issue, but of cliche in how an exorcist goes about an exorcism.


                      The good news is that I think I've come up with a novel way for this to go down. It starts off with the usual cliches (as I can't see a way around them) but have managed to play out the carnage without having to have it off-screen. However, I'm really interested in hearing your response because I don't like not understanding what you're telling me and all help is appreciated.

                      What I'm saying is -- There Is No One Way -- for anything to be done.

                      Okay -- here's a big secret.

                      Posession -- I mean people actually being possessed by demons -- isn't real. It doesn't actually happen. So any means by which demons have been putatively exorcised is just stuff that people have made up.

                      Some of those ways have been depicted in movies often enough that they've become cliches. Others, by the way, have not. The fact that you don't know about them only indicates that you haven't bothered to do the work necessary to find about them. Sorry, Hard Truth. Also, additional fact -- there are many different forms of possession itself, depending on culture - and the ways and means of exorcising those demons, likewise, are highly dependent on the culture.

                      The New Testament describes Jesus exorcising a demon (or demons by taking the demons out of a possessed person and putting them into some pigs which then fled into a lake and drowned.

                      When was the last time you saw that on screen?

                      More to the point (a point I thought I made clear) -- none of this is real, and so all of this is purely subject to your imagination. The nature of the possession, the nature of what is doing the possessing, and the nature of the means by which whatever is doing the possessing is going to get exorcises.

                      It doesn't have to be a priest or priests doing the exorcising. It doesn't have to involve any member of an official religious order.

                      It could be -- as I thought I indicated -- a psychic or a channeler, or a team of psychic investigators -- that is, it could be the equivalent of a "scientific" -- or really a pseudo-scientific exorcism.

                      It could be absolutely, totally, completely, in every way conceivable -- something that no human being who have every lived on the face of the earth -- has ever seen before.

                      All that's necessary is for you to get off your lazy ass and make it up instead of just dragging some bullshit cliche that you saw in The Exorcist twenty years ago (and which filmmakers have already ripped off fifty times) off the freaking shelf.

                      If you asked me right now to come up with a way to perform an exorcism that hasn't been seen before, I could probably come up with five different ways to do it without breaking a sweat.

                      And I'll tell you another secret -- pretty much any professional writer, faced with a similar problem, could probably do the same thing.

                      That, I'm afraid, is the only secret there is. These are the creative "muscles" that you have to develop if you want to become a professional writer, because solving these kinds of story problems without resorting to cliches are the sorts of things that you'll have to be dealing with on essentially every project or assignment you tackle.

                      NMS

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Exorcising Cliche

                        Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
                        ... Posession -- I mean people actually being possessed by demons -- isn't real. It doesn't actually happen. So any means by which demons have been putatively exorcised is just stuff that people have made up.
                        So the bottom line is that no pigs or demons were harmed in the making of the New Testament. That's so good to know.
                        Just my 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

                        -Steve Trautmann
                        3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Exorcising Cliche

                          Originally posted by KitchonaSteve View Post
                          So the bottom line is that no pigs or demons were harmed in the making of the New Testament. That's so good to know.
                          And that my lazy ass sticks to bullshit cliche 'cause I'm a hapless amateur.
                          Last edited by SundownInRetreat; 01-11-2020, 04:41 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Exorcising Cliche

                            Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                            How can I show this without devolving into hackneyed cliche?
                            usually, when a scene has a fresh take on something, it's because the writer has observed a multitude of scenes and feels they can create something better

                            Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post
                            Priests chanting religious passages, the possessed person thrashing around, the demon saying hurtful things to break everyone's resolve, cries of 'fight it!' by a spouse, before the demon is eventually driven out by the spouse insisting 'I love you, baby!'
                            sorta like being a therapist here, but sounds like you have a laundry list of things you would like to change about an exorcism to make it feel original

                            I would start with a list and write the opposite -- turn it on its head
                            • preist chanting = nonreligious person reading from a google website
                              demon speech = psychical actions of chaos?
                              love one fights against spirit = stranger runs in fear?


                            probably a lot of nonsensical stuff, but you can brainstorm and come up with something and see how it plays -- just get creative
                            Ricky Slade: Listen to me, I intentionally make this gun look that way because I am smart.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Exorcising Cliche

                              This might be helpful. Exorcising exorcisms.




                              Good luck.
                              Until I can find a quote from Pope Francis regarding one licking one's butt in the Vatican I'll post this:
                              Halloween Writing Contest 2021.
                              Halloween contest 2021 - Done Deal Pro

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X