Sunday, January 31, 2010

Welcome to Film Studies!

This course will help develop a greater aesthetic appreciation for film as an art form and as a reflection of society. Film Studies will provide students with an overview of the history, theory, and techniques involved in the art of film making. Students will study the components and history of film, analyze narrative structure, and discuss cultural issues found in a variety of films. Additionally, it is a course in reading and writing about film. Students will learn how to write a screenplay, explore film genre, and participate in various activities which will culminate in their own film script project. Successful films may be given a public screening some time in June of this year, equipment and student willing.


How do we go about studying film?

Film studies is:
1. A technological history emphasizing pioneers in the film industry and film technology
2. A study of techniques that asks “What technical choices are available to film makers?”
3. A study of personalities (movie stars)
4. A study of the relationship between film and other arts (usually theatre or the novel)
5. A chronological history of classical or important films
6. A study analyzing film in relation to society
7. A study of the history of movie studios, like the famous Hollywood studios
8. A study of directors and their work with film
9. A study of genres
10. A study of issues in the film industry, such as censorship or anti-trust laws

Additionally, in this class (since it's creative writing focused) we will be writing our own treatments, short film scripts, and writing film reviews (journalism, creative non-fiction, etc).

Spring Awakening - Workshop and Performance

For those of you who are attending the Spring Awakening master class, please note that it will occur 1-3 period on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7:30. Please let your 1-3 period teachers know that you are attending. The actual performance for Spring Awakening will be held on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 11 at the Auditorium Theatre (next to Red Cross at the corner of Prince Street and Main).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Film Review - Waiting for Guffman

We are starting our unit on Film Studies today. If you have NOT turned in your full length play, please do so.

If you are planning on attending the Master Class for Spring Awakening, please turn in your money by Monday at the latest. If you are having trouble coming up with the funds, please see me immediately.

For next class (after mid-term week), please read the handout: "The Reception of Film: The Art and Profession of Film Reviewing"

There are 4 parts to a film review:
1. A short plot synopsis
2. Background information (usually about the director or major actors, but can also include cinematographer, special effects history, genre, or production).
3. A few paragraphs evaluating and analyzing the film: this can be broken down into examining the film's artistic quality, significance, entertainment & social value.
4. In summary, most film reviews end with a final statement or judgment about the film.

After watching Waiting for Guffman (directed by Christopher Guest) please write a 1-2 page review that includes the 4 parts of a film review (above). This assignment is due the first day of the new semester, Monday, Feb. 1. Use these articles to help you.

"The Handout"
Waiting for Guffman
Christopher Guest and (Christopher Guest)
Waiting for Guffman - clips (check the sidebar for various scenes)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Final Exam Today! Full Length Play Due Today!

Yep. Final exam and full length play due today. When completed, please work on Sokol or Gannon or Geva 10 minute play scripts or study for other upcoming exams or read Animal Dreams.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Full Length Play, Final Exam, Dialogue

Full length play due next week (Wednesday, Jan. 20)
Final Exam: Wednesday, Jan. 20. Please see the review below.

Dialogue: Some final points about dialogue:

1. If you can cover up the name of your characters and tell through the dialogue who is speaking, you have succeeded.
2. Short sentences are preferable in script writing. Short sentences speed up tempo!
3. Long sentences are fine in script writing. Long sentences SLOW down the tempo!
4. Match your tempo to the action, the action to the tempo.
5. Avoid generalizations and abstractions.
6. Remove "filler" phrases: such as "well,", "so,", "what do you mean by that?", "What?". If dialogue doesn't advance the plot or scene, remove it.
7. Break up long sentences in favor of short declarative ones.

Spring Awakening

Students interested in attending the Spring Awakening workshop and show, the following information is essential:

1. The Master Class costs $40 and includes a ticket to the show, a 2-hour workshop, a copy of the script, and play material, etc.

2. Our workshop will be held 2/4 from 8:30 to 10:30. The workshop promises to be very interesting. The presenters are top notch. The workshops deal with communication, suicide, and sexuality. Our workshop will also include writing for the stage info.

3. The show will be either the Wednesday, 2/10 or Thursday, 2/11 performance. We will have this date confirmed shortly (just waiting to hear from the Broadway Theatre League).

4. Checks should be made out to The Broadway Theatre League and should be turned in by Jan. 22 (next Friday) to Mr. Craddock so that he can pay The Broadway Theatre League and confirm a space in the workshop for the student.

5. Students attending the workshop and show will also gain extra credit from the experience.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Final Exam - Review

The Final Exam for Playwriting may cover the following items, please review:

The plays:

Nzotake Shange: For Colored Girls...Rainbow is Enuf
Dael Orlandersmith: Monster
Jane Martin: Talking With
Charles Busch: Psycho Beach Party; Vampire Lesbians of Sodom; Lady in Question; Red Scare on Sunset
Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman: You Can't Take It With You
Samuel Becket: Waiting for Godot, Happy Days, (Endgame)
Eugene Ionesco: Rhinoceros
The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged
William Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors
John Guare: The House of Blue Leaves
Christopher Durang: (particularly: Desire, Desire, Desire; For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Death Comes to Us All Mary Agnes, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You, The Actor's Nightmare, Titanic, 'dentity Crisis, The Life and Purpose of the Universe)
Anton Chekhov: The Seagull
Robert Harling: Steel Magnolias
Lorainne Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun
Henrick Ibsen: Hedda Gabler

Play Vocabulary:
Types of comedy: Sentimental comedy; romantic comedy; farce; satire; black/dark comedy; absurdist comedy
Types of drama: Tragedy; realism;
Aristotle's six elements of plays: plot, character, diction (dialogue), thought (theme), spectacle, song/music
Structural Unity
Inciting Incident
Major Dramatic Question (MDQ)
Major decision
The three C's: Conflict, crisis, complication
Rising Action
The dark moment/crisis
Deus ex machina
Ten minute play format
One act plays
Full length plays (2, 3, 4, or 5 act)
Cross-dressing and theatrical tradition
Generating ideas for plays
Commedia dell'Arte
The Event: (a uniquely significant moment in the character's lives)
Time lock
Moliere & French scenes
Place & setting
Sidney Poitier
Constantin Stanislavski, the Moscow Art Theatre, and Russian drama
Positive Motivation
Character flaw
A character's Ghost
need vs. desire
Creating credible characters
A Confidant

Dialogue in Action - A Few Tips

Please continue writing your full length plays.

Additionally, please read the article "Dialogue in Action" and answer the few questions below: (to be handed in next class)

1. Define "subtext". How might writers use subtext according to the article to improve their dialogue?
2. Define "beat". How do beats work in a play?
3. How might a writer provide "backstory" more effectively?
4. What is verisimilitude? How does this term create problems for a contemporary playwright using soliloquies or monologues or asides?
5. Who is a "confidant" in playwriting? What purpose did they serve in a play? Why might we avoid this in writing plays today?
6. Give some advice about writing monologues.

You are free to work on this homework if you need a distraction or break from your full length play.

--Good dialogue is precise and purposeful; a distillation of normal speech (not really normal speech)
--Characters NEED to speak in scenes--they shouldn't just hold their tongue or hope that a bad situation will go away
--Dialogue should reveal characters (characterization), provide point of view, move the story forward (plot), and allow the author to approach theme
--Dialogue is not everyday speech; it is crafted and carefully chosen
--Dialogue begins with your character's need to speak
--Dialogue is the result of well-defined character building (see entry on character below)
--Color your dialogue with details about your character's history, emotions, desires, and subconscious and conscious thoughts
--Dialogue is action taken to satisfy a need, want, or desire
--If a character doesn't say something--the audience cannot hear it
--Do not substitute stage directions for what a character should SAY
--Make your characters react to what they are HEARING (everyone listens differently and hears what someone is saying differently)
--How a character hears is just as important as what a character hears (or what a character says)
--Write exposition (backstory) to affect the present conflict (not just to provide a well-rounded character)
--Exposition should be revealed on a needs-to-know basis
--Characters should "play" off each other
--Monologues should not simply be plunked into a script; in some cases, break up your monologues to allow other characters in a scene to respond to what they are hearing

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Agenda for Monday, January 11

I will be attending a teaching seminar today. Please continue writing your full length plays. Remember that these script drafts are due Wednesday, January 20. (next week).

Additionally, if you need a break, please consider submitting (or writing a new play) for Geva's playwriting contest (see below for details). Sokol poetry and prose entries can also be worked on, as well as Gannon University poetry selections. Please use your time constructively in class. Do not cause problems or issues with my substitute please. Get your work done. I'll see you tomorrow!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Keep on Writin' & the Geva Young Writer's Showcase

Geva's Young Writer's Showcase is looking for 10 minute scripts (about 10 pages or fewer). Even if you had a play selected last year, consider submitting one of your shorter plays (or the first or second act of your longer play) to the contest. The deadline is February 3. You must include a title page with your name, full address, phone #, and even email (if you have one) (see sample handout).

Entering Geva's contest will give you extra participation credit. You may submit up to 3 plays. During class you may work on the Geva submission play. Please proofread your play before printing it out or sending it to Geva electronically. Put copies of scripts either in my drop box with the file name Geva, or print out and put in the envelope in the front of our class with your Sokol and Gannon entries.

Tomorrow is the absolute last deadline to enter the Scholastic Writing contest. Please consider doing this (but do it immediately, if you haven't done so already). Most of the short stories or poem cycles you have would be excellent choices for Scholastic.

Other than working on contests, please continue to work on your full length plays. Use your time in lab effectively please.

Finally, please turn in the character answers from last class (see blog entry below). This homework is due today.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Full Length Play Project - Spotlight on Character!

Please work on your full length plays. These are due on the 19th of January.

Today, let's take a look at the finer points of creating characters! Please read the article on "Building a Play" and answer the following questions:

1. What makes a character "credible"?
2. What must a writer understand about a character's motivation?
3. What (in writing terms) is a catalyst?
4. Explain "positive motivation". How does it work?
5. What is a character flaw? How can writers use character flaws in their writing?
6. What is a character's "ghost"? Give a famous example of one.
7. Where do internal conflicts come from? (apart from inside oneself)
8. How does "need" and "desire" create conflict in a play?
9. What can a writer do to make a character believable?
10. What is a protagonist's primary function?

The answers to these questions are due Thursday, Jan. 7.

Some character advice:

1. All characters need to have a clear motivation (this goes for fiction and poetry as well as drama)
2. Use the catalyst, background information, personality traits, desires and needs to create motivation
3. Avoid writing characters who are victims or act in ways that do not make psychological sense (i.e., if you can't explain why a character does something, then don't let him/her do it).
4. Remember, even antagonists think they are doing the "right thing" - give your character justification for his/her actions
5. Characters should be developed by characterization (what a character does, what other characters say about that character, or what a character says about him/herself.)
6. Use character flaws (particularly for your protagonist)
7. Creating a character requires empathy. If you are stuck, think about what YOU would do in a similar situation.
8. Remember: you are NOT your character. Don't be afraid to say things you don't believe or think are wrong or discuss controversial topics simply because you don't feel like you would when your CHARACTER might.
9. Take character names seriously. They often help identify the character and provide information. In a realistic play, the names should sound realistic. Save weird names for comedy or absurdity.
10. A character without an essential function does not belong in your play!
11. Remember you have an audience who needs to understand (and like...more or less) your protagonist(s).
12. In realistic plays characters can serve as each others antagonists.
13. An antagonist is a magnified aspect of the protagonist's shadow. Use the antagonist as a foil where appropriate.
14. Use supporting characters to move the plot along or express the theme of the play. Supporting characters can also be used as foils.
15. Supporting characters should not serve the same function. If two characters are exactly alike or interchangeable, remove one.

Use this advice as advice. It is okay to write the first draft of your play, then go back and really examine your characters and how they function within the play. This advice can and should also be carried over to your fiction writing!

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...