Thursday, October 20, 2005

[Script] Energy

Another way of looking at storytelling in the movies* is that each phase of the film has a different 'energy' about it.

Taking War of the Worlds (2005) as an example (because that's where I first noticed this), you have four different types of energy in the story. The move from the normal domestic set up to the full on terror of the invasion is almost unnoticeable. The transition between the two happens in a bravura 15 minutes set piece involving lightning strikes and a stolen car. That full on terror of being pursued is sustained for what seems like a full hour. But then there is a noticeable gear change when Tim Robbins arrives in the film. All of the action becomes confined to a single location and the emotions darken towards paranoia and despair.

After finally emerging from this location, I was almost begging the film to do something different - and it obliged by shifting first into taking the attack to the aliens and then into daylight.

The trick, I think, is to be aware of the emotions and mood you're generating & how the audience feel about that. However, what to do about it may well depend on a case-by-case basis.

*I think this applies much more to films than television because the film is designed to be watched in one uninterrupted burst, so you are more attuned to variations in tone and intensity. With TV, you are coming back from a commercial every seven minutes so there will be more emphasis on trying to re-establish mood and story.

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