Monday, April 27, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 69 - Too Many Characters

I like to write action movies. Action means big explosions. Big shootouts. Big chases. Big ensembles. In order for the bodies to stack up, I have to litter the script with C-characters, people who can get offed in the most awesome ways, while the protagonists run onward to victory. The trick, though, is making these people recognizable to the audience, while not cluttering the script with too many speaking role bit characters.

I’ve been reworking my Roman army spec recently. The first draft had a lot of speaking roles. To give you an idea of how many characters – the script opens with two opposing armies at war which, over the course of the script, come together to battle an even greater force. Yes, many, MANY characters. ‘Backer took the lead in letting me know that too many of the characters sound the same and do not distinguish themselves from one another. I just realized how this came to be.

In dealing with ensembles, I feel compelled to make sure that most if not everyone who I drop onto the page has some sort of a speaking role. Onyx and I are both guilty of this. We put a lot of people into our scripts – more people than we need – and we try to distinguish them all. What this leads to is too many characters speaking, too many descriptions of people we aren’t supposed to remember, and too many deaths of characters we haven’t begun to care about. There’s a prime example of “too many characters speaking” in the first draft of my Roman army project; during one scene, two characters are having a debate. However, each of them also has two cronies who are always at their side. In order to justify the cronies’ presence, I gave everyone lines. What was a discussion between two people became a discussion between two people but through six people. Everyone sounded the same, because I had just swapped names in throughout the dialogue. ‘Backer was right – no character (except the main two) had a unique voice.

It’s hard juggling multiple characters, especially when many of them speak. The key, though, is balance. Who needs to be there, and who doesn’t? Who has to speak, and who doesn’t? Who is just there to die onscreen, and who has a greater, story serving purpose? Onyx and I are on the lookout for one another, letting one another know when the character count is getting too high. He suggested that I’ll probably have to cut a number of characters, and he’s probably right. At the very least, I’ll have to cut their dialogue.

True Love: Now Available with Guarantee

I went to see TiMer on Sunday night. I'm not typically a romantic comedy enthusiast, but the premise caught my eye immediately. Tribeca Film Festival's website said the line for rush tickets form an hour before the movie, so I strolled over after a nice taco dinner, 50 minutes before showtime, and was met with a daunting line. There were a good 75 people before me. Many of us went to the front to ask how many rush tickets were there (A: she didn't know, but thought there was a good chances everyone will be able to get in.) Rumor down the line was that there were about 400 seats so people were nervously optimistic. It was a pleasant spring-summer night, and most people were sharing their previous Tribeca experience cheerfully. When I got in the theater, most of the seats were taken. While I stood there staring at the full house, my boyfriend valiantly charged off to the distance (leaving me behind) and secured 2 seats on the fourth row to the side. For being so far in the front, my neck was suprisingly not soar by the end of the movie.

The film was very worth the wait. Set in an alternative LA, "TiMER" is a wrist implant that counts down to when the wearer will meet the eyes of their soul mate. While this breakthrough technology has taken the doubt and worry away from many, it has not helped Oona (Emma Caulfield), who is reaching 30 and her TiMER hasn't even started counting down (which means her soul mate is probably a bumpkin or a rebel who has not gotten a TiMER himself). While employing Leave No Rock Unturned tactic dragging every "virgin wrist" boyfriend to get a TiMER, Oona sees no point in dating someone who's already counting down, since the relationship is doomed from the start. That is, until she meets Mickey (John Patrick Amedori), a young attractive drummer who only has four months until he meets his "one". I think what makes the movie so enjoyable is that, while it brings up many interesting questions such as "would you know to know?" "what is worse, a blank timer or one that tells you you won't meet the one until you're old and withered", it never loses sight that it's a romantic comedy. The writing was funny, smooth and crisp. The side characters aren't just hanging out being talking heads either, but has their own interesting problems (my favorite is the 13-years-old brother, who reluctantly gets the implant only to see that he has merely 3 days before he meets the girl he's supposed to spend the rest of his life with.) It was easy to relate to all the characters problems and dilemmas. Tribeca described the film as "smart and delightful", and it was exactly that. My boyfriend enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

There're still 3 showings left in Tribeca!

Mon, Apr 27th 4:00pm
Thr, Apr 30th 7:45pm
Sun, May 3rd 3:30pm

Find where they're playing and watch the trailer here: