Author Topic: Scene construction  (Read 5532 times)

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SoNowThen

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Scene construction
« on: July 24, 2003, 11:12:39 AM »
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This is a bit weird, but it's something I'm interested in, and would like to hear all your thoughts...

this is a quote from that essay in the summer reading thread:
"In the scene just following the one wherein Jimmy and Rose are figuring out "how to do this," Claudia, their daughter, whom we suspect has been molested by her father as a child, says to her date, Jim Kurring, "let's not lie, let's not be those people who have no guts to say what is real, let's make a deal not to do that stuff that maybe we've done before...." It is a deal to learn from the past, and then to let it go: that is the structure of Magnolia's lesson in how to do good. Help others--Learn from your mistakes--Don't do what you already know is wrong. Of course, as simple as it sounds, it is not so easy. As soon as Jim and Claudia agree to enter into this brave new world, Claudia says something that shocks Jim, she apologizes, he apologizes, "I didn't mean...," "Sorry," "No, I'm sorry," and they back away, retreat into their safety zones. This retreat seems safer, more comfortable, because it risks nothing--this is how we all tend to live. "

I think this is a great breakdown of this scene (one of my fav scenes ever). Now my question is this: do you think PTA planned all this out beat by beat with motivated progressions and logical decisions in an almost mathematical process to achieve the best "drama"... or do you think he was welled-up with emotion and just sat down and banged the scene out as it came, then gave it to some amazing actors who made it sing?

I guess what I'm saying is, when I write, sometimes I figure out a scene as I described in the first example. Everything is planned down to a spot, every word is weighed, and over-thought to death. Sometimes this workshopping can produce some very intelligent scenes that hold a movie together. But sometimes I just do the second example, and do one write-through as it comes into my head, and never re-write it. This almost never works, and most of these have to be thrown out. But the ones that do work... they're light years better than anything else.

So does PTA have this all balanced out, or is that just the critics picking something apart and giving reasoning to it, when he did something instinctively?
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

chainsmoking insomniac

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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2003, 11:20:57 AM »
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We may never know man.  My gut tells me he vomited this scene out, just an outpouring of things he was feeling at the time...but even if I'm wrong, who really cares?  The end result is what it is, and it's so beautiful.  
I really like the way she broke that scene down also, this essay is just fucking great to read.  I thought it was funny how she cited all these critics fumbling over what to make of Magnolia...one critic reduced it to a movie about SOUND. I like when she basically says Magnolia is a movie where the end result isn't a traditional conclusion, but a basket of emotions that leave the audience to draw their own conclusions.
"Ernest Hemingway once wrote: 'The world's a fine place, and worth fighting for.'  I agree with the second part."
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"Have you ever fucking seen that...? Ever seen a mistake in nature?  Have you ever seen an animal make a mistake?"
  --Paul Schneider, All the Real Girls

subversiveproductions

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Scene construction
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2003, 11:50:47 AM »
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man, i'm struggling with this same thing right now.  i'm working on a script that is very personal and emotional, but at the same time, i'm trying to measure out each scene and connect all of these various threads so that they have the maximum impact and meaning without spelling everything out in some cheesy monologue or something.  i come against this same conflict in literature all the time.  as you read something several times you uncover all of these various layers of meaning, and i've always struggled with trying to figure out whether the writer intended to provide all of these layers, or if that's just the reader interpreting a story through their own "filter" of personal experience and what not.

we would always bring this up to one of my english teachers in high school who was really big on analyzing rhetorical devices to lend further meaning to a reading, and he would always say the same thing: "whether they intended for this to have any meaning or not is irrelevant.  the important thing to realize is that it does have meaning and to learn to incorporate that into your own writing (or filmmaking.)"

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SoNowThen

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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2003, 12:10:10 PM »
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Hmm, what I wanna get at is not whether we should care about how he did it, but how should we do it...

Should we try and pepper every single scene with beat after beat of thought-out-planned-out connectors, or just write from the heart, hope it's good, and let the critics pick it apart and explain it?

I especially wonder how JD Salinger did it in Catcher, because the more i read it, the more I find things... but did he consciously put them there, or did they come out of the beauty of his work, rather than him pre-planning to put them into his work...?
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

chainsmoking insomniac

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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2003, 12:24:59 PM »
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Quote from: SoNowThen
Hmm, what I wanna get at is not whether we should care about how he did it, but how should we do it...

Should we try and pepper every single scene with beat after beat of thought-out-planned-out connectors, or just write from the heart, hope it's good, and let the critics pick it apart and explain it?

I especially wonder how JD Salinger did it in Catcher, because the more i read it, the more I find things... but did he consciously put them there, or did they come out of the beauty of his work, rather than him pre-planning to put them into his work...?


This is the predicament, IMO.  Or deeper still, do we gauge our writing on what the critics will think later on?  Should it even matter?  P.T. had to have known that critics would attack Magnolia...he must have been aware (judging from the current fare of cinema at the time) that his baby was very unconventional and controversial, right?  So I think it boils down to passion, man.  Plain and simple.  Leave the majority of analytical thinking to those fucking critics, who don't write anything from the heart anyway. :)
"Ernest Hemingway once wrote: 'The world's a fine place, and worth fighting for.'  I agree with the second part."
     --Morgan Freeman, Se7en

"Have you ever fucking seen that...? Ever seen a mistake in nature?  Have you ever seen an animal make a mistake?"
  --Paul Schneider, All the Real Girls

SoNowThen

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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2003, 12:29:46 PM »
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oh, don't get me wrong, I like it when critics spell things out like that. I enjoy reading a well thought out critical analysis. But it's funny, when they point out to a writer the themes of his work, he is usually surprised by what they find. I guess I think it's mostly subconscious, at least on some level...
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

chainsmoking insomniac

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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2003, 12:32:17 PM »
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Definitely.  And I wouldn't confuse the girl who wrote this essay with 'critics'.  She's taking apart his work, in-depth, and drawing very insightful conclusions, whereas the critics who's comments she cited merely glanced at this film, and didn't take time to take it apart level by level.  That's in my humble opinion, anyway.
"Ernest Hemingway once wrote: 'The world's a fine place, and worth fighting for.'  I agree with the second part."
     --Morgan Freeman, Se7en

"Have you ever fucking seen that...? Ever seen a mistake in nature?  Have you ever seen an animal make a mistake?"
  --Paul Schneider, All the Real Girls

Newtron

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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2003, 01:05:42 PM »
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Did no one do English in school?

It's simple structure, introduce and expand. In narrative form what occurs, according to the ambition of the writer, is less mechanically structured than driven by the instinct of the writer. This instinct is not so far removed from technical skill in thematic balancing that it needs to be separated from what you identify as mathematical precision. Basically, in this case, PTA must obviously have a great understanding of what's going in the story, and being faced with a three-hour epic to keep alive, he structured it in a way that would create a multitude of layers and relationship not only within each scene but between them. Like all good movies are supposed to do.

What you're pointing out is good writing. If you don't know what you're writing about, or how to write about it, this attempt to intellectualize a natural process is going to quickly make a mimic out of you.

SoNowThen

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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2003, 01:15:36 PM »
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This is what I'm asking -- what makes truly great writing? Must one understand why one does every little thing, or can one trust taste and instinct  to the point where the writing will take itself to a new level?

Because some of the shit that the greats put into their work is pointed out by some wonderful critics, and the writer himself was not aware that such threads were there. Upon being pointed out he will agree that they certainly are there, but that he was not consciously aware of them at the time of writing.

I'm not trying to figure out a formula here, I'm just musing...


EDIT: also, I was thinking about this because certain things work better or worse given the medium. You can make some wonderful observations about people in an article, but those same observations might be boring in a film because of the need for some kind of drama or conflict. So sometimes we have to take a scene that we write that we know is good, and cut or change it to better serve the story, thus making the process mathematical, in terms of balancing things out and weighing what is needed and logically creating it. I equate this to have really great deleted scenes in a film.
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

md

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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2003, 01:51:52 PM »
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write from the gut

then iron it out

a great man once told me that it is impossible for the director to show truth within a scene, he can only guide the viewer to find the truth within himself
"look hard at what pleases you and even harder at what doesn't" ~ carolyn forche

SoNowThen

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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2003, 01:53:55 PM »
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Quote from: md
a great man once told me that it is impossible for the director to show truth within a scene, he can only guide the viewer to find the truth within himself


I like that very much.
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

jokerspath

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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2003, 03:31:39 PM »
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In David Rabe's notes on his play Hurly Burly (a brilliant piece of writing, and a damned good film in my opinion) he talks about how he wrote it out and found the meanings and themes later, which really dissapointed me.  Then again, it is possible his subconcious[sp] has him writing seemingly random scenes or dialogue because there is an inherent structure and logic to it all.  Its a very tricky subject...

aw
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SoNowThen

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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2003, 03:35:03 PM »
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that's great that he admitted it, though.

'cause I'm thinking maybe I'm hurting my writing by forcing myself to constantly think every single thing through before I write it.

same with my directing (through visual choices). I think especially my directing...
Those who say that the totalitarian state of the Soviet Union was not "real" Marxism also cannot admit that one simple feature of Marxism makes totalitarianism necessary:  the rejection of civil society. Since civil society is the sphere of private activity, its abolition and replacement by political society means that nothing private remains. That is already the essence of totalitarianism; and the moralistic practice of the trendy Left, which regards everything as political and sometimes reveals its hostility to free speech, does nothing to contradict this implication.

When those who hated capital and consumption (and Jews) in the 20th century murdered some hundred million people, and the poster children for the struggle against international capitalism and America are now fanatical Islamic terrorists, this puts recent enthusiasts in an awkward position. Most of them are too dense and shameless to appreciate it, and far too many are taken in by the moralistic and paternalistic rhetoric of the Left.

jokerspath

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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2003, 03:39:06 PM »
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Quote from: SoNowThen
that's great that he admitted it, though.

'cause I'm thinking maybe I'm hurting my writing by forcing myself to constantly think every single thing through before I write it.

same with my directing (through visual choices). I think especially my directing...


I guess I would just try to achieve a happy medium: natural, thoughtful progressions with layered meaning(s).  Ambiguity can be good, but overdone, heavy-handed symbolism and all that can just totally show you as being a phony writer.  Unless you do it well I guess...

aw
THIS IS NOT AN EXIT

atticus jones

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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2003, 08:22:44 PM »
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there is form................................there is freedom

in form you remind others that they have seen this before

in freedom you reveal the depths of something one may not know or may have forgotten

i write furious uncensored salt in the wound truth
for a moment in the process it is all i know or care about

if the truth i find fills 180 pages then so be it
see truth doesnt have a page count

the raw guts of my love i then shape
to hopefully delight in a reminiscent curious way
often times it shapes itself
the subconscious is a mighty warrior for truthtelling

there will be layers of course
for truth is simple and complex
everchanging yet always the same
a paradox

will i know every related string in the tapestry
sometimes yes and often no
yet if my cloth holds both air and water
laughter and tears
if my cloth endures both fire and earth
criticism and scholarly review
then it is good

in the simplest expression of goodness
it balances discipline and freedom
choice and duty
love and fear
me and you
my cause is the cause of a man who has never been defeated, and whose whole being is one all devouring, god given holy purpose

 

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