EMOTIONS: JUST A PERIFERAL LOOK

Thursday, September 23, 2010

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Through my many readings and experience in watching movies, I realize that we are influenced by emotions during our movie-watching experience. As screenwriters and storytellers, we deal with emotions; and try transport emotions that we intend to transport to the audiences. That’s where creative writers or screenwriters show their mettle and craft. When we really can define the emotion of the story, build it and transport it well to the audience, we accomplish as effective film-makers or screenwriters.


Do we know what are emotions, if we need to build it well in our stories and screenplays and movies? Also, we need to understand here, it’s based on motions that we indentify genres in movie writing or movie making.


Emotion is the complex psycho-physiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience". Emotion is associated with mood, temperament, personality and disposition, and motivation.


The English word 'emotion' is derived from the French word émouvoir. This is based on the Latin ‘emovere’, where e- (variant of ex-) means 'out' and ‘movere’ means 'move'. The related term "motivation" is also derived from the word movere.


No definitive classification of emotions exists, though numerous taxonomies have been proposed. Some categorizations include:
  • 'Cognitive' versus 'non-cognitive' emotions
  • Instinctual emotions (from the amygdala), versus cognitive emotions (from the prefrontal cortex).
  • Categorization based on duration: Some emotions occur over a period of seconds (for example, surprise), whereas others can last years (for example, love).

A related distinction is between the emotion and the results of the emotion, principally behaviors and emotional expressions. People often behave in certain ways as a direct result of their emotional state, such as crying, fighting or fleeing. If one can have the emotion without the corresponding behavior, then we may consider the behavior not to be essential to the emotion.


Neuro-scientific research suggests there is a "magic quarter second" during which it's possible to catch a thought before it becomes an emotional reaction. In that instant, one can catch a feeling before allowing it to take hold.


Robert Plutchik, professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, also a psychologist, is one person who has contributed much to the study of categorizing emotions. Robert Plutchik's psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion is one of the most influential classification approaches for general emotional responses A wheel of emotions he had created is used to illustrate different emotions compelling and nuanced. Plutchik first proposed his cone-shaped model (3D) or the wheel model (2D) in 1980 to describe how emotions were related.



He suggested 8 primary bipolar emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Additionally, his circumplex model makes connections between the idea of an emotion circle and a color wheel. Like colors, primary emotions can be expressed at different intensities and can mix with one another to form different emotions.   
  
                             
Here is a deeper list of emotions as described in Les Parrott, III, Ph.D., is a professor of clinical psychology for Seattle Pacific University, author, motivational speaker, and an ordained Nazarene minister, where emotions were categorized into a short tree structure:   
   


Primary emotion
Secondary emotion
Tertiary emotions
Love
Affection
Adoration, affection, love, fondness, liking, attraction, caring, tenderness, compassion, sentimentality
Lust
Arousal, desire, lust, passion, infatuation
Longing
Longing
Joy
Cheerfulness
Amusement, bliss, cheerfulness, gaiety, glee, jolliness, joviality, joy, delight, enjoyment, gladness, happiness, jubilation, elation, satisfaction, ecstasy, euphoria
Zest
Enthusiasm, zeal, zest, excitement, thrill, exhilaration
Contentment
Contentment, pleasure
Pride
Pride, triumph
Optimism
Eagerness, hope, optimism
Enthrallment
Enthrallment, rapture
Relief
Relief
Surprise
Surprise
Amazement, surprise, astonishment
Anger
Irritation
Aggravation, irritation, agitation, annoyance, grouchiness, grumpiness
Exasperation
Exasperation, frustration
Rage
Anger, rage, outrage, fury, wrath, hostility, ferocity, bitterness, hate, loathing, scorn, spite, vengefulness, dislike, resentment
Disgust
Disgust, revulsion, contempt
Envy
Envy, jealousy
Torment
Torment
Sadness
Suffering
Agony, suffering, hurt, anguish
Sadness
Depression, despair, hopelessness, gloom, glumness, sadness, unhappiness, grief, sorrow, woe, misery, melancholy
Disappointment
Dismay, disappointment, displeasure
Shame
Guilt, shame, regret, remorse
Neglect
Alienation, isolation, neglect, loneliness, rejection, homesickness, defeat, dejection, insecurity, embarrassment, humiliation, insult
Sympathy
Pity, sympathy
Fear
Horror
Alarm, shock, fear, fright, horror, terror, panic, hysteria, mortification
Nervousness
Anxiety, nervousness, tenseness, uneasiness, apprehension, worry, distress, dread

METAPHORS II

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2 comments
. . . Cont'd

It’s the writer/director’s prerogative to choose the symbols and symbolic action; at the same time, one shouldn’t forget that television and advertising has inculcated the present-day audiences to refuse manipulative symbols or over-earnest metaphors for want of conviction and tangibility. Metaphoric settings, acts, and objects need to be natural and drawn from the world in which the characters live. If they are portrayed as forced they seem artificial and distant.

Mostly in cinema the magic lies in the possibilities of expressing the inner experience of central characters through an array of chosen settings, objects and atmospheres. These elements function metaphorically or symbolically as channels to deeper issues. This’s the scope screenwriters have to foresee while developing metaphoric clues and settings.

An amazing example of blending metaphor into cinematic conflict is in Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993): Ada, a young, mute immigrant, arrives with her illicit daughter and her piano in 19th century New Zealand. Her intention is to marry a person she doesn’t know or probably love; and the man doesn’t much appreciate her piano either. As eventually, the piano is kept at another man’s house, the latter makes her life warm and instills internal promise and solace, and she submits herself to that man, irrespective of her husband existing.

In this particular world of the story the environment is unavoidably cruel, and love strangled by respectability, expression beyond language, and the soul connected with music and censored sensuality. How otherwise can you define a better work of metaphor?

And when characters play metaphorical roles in an allegory, the writer has to show his craft to typify each character and allocate each character with an archetypal uniqueness. These are very efficient to explain character depths and their worlds. Developing the backdrops and the conflicts typified by metaphors will help the writer-director to explain to actors how you want each to play their role and why.

Paul Cox’s Cactus (1985) portrays “the developing relationship between an angry and desperate woman losing her sight and a withdrawn young man who is already blind. The man makes refuge a cactus house, and she visits him there to see what he can tell her about her fate. The cacti are dry, hostile, and spiky, but also phallic, and the setting becomes emblematic of his predicament. In a sexually charged world, he has turned his back on intimacy and intends to survive self-punitively in a place devoid of tenderness and nourishment.”

Coming back to the basic question—metaphoric conflict—my answer is, as long as the metaphor induces the conflict or the metaphor is more inducing than anything else to provoke the conflict better, then metaphoric conflict is the choice. As a Screenwriter, I’m of the opinion that metaphor is NOT more important than conflict, in the screenplay.

METAPHORS I

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Today in my Screenwriting session at LV Prasad Film & TV Academy, one of my students, Guru, asked me an interesting question: What if there’s a ‘metaphoric conflict’ in a screenplay? Of course yes; as long as it’s a conflict, I don’t care if it’s a metaphor or not. If there’s no conflict there’s no story.

But do we really know what a ‘metaphoric conflict’ is? I told Guru I’ll write this out in my blog today; though it’s a little tiring to write amid my other screenwriting commitments.

Do we really know what metaphor is? And conflict?

The roots of metaphor are in storytelling. As far back as AD 400 storytellers would explain information and philosophies to villagers by way of stories, using words to inspire the imaginations of the people who rarely saw anything beyond their village. Even Jesus spread his doctrines mainly through parables (metaphoric stories).

Metaphors draw resemblances. Tiger: a ferocious person; Pussycat: a gentle person. Metaphors paint pictures with words and so add vigor to a screenwriter’s range to picture-making-words or picture-writing craft.

Metaphors state that one thing is another thing. ‘Arun leaps around playfully, a young colt in spring’ or ‘he’s is a tough old battleship, battered but still floating’ or ‘there’s mummified twinkle in the dead man’s hand’. You’re not actually saying that the woman is a horse, the man is a boat or the twinkle has gone through the ancient mummification process, but the equivalence still work.

In talking, if a picture paints a thousand words, in screenwriting a metaphor paints a thousand pictures. It’s a word or a phrase which provokes imagery in the mind. The more you make readers ‘picture’ themselves in a situation, the easier it is to draw them into the heart of your story.

Metaphors which have become part of everyday language like “the ball rocketed into the back of the net” are known as dead-metaphors. This term may suggest lifelessness, but in practice, such metaphors, like a set of juggler’s balls, remain in the air.

MIXED METAPHORS combine two separate metaphors into one bold (or somewhat peculiar) statement. This blend of ideas even has its own unofficial name: a mixaphor. If each part of the ‘mixaphor’ relates to the other and if you don’t over do it, it’s worth experimenting with the concept:

Beauty:

For so many years
I was good enough to eat:
The world looked at me
And its mouth watered.

Brunch – (Breakfast + Lunch)
Brangelina – (Brad Pitt + Angelina)

EXTENDED METAPHORS: An extended metaphor occurs when writing a series of metaphors, one after the other, throughout a piece of story telling. Poets seem to like them, as do lyricists. Here’s an example from Christina Rossetti, where sleep is used as metaphor for death:

Sleeping at Last

Sleeping at last, the trouble and tumult over,
Sleeping at last, the struggle and horror past,
Cold and White, out of sight of friend and of lover,
Sleeping at last.

No more a tired heart downcast or overcast,
No more pangs that wring or shifting fears that hover,
Sleeping at last in a dreamless sleep locked fast.

Fast Asleep. Singing birds in their leafy cover
Cannot wake her, nor shake her the gusty blast.
Under the purple thyme and the purple cover
Sleeping at last.

There are allegories to cousin metaphors.  It’s actually the ‘next step’ to an extended metaphor. This often gives a moral message by telling the story under the pretext of another subject. Many fairy tales and fables are examples of allegory.

The best way to use metaphor (of any kind) in screenwriting is in passing, rather than focusing too much on its explicit creativity. More often than not, the more you point the reader to an obvious metaphor, the greater the chance of it coming across as joke or even parody of itself. So, like most techniques it’s better to use metaphors wisely and sparingly.

(To be continued  . . .)

SHORT FILMS II

Monday, September 20, 2010

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Block, Mitchell: No Lies (USA 1972, B&W, 16 Minutes). It looks like a documentary, as the director crudely presses a raped woman for an account of her misfortune, but it’s all acted and for a purpose.

Bunuel, Luis: Un Chien Andalou/The Andalusian Dog (France, 1928, B&W, 20 Minutes). A surrealist experiment in shocking imagery, undertaken with Salvador Dali that avoids any linear story logic.

Davidson, Alan: The Lunch Date (USA, 1990, B&W, 12 Minutes). A deceptive encounter over a salad between a woman and a homeless man at Grand Central Station.

Deren, Maya and Alexander Hammid: Meshes of the Afternoon (USA, 1943, B&W, 13 Minutes). Seminal work in which the mother of American experimental cinema plays a woman who dreams of being driven to suicide by loneliness and adversity.

Enrico Robert: An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge/ La Rivière du Hibou (France, 1962, B&W, 27 Minutes). A soldier in the American Civil War makes a miraculous escape from hanging—or does he? A fine film and a veritable catalogue of judiciously used sound and picture techniques. From a tale by Amrose Bierce.

Godard, Jean-Luc: Tous les Garçons s’Apellent Patrick/All the Boys Are Called Patrick (France, 1957, B&W, 21 Minutes). Two girls find they are dating the same man.

Lamorisse, Albert: Le Balon Rouge/The Red Baloon (France, 1956, Color, 34 Minutes) A lonely boy in Paris makes friends with a balloon, which begins to reciprocate his attentions. No words.

Marker, Chris: La Jetée/The Jetty/The Pier (France, 1962, B&W, 29 Minutes). A film almost entirely in stills about a survivor of World War III, whose childhood memories allow him to move around at will in time. One shot has motion, and Georges Sadoul rightly says “the screen disarmingly bursts into sensuous life.”

Metzner, Ernö: Überfall/Accident/Police Report/Assault (Germany, 1928, B&W, 21 Minutes). A man wins some cash in a beer hall, but it brings him nothing but bad luck. Almost a catalogue of camera techniques.

Polanski, Roman and Jean-Pierre Rousseau: The Fat and the Lean/Gruby i Chudy (France, 1962, B&W, 15 Minutes). This allegory about a fat and thin man explores the relationship and dependency between master and servant, and what  stops the servant from escaping.

Polanski, Roman: Two Men and a Wardrobe/Dwaj Ludzie z Szafa (Poland, 1957, B&W, 15 Minutes). Another allegory in which two men appear out of the sea, struggling with a bulky wardrobe, avoiding humanity and unable to solve their problems.

Renoir, Jean: Un Partie de Campagne/A Day in the Country (France,1936,B&W,37 Minutes ). A Paris shopkeeper takes his family for a day in the country, and his daughter— who already has a fiancé—falls in love with another man. Sadly, the relationship has no future. From a tale by Guy de Maupassant.


SHORT FILMS!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

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I think short films has grabbed its due respect these days, not just as ‘calling cards’ as it used to be. Though many are produced from Film School backgrounds, the influence and popularity of YouTube has induced many aspiring film makers think prospectively about shorts; and independent low-budget or no-budget shorts are increasingly being made. Another emerging trend I find is TV channels promoting short films (approx 11 and 22 minutes). Short film festivals call for many rewards I this film making segment.

Recently when ScreenWrite.In participants attended a seminar organized by Goethe- Institut Max Muller Bhavan, on ‘Locating South India Cinema in an International Context’, 24/25 August 2010, I remember Ms. Dorothy Werner of the Berlin Film Festival suggesting how German film industry still see short as a director’s medium, a ‘calling card’ demonstrating their abilities to go on to make their first feature.

The whole idea of why I write about this topic comes from my recent involvement with novice writers both at LV Prasad Film and TV Academy and my own ScreenWrite.In, who venture into writing shorts; and probably sharing my thoughts may help them with some little thing or the other in their writing endeavor.

My strong belief from experience is writing for shorter duration movies is more difficult than for longer drama. The writer needs a new outlook to consider the shorter time at disposal (normally shorts span from 5 minutes to 30 minutes). The cleverness with picture-making is more demanding in short-film screenwriting when compared to long feature.

For the same reason the rules and systematic approach (if I may call them so) of screenwriting are of greater significance for shorts. You have approximately five to thirty pages and needs the craft for the same intensity of story telling like any other longer forms; here the brevity and prudence in structure and expression are everything. The imperative is to place the character immediately into the thick of drama, move along a specific incident of his/her life which provokes the viewer to imagine a more elaborate world of the character.

The ideas and its expression have to fit into space of time disposable. A longer story cannot forcibly be compressed to fit the allotted time or a sketch idea artificially stretched. Nor is it a promo for some future envisaged feature – a good tactic if can pull it off (this line perhaps is for Ekta, LVP-FTA).

Last but not the least, for a short the emotion is more precise, and therefore more intense. As a screenwriter, the emotion building is of very high importance as the duration is short. The emotion provoked with a couple of scenes in a longer drama has to meet the target with just a shot or so in the short; that’s the difference, as also the craft required.

Please find a couple of shorts to watch. Would like to get your opinion on these as to the emotion and structure:



Characters (Part III)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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WHAT DOES YOUR CHARACTER LOOK LIKE?

One way of choosing your characters’ appearance is to recollect pictures from your memory or from catalogues, magazines and the Internet. Another way to picture characters is on casting-call for TV or film, and choose actors who could play the parts.

Be careful about taking characters direct from life; this can get you into trouble if people recognize themselves. But you can use the features of A, the hair of B, the quirks of C, and the height of D. Or you can simply see your character in your mind’s eye.

Here are some lists from which you can choose physical features such as hair and eye colour, general looks, inner feelings, where they live and their background. I have included clothes because what people choose to wear these days, says a lot about them. There is a list of hobbies; use this too because having an interest gives a character depth. There is also a list of faults and bad habits, as nobody is perfect, and a flaw makes a character more believable and interesting.

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Hair colours

HAIR COLOURS:
Auburn  

Carroty
Conker colored
Copper
 Red gold
Titian

Blonde 

Ash blonde,
Flaxen,
Golden
Honey colored
Platinum blonde
Wheaten gold

Black
Blue-black
Colour of a raven’s wing
Colour of night

Brown

Mahogany
Mousy
Nut brown

Old people’s hair

Balding
Grey
Salt and pepper
Silvery
Sparse
White


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HAIR STYLES: styles

Afro
Bob
Braided
Buzz cut
Close cropped
Corn rows
Curly
Dreadlocks
Fringe
Flat-top
Long
Pageboy
Plaits
Ponytail
Ringlets
Short back and sides
Skinhead
Straight
Topknot
Wavy


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PERSONALITY:
Personality
Alert
Aloof
Ambitious
Arrogant
Athletic
Brash
Busybody
Careless
Charming
Cheerful
Creative
Curious
Demonstrative
Dreamy
Gentle
Gossipy
Greedy
Gullible
Humorous
Humorless
Imaginative
Impractical
Intelligent
Jealous
Lazy
Loyal
Noisy
Polite
Proud
Quick-tempered
Sensitive
Show-off
Shy
Smug
Sneaky
Stubborn
Suspicious
Whiny



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EMOTIONS:
Emotions
Anger
Anxiety
Apathy
Boredom
Confusion
Curiosity
Despair
Excitement
Fear
Fondness
Forgiveness
Friendship
Frustration
Gratitude
Grief
Guilt
Happiness
Hate
Hope
Hostility
Irritation
Jealousy
Loneliness
Longing
Love
Resignation
Restlessness
Sadness
Shame
Surprise
Suspicion
Sympathy




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HOME WHERE CHARACTERS LIVE:

Apartment
Bungalow
Cabin
Caravan
Castle
Cave
Chalet
Cottage
Flat
Hotel
House
Houseboat
Hut
Palace
Semi-detached house
Town house
Tree house



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PROFESSION:

Accountant
Actor
Airman/pilot
Architect
Artist
Banker
Baron/Baroness
Cab driver
Chef
Clergyman
Dancer
Dressmaker
Duke/Duchess
Earl/Countess
Enchanter
Engineer
Estate Agent
Gardener
Grand Vizier
Hairdresser
Historian
Horseman/woman
Interior Decorator
Journalist
Judge
King/Queen
Prince/Princess
Lawyer
Model
Musician
Nurse
Policeman/woman
Postman/woman
Sailor
Salesman
Secretary
Shopkeeper
Social worker
Soldier
Sportsman/woman
Spy
Stockbroker
Teacher
Undertaker
Waiter/Waitress
Writer


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HOBBIES:

Computer Games
Painting

Acting

Embroidery
Reading
Airplane watching

Fencing
Record Collecting
Archery

Fishing
Scuba-diving
Ballet

Gameboy
Sports
Birdwatching
Jacks
Stamp collecting
Boating/Sailing
Jigsaw puzzles
Trainsporting

Camping


Martial Arts
TV/DVD-watching
Card collecting
Music




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CHARACTER FAULTS
AND BAD HABITS:
Character faults and bad habits
Arguing
Bad table manners
Casual
Cheating
Clumsiness
Impatience
Interrupting
Lying
Nail-biting
Noisiness
Nosiness
Quarrelling
Quitting too soon
Rudeness
Selfishness
Showing off
Unpunctuality
Untidiness
Vulgarity


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HOW DO THEY TRAVEL?
How do tey travel?

Airplane
Ocean Liner
Bicycle
Quad bike
Bus
Rocket/Spaceship
Car
Sailing Boat
Coach and Horses
Scooter
Four-wheel Drive Car
Spots Car
Helicopter
Train
Horseback
Van
Lorry
Motorbike
Magic Carpet




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EDUCATION:
Apprentice
High School
Boarding School
Pre College
Comprehensive
University
Governess/Tutor

Home Schooling

Kindergarten

Primary School





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CLOTHES:
Clothes
Bikinis
Blouses
Boots
Caps
Dresses
Dressing gowns
Earmuffs
Fleeces
Gloves
Gym shoes
Jackets
Jeans
Jumpers
Mittens
Overcoats
Pajamas/Nightdresses
Raincoats
Sandals
Scarves
Shirts
Shorts
Swim suits
T-shirts
Ties
Trainers
Vests and pants
Waistcoats
Wellingtons





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Generally, how do you make your readers like the hero/heroine?

(I don’t really want to repeat the theory here. What’s good that we like, and bad that we dislike is judged by a moral condition we consciously accept. A discussion on this can go really elaborate. For the time being, let’s look at it this way):

You make him do things the reader would love to do but can’t.

• Show thoughts and actions with which readers will sympathize.

• Make him upright, honest, dependable, brave and clever but modest about it; but not all these characteristics at once.

• You make him the kind of person the reader would like to be, someone he envies.

• Don’t make him a goody-goody – a few faults make a person more human (none of us is perfect). But let the faults be endearing. For instance, if you make him unreliable, let it be about time or remembering things, not about something important like keeping promises.

• Give him a sense of humor.

• Once he is established, make life difficult for him: if the odds are against him, the reader will be on his side.

• Focus on him: let other characters like him and say so to each other. • Let the story be told from his point of view.

Generally, how do you make the reader dislike the villain?

• Make him do something loathsome or reprehensible. Being unkind to an animal will set most young readers against a character.

• Make him unreliable or untrustworthy. Let him be caught out telling lies.

• Make him speak harshly to a character you have made the reader like.

• Make him humorless.

• Make him a hypocrite.