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Screenwriting 101: confusion is better than boredom

Sunday, Oct 28th, 2018

Anton checkof famously said, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.”

J.J. Abrams, the creator of the Lost television series, famously amended the statement to, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one, polar bears.”

Story-telling has come a long way since Checkov’s days.

Seriously, just throw some confusing shit in there. Polar bears. Smoke monsters. Abstract dream sequences. Have at it! No need to explain anything, really. It doesn’t need to make sense. The people who think they understand it will be impressed with themselves and the people who don’t understand it will be impressed with you.

It is much better to confuse the audience, than to bore them. Inscrutability is easily mistaken for profundity.

Plus there is always a chance the sheer strength of the actors will carry the production, like it did with True Detectives or the Usual Suspects. Matthew Mcconaughey and Woody Harrelson could gargle shit while doing handstands in front of a camera and it would still make a great TV show. Put Kevin Spacey, Benicio Del Toro and Gabriel Byrne in a room together. Get them in a room. Given enough time, there is a chance an oscar will spontaneously materialize in the center of it.

Sometimes, people can justify a poor acting performance due to a weak script. But they are rarely aware enough to recognize a performance which sells the script. True Detectives and The Usual Suspects are grade A examples.

“The best scripts don’t make the best movies.” – Linklater’s Waking Life

That’s because movies aren’t words on paper. Movies are inflections, expressions, glances, the way people walk, the way they talk. You can’t write that stuff.

One Response to “Screenwriting 101: confusion is better than boredom”

  1. Matthew says:

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