Posts Tagged ‘#thewalkingdead’

As I was re-writing one of my earlier screenplays this last week I came to a point that I wanted my main protagonist to have wicked inner tension. The type of internal conflict that a person can only have if they are making a decision that can completely change or in some cases even end their life. I thought to myself, “how can I get the maximum effect while still maintaining the absolute present tense in my script and keeping the whole thing fast paced and linear?”

I sat back in my chair for a moment and contemplated picking up one of the Walking Dead trade paper backs that I have been meaning to read, but I knew that was just the ever present and incredibly evil goblin of an entity that we writers have come to know as distraction. I decided to go get a drink of water instead and as I passed my movie collection my eyes were drawn to the cult classic (and one of my personal favorites), Fight Club.  I know how Tyler Durden creates tension in films; he splices single frames of pornography in them! With the thought of single frame usage my mind was immediately transported to the DVD release of the 1973 horror masterpiece, The Exorcist. The single frame inserts (in hindsight they may have been 2 or 3 frames) of Captain Howdy’s face against a black backdrop were pretty damn scary, mostly because they broke up the linear aspect of the story for an instant and gave our sub-conscious’ something to chew on for the whole rest of the movie! I remember thinking of that creepy bastards face more than the reverse crab walking Regan after I left the theater.

This technique has been employed in several other films with great success and can also help show the thoughts and inner workings of characters, which is normally taboo in the concise format of the traditional screenplay. The way I chose to employ these QUICK FLASHES in my script were slightly reminiscent of Arnold’s ride with Simon, the used car sales men in True Lies. As Simon talks about how hot Arnold’s wife is (and how dickless he is) the writer uses classic physical indications to show Arnold’s growing rage, such as the narrowing eyes, tensing of the muscles, and the white knuckled grip on the steering wheel.  None of these physical actions could portray his anger as well as the three second clip of Arnold killing the man in one punch, causing his bloody head to dangle lifelessly in the back corner of the convertible… Classic.

Consider the myriad of ancient tales where archetypal heroes slay dragons and the princess’ meet their own personal Prince Charming. Many classic stories seem to have consistent themes of overcoming adversity, alleviating tension, and decreasing conflict. The end? Well, riding off into the sunset of course, good guy gets the girl, bad guys are defeated, happily ever after. I know there are notable exceptions in classic literature such as the tragic heroes of Euripides and Shakespeare, or even the doomed protagonists in works by Victor Hugo. I believe most people want to be involved in a story that takes them through the highs and lows of a character’s plight and is neatly resolved with a happy ending that ties up all of the sub-plots and leaves no loose ends. As some of you may be thinking this is not the case in many of the most popular T.V. shows, works of literature, and modern films.

I don’t necessarily think that people have grown tired of the classic “good guys win” story line, but I do think that they have come to expect it. Doesn’t it add more tension to the viewing/reading experience if we don’t know what terrible fate may be in store for our hero? I would say yes, and isn’t creating tension what story telling is all about? Again yes! Long story short, it is tension that keeps viewers/readers coming back for more. Soap Operas utilize this, which is why everyone sleeps with everyone else, men fight, women connive, and of course the frequent and unfortunate cases of complete amnesia.

TENSION. TENSION. TENSION.

A new trend in modern story telling has been breaking all of the classic rules. No one is safe anymore. Kill a main character? You bet. What better way to add tension than to make people question everything. Some of the hottest shows on T.V. are banking on this week after week! The Walking Dead for one has shown that they are not afraid of killing main characters, so much so that every week viewers are crossing their fingers in hopes that their favorite character will not be devoured by zombies or shot by some rival group of survivors. Every time a character is faced with any form of danger it could be the end of them. This is true for the cast as well from what I hear, all of them are terrified of getting the “you’re gonna’ die this week” phone call. George R.R. Martin is doing the same thing in his bestselling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which in turn translates to the Game of Thrones HBO series. Having a seemingly revolving cast can be seen as detrimental to the opportunity for in depth character development, but when executed properly it can also work to humanize and quickly develop the surviving characters.