12/14/2007

Comedy

You can all ignore these posts if you want.
These are really for my own benefit in order to set down some of the thoughts
I've had after the semester.


After the Awards Night on Wednesday, one of the staff I was talking to, who is excellent at what he does BTW (not just an excellent teacher but also a formidable practitioner of his art - like the majority of the SFS teachers actually), turned to one of his co-workers and said something like, "all he did was make jokes but he still wants us to take him seriously".

Now, I wasn't intended to hear that and there's a good chance that I may have misheard the statement, the music was loud, but even if it was close to what he said I could quote the motto's about compassion these staff seem to hold dear but I'd rather respond in my typically flippant way with, 'Well Duh!' (Eloquent ain't I)

So, because I have a sense of humour I'm not meant to be taken seriously?

Try having your 'serious experimental student documentary on balancing environment and heritage' (ha, now that's comedy!) stifled by the State Government, where one of your only reasons for not shooting it anyway is because you don't want your learning institution to come under fire if you get caught filming it. Then see if you can (or want) to come up with another piece in under a week with a similarly 'serious' subject matter.

Then I want your new idea to come second in the vote only to have it not even short-listed. Have the email telling you this sent to the wrong address. With only hours before the 'green light' announcement I want you to hear and deal with this news, pull it together, then go to the documentary producers and in 15 minutes not only argue for your idea but also convince them to add you to the short list AND green light your project.

I then want you to find out you have a tumour but wait six days before they can tell you if it's the type that will kill you or just disfigure your face.

During those six days, I also want you to take on the huge project of manufacturing characters (in a way you've never done before) over a short time frame for another director because you believe strongly in her vision, the medium with which she's chosen to express that vision, and because the people who said they would help her have conveniently forgotten their promise (something all too common in the student environment but something I despise nonetheless).

I then want you to go shoot your film idea with only one other 'trained' but non-english speaking crew member in several locations, fitting it around specialist appointments, cat scans and biopsies. Oh yeah, and you've still got make a film good enough, with no editor, to capture the majority of the audience vote on the most competitive night of the festival to win the only 'award' you know you're going to receive because you broke too many 'documentary conventions and rules' to ensure the film was what you said it would be at it's inception... 'comedic'.

Sure I only made a comedic documentary (is that easy?), but comedy films are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are light-hearted, crafted to amuse, entertain, and provoke enjoyment. The comedy genre humorously exaggerates the situation, the language, action, and characters. Comedies observe the deficiencies, foibles, and frustrations of life, providing merriment and a momentary escape from day-to-day life. They usually have happy endings, although the humour may have a serious or pessimistic side. And that's exactly what I made and the audience loved it.

Here are some of the complex raft of interwoven comedic devices I used to make the film work for an audience.
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Slapstick: Slapstick was predominant in the earliest silent films, since they didn't need sound to be effective, and they were popular with non-English speaking audiences. This is primitive and universal comedy with broad, aggressive, physical, and visual action, including harmless or painless cruelty and violence, horseplay, and often vulgar sight gags.

Deadpan: This form of comedy was best exemplified by the expression-less face of stoic comic hero Buster Keaton. The modern master of this form is Bill Murray.

Verbal comedy: This was classically typified by the cruel verbal wit of W. C. Fields, the sexual innuendo of Mae West, or the verbal absurdity of dialogues in the Marx Brothers films, or later by the self-effacing, thoughtful humour of Woody Allen's literate comedies.

Black or Dark Comedy: These are dark, sarcastic, humorous, or sardonic stories that help us examine otherwise ignored darker serious, pessimistic subjects such as war, death, or illness. Two of the greatest black comedies ever made include the following: Stanley Kubrick's Cold War classic satire from a script by co-writer Terry Southern, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) that spoofed the insanity of political and military institutions with Peter Sellers in a triple role (as a Nazi scientist, a British major, and the US President), and Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970), an irreverent, anti-war black comedy set during the Korean War. Another more recent classic black comedy was the Coen Brothers' violent and quirky story Fargo (1996) about a pregnant Midwestern police chief (Oscar-winning Frances McDormand) who solves a 'perfect crime' that went seriously wrong.

Parody or Spoof - also Satire, Lampoon and Farce: These specific types of comedy (also called put-ons, send-ups, charades, lampoons, take-offs, jests, mockumentaries, etc.) are usually a humorous or anarchic take-off that ridicules, impersonates, punctures, scoffs at, and/or imitates (mimics) the style, conventions, formulas, characters (by caricature), or motifs of a serious work, film, performer, or genre; This category may also include these widely diverse forms of satire - usually displayed as political or social commentary.
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Yup, all of these devices were used, sometimes in conjunction with each other, in 'THIS is Alan Chapman'. And let's not forget that this was a Documentary. I had little control over my subject, so I had to sort through hours of footage to find these moments, there are some weaknesses in the films structure I agree, but you can't sacrifice the story content to put in suitable comedic moments. They must flow with the story.

So, do you really think I'm not taking the film-making process seriously. Or is it that you focussed a little heavily on the fact that I use my sense of humour to deal with tough situations/times? (and usually only with people who I like)


OK, now I've had my little moment of defensiveness... I wouldn't have changed the last six months for anything. I really did learn a bundle and enjoy every moment of it.

Take: 12

Blogger Shelley Noble mused...

Jealousy makes idiots of us all. What else could that teacher say to themselves to feel better about their lack of what you have in abundance; courage, enthusiasm, and discipline.

Fri Dec 14, 03:19:00 pm

 
Blogger G3T Films mused...

Hehehe, Yeah, I was worried that the post might be taken that way. So I changed it.

I think it's more that I only had a few lessons with this teacher and they didn't have a chance to see me in true filmmaker mode. And then when you produce a comedy the old industry problem of devaluing the sincere efforts that go into making a good comedy kick in as well.

Fri Dec 14, 03:47:00 pm

 
Blogger Ticharu mused...

Maybe they weren't talking about films but about politics! :)

Sat Dec 15, 02:23:00 am

 
Blogger Calzone mused...

I totally ignored that.

Sat Dec 15, 04:41:00 am

 
Blogger Gnat of Glass mused...

I think you shoudl embrace it. I have had the same thing leveled toward myself.

I can handle that because every time I see some girl say what she is looking for in a man they say "good sence of humor". So hey....we got it made.


I want the tumor guy with a caption that says "Bite Me".


Gnat.
.

Tue Dec 18, 08:29:00 am

 
Blogger Diana Crabtree mused...

One, You are a tough cookie

two, arent comedies the ones that make the most money (not that that is a measure of success, but I am just saying)

And comedy makes a person enjoy a documetary much more, and recommend it to others (Sicko anyone?)

Way to have a healthy attitude

Tue Dec 18, 12:14:00 pm

 
Blogger G3T Films mused...

Hey Tichers

...and maybe monkeys might fly out of my butt!

Which would also be an awesome political stunt! I can imagine it now, "Will I reform Health Care? Well I'd like to answer that by first..." Monkeys!!!!!

Wed Dec 19, 08:48:00 am

 
Blogger G3T Films mused...

Calzone

...

...

...

Me too!

Wed Dec 19, 08:50:00 am

 
Blogger G3T Films mused...

Nah Gnat, I wouldn't tell him to Bite Me. I have no problem with that assessment of me, I certainly did make jokes. But to equate that to not taking the filmmaking process seriously, which I do even for a comedic doco, is a off the mark. And I only make jokes with people I'm comfortable with, which makes it a shame he took it that way.

Yeah, the girls say that... but they only mean it if you're like some mega rich dude with your own sitcom.

I'll try to do Tumour Dude again for the next post.

Wed Dec 19, 08:58:00 am

 
Blogger G3T Films mused...

Ms Crabtree, me? tough cookie? Naaaah, I'm a big softy! Hence why I get all whingey when someone says something approach filmmaking.

Well, as far as doco's go I think that money is a measure of success. Money means you captured an audience. It's one of the hardest things to do in modern documentary making.

Of course, to do that in my little film I strayed far from the realms of modern doco making. I played with the doco form far too much for a favourable critical review. But I knew that when I was putting it together. I said as much too MoonCar before we'd finished editing, so it wasn't like it was a surprise. We certainly had a lot of fun making it, and the audience really appreciated that.

Wed Dec 19, 09:20:00 am

 
Blogger Ticharu mused...

Funny! That's what happened during the last presidential debate! They were all doing it!!

Thu Dec 20, 12:15:00 pm

 
Anonymous Kenna mused...

People should read this.

Tue Nov 11, 06:27:00 am

 

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