I know, big whoop. People all over the planet see movies every day.
But not me.
For some reason, I've not been to the movies in ages. Which is surprising when you consider that I love going to the movies. I love nearly everything about it, from watching a film with a crowd of people to eating movie popcorn. I love going to the movies so much that it makes me not enjoy watching them at home. When I'm at home, I always feel like I should be doing something productive so I get antsy.
But today I remembered why movie-going is such a good thing to do for writers–because you can learn a lot from watching the movies.
I know, duh. But its been awhile, okay?
I saw Indiana Jones, and while I know its gotten mixed reviews, I enjoyed it. I'm an easy audience, perhaps. And the thought occurs that I'm a sucker for a movie, just about any movie, because it is a bit like a Busman's Holiday. I can watch it and enjoy it without over-analyzing every part, as when I'm reading.
Though I couldn't help but notice a scene near the start of the movie that accomplished several things at once. Its a scene set in a restaurant, and it is when Shia Le Bouef (lord knows if I spelled that right), who plays Mutt, meets Indy and tells him about how his mother is being held hostage. The scene could have been just "talking heads" as there's some information that needs to be imparted and this is always a problem. But its cleverly handled, showing Mutt first dipping his comb in the drink of a person sitting at the table next door. Then the waitress appears, holding a tray full of bottles of beer for the neighboring table and Mutt grabs a beer not meant for him when the waitress isn't looking. Just as smoothly, in the next motion, Indy grabs it and sets it back on the tray.
This is a wonderfully orchestrated little set piece that keeps the audience engrossed while the crucial info is being imparted, sets up the characters of both Mutt and Indy, and moves the story forward. It is also the kind of thing that writers of all kinds of stories can emulate. You always want every scene to accomplish as much as possible, and if it is only doing one thing at a time, it is probably not pulling enough weight. For instance, if one whole scene exist only to introduce a character, that's probably not enough. For every scene, ask yourself this: what's the point of it? Scenes that only do one thing either need rewriting so they do more or you must delete them.
I know. Its a cruel, harsh world.
Next weekend I'm going to see Sex in the City, which, by the way, opened huge at the box office this weekend.
For the second time in this post I am forced to say, duh. I was so annoyed with all the articles that came out before it opened, saying that it just wasn't possible a film with a bunch of women in it to open big. Gee-zus, between these articles and the press Hilary has gotten, you really have to wonder what millennium we are in.