Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Webshow: Bets as Catalysts

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get your story going. And I get it, if you know all the fun and games you want to have with your premise, it can be tedious to line up the dominoes to get to that result in a plausible way. So the lazy screenwriter opts to artificially motivate some implausible behavior with that tried and true method - the bet.

In this week's video, I outline why this isn't always a wise move.


  1. Ewww, puppet is taking shots at "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" my 2nd favorite rom-com of all-time. Puppet, have you ever been in love before? Maybe a sock somewhere in the drawer that you developed a sweet spot for.

    What you FAIL to take into consideration with "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" is that you're NOT dealing with a plot driven, murder mystery. You're NOT dealing with a thriller. You're dealing with the two people falling love DESPITE the convoluded circumstances of their meeting.

    Plot IS NOT king in the rom-com arena. Sophisticaion of plot is not the end-all, and only thing to look at when evaluating a romantic comedy.

    Puppet, I'd like to throw you in the dryer and put the setting on hot for your pop-shots at one the classic rom-coms of all time. SO MUCH to like about "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." For starters how about the acting of its leads. Won't find ANYONE who does it better than Kate Hudson did Andie Anderson. Won't find ANYONE who does it better than Matthew McCongnauey did Benjamin Barry.

  2. I would also add "Being drunk" as another lazy way of getting a story rolling. In order to get your character to do something very uncharacteristic, just add booze.

    Unfortunately I think Jason Bateman had a few of those:

    Horrible Bosses: They come up with the idea while drinking - otherwise these 'nice guys' could have never floated such a plan.

    The Change Up: They wish for each others lives while drunk.

    Extract: He agrees to having the pool boy try to seduce his wife in order to test her fidelity - while drunk.

    The Switch: He switches his 'sample' with the other guys sample whilst drunk.

    In all these cases hilarity ensues - but only because the unconscionable act was made whilst drunk. After all, who would root for a character who, in their right mind, would do such a thing.

    Perhaps The Hangover is the only situation where this works - since it was actually the whole premise, not just a trick to kick things off.

  3. What happened to the Rom-com? That would be a interesting article. Here's my unscientific theory on what happened to the Rom-com. The lead, male or female, who can open a movie now is getting scarcer and scarcer.

    Rom-coms need the name leads. We just don' t have them anymore. As far as the bet goes it's just a real easy framing device that has it's own built in narrative that keeps the timing of the story all the way through. The beats and arcs just line up so it's a very easy thing to fall into.

    We're just finishing up a long rewrite on a rom-com even though they're dead, but they'll comeback. How to lose a guy in ten days ending was phoned in.


  4. I'll have to disagree with the "drunk catalyst stinks" thing. Alcohol isn't what makes them come to the conclusion that they must do something specific. It is the enabler. It is what allows them to become uninhibited enough to voice what we know they are feeling. I think it almost gives an audience the payoff they eagerly await. In horrible bosses, we all think Spacey is a dick. And in real life we all know we have outrageous fleeting fantasies about offing the folks that make our lives miserable. We know we can't so we root for these drunk protags to finally give us what we want, and because it's a socially and ethically unconscionable act, alcohol is required.

  5. How about a situation that comes up as a result of a bet? Like the bet isn't the driving factor for the story, just the catalyst that ignites a new situation.

  6. @E.C. Henry
    I think BSR may be saying that it's a worn device now. It's not that it hasn't been used well, it's that it's now well used.

    It's the RomCom equivalent of the now tiring "Oh my God...I'm actually a clone!" SciFi convention of recent. "Oblivion", "Moon", "The Island"...etc. All well done in their own ways, but it's getting kinda tired...that is, until some talented writer can do something wholly original with it again.

  7. What happened with the rom-com is that Hollywood vomited out one generic specimen after another, with very few exceptions. The trailers are awful. The posters are even worse: smiling, annoying, retouched, white people. (and I'm white). The indie rom-com is no better, with shoegazing, mumbling, hipsters or nerds characters. Again, very few exceptions.

    One thing about rom-coms: we KNOW the couple is going to get together at the end, it's not a thriller. What's fun - or what's supposed to be fun - is watching them get to that end.