Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday's Children - In the Cut


Thursday's Children - In the Cut

Or: Finding Inspiration in Directors' Cuts and Series Commentaries

A weekly blog hop where 
Writers share their Inspirations.
Join, yo!

I obsess.
The depth of my obsession for TV shows? The Series Finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer set off a two month binge-drinking emo-fest.

Enter DVDs and BluRays, which not only have complete series, but "director's cuts" and Special Bonuses and Unaired Pilots/Episodes.

What I focus on, though, are the director's cuts and actor commentary specials.

Sometimes in revision, I come across a dialogue scene that lacks something: Oomph, Subtlety, a certain je ne sais quoi that would vivify the moment. (This month's WIPblog module is on Dialogue!)

I think back on series' director's cuts and commentaries I've seen, or I'll pop one into the player, and dissect what made a particular scene memorable.

Was it the words?
Was it how the actor said the line?

Now, the trick is to isolate the moment or the scene from the movie because there could be other factors making the moment pop: movie soundtrack, lighting effects, camera work, etc. Commentaries provide this isolation, often adding insight as to why an actor said a line a certain way, or why a director chose to use a certain take.

But! You don't have to go out and buy all the discs. Some excellent commentaries can be found in blogs, by series viewers who've picked out themes or patterns.

Some of my favorite shows have given me the best inspiration for how to vivify dialogue in my stories.

These include:
Dexter - Helped me craft true-to-character interior monologues and direct thought.
"There's a moment sailors call slack tide. When the tide is neither coming in nor going out, but perfectly still. It's a moment frozen in time. When all is calm and peaceful." - Dexter Morgan, Season 4, episode 7.

Firefly - Regional/cultural, character-specific dialects.
"Look, you got a little stabbed the other day. That's bound to make anyone a mite ornery." - Malcom Reynolds, episode 9, "Ariel".

Downton Abbey - What to reveal, when to reveal it.
Her Ladyship's Soap.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Perspectives.
"Look, I realize that every Slayer comes with an expiration mark on the package. But I want mine to be a long time from now. Like a Cheeto." - Buffy, Season 5, episode 7, "Fool for Love."

Mad Men - How a statement can evolve and take on new meanings for a character later.
"Advertising is based on one thing, happiness." - Don Draper, Season 1, episode 1, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

What are some of your favorite series? Have you ever been inspired by disc or blog commentaries?

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  1. Hell on Wheels is one of my favorites. The main character, Cullan Bohannon, played by Anson Mount, doesn't have a lot of lines, he's not very chatty. But oh, Mount does a great job bringing the character, his thoughts, dilemmas, backstory, to life. I learned a lot about using expressions, actions and body language from that one.

    Great post :)

    1. Cool, TJ! I need to check out that series. It's so useful to see motivations and personal agendas acted out.

  2. I'm not a huge TV person because for me it's either writing or watching TV in order to have time in my day to do other things, like parent my kids or whatever. Also the last TV series I got sucked into - "Lost" - REALLY pissed me off at the end, lol. When I do watch, it's usually Animal Planet or HGTV. Sorry. Boring...

    1. Not boring at all! I write Fantasy, and I'll often record and watch animal shows to get animalistic motivations for some of my nature-based Species. Everything is connected. Frex the cultural interactions between wolf families, dolphin pods, elephant memories, hyena heirarchies. Interesting to note too what those shows choose to reveal in an episode based on their country's demographics. What is too graphic for some audiences is tame to others.

  3. Oh gosh. I am a BIG tv person. I can turn any episode of a tv show into a lesson. Like, I don't know, Glee for instance, it's like a writer's manual on what not to do. (Sorry, Glee and I are in a bad place in our relationship right now.) And then there are other shows, like Veronica Mars that I just love every piece of dialogue or the characters. I could go on and on about tv. I should probably write up my own Thursday's Children about that. Haha!

    1. Hey Amber! Thanks for stopping by!
      I hear you about Glee. I was a BIG fan, but lately, the episodes have felt called in. I think the last two were good. Definitely took some chances with that school shooting episode.
      The dialogue in Glee, though.... eh, let's not get into it lol.
      I love Veronica Mars.
      Haven't seen it lately, but from what I remember of that show, the dialogue scenes were pretty good. I like scenes that have multi-layered banter.

  4. I usually watch very little TV, so I can have time to write. But when I'm stuck, I'll spend hours watching like a spellbound zombie. It's like my brain is searching for a word or an expression or something. Then something will click and I'm ready to go back to writing. I've got a ton of shows I like to zombie out in front of --cartoons as well and movies or nature shows, the monster fish show... it really doesn't matter.

    1. OMG. Since having a kid, I've refound my joy for watching cartoons. I'm enthralled by Adventure Time and Regular Show.
      Have you seen those two?
      Great story-telling structure. So much packed into 15-minute segments.

      The monster fish show. Now, I love fish. Like LOVE them. I long to be that guy's sidekick. Except I can't swim. Did you see that episode with the electric eels. Zomg. A whole clutch of them under that tree, and it looked like just mud. Imagine stepping into that mess. Okay, okay, I'm getting way too excited about this topic.

      LOL. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Pat! Catch ya on Twitter!

    2. One of my favorite zombie shows lately was on River Monsters (season 3 episode 3--I think). Where they are way out in the middle of nowhere and one of the crew gets hit by lighning.

      No. I didn't see that eel episode, but I'll have to. Creepy.

      I think my husband's love of cartoons is one reason I feel for him. Well, there was the kissing thing too :)

  5. I absolutely LOVE listening to the Director's commentaries. Mind you, I don't do it often (sometimes I just wanna turn my brain off and enjoy the movie, yaknow?). But; for my favourite movies and TV shows, I will listen.

    Some TV DVD sets also have a separate segment with the commentary on an episode (rather than commentary during the episode). I find those to be even MORE interesting, because they are comments in retrospect (vs. stream of consciousness during the actual scenes).

    By the way, if you've ever had thorough critique partners and beta readers, their comments are JUST like those commentaries! And they go a long way in helping you get the most out of every scene.

    Thanks for sharing :)