Monday, November 12, 2007

Making a Scene

The scene is the basic dramatic unit. It is possible but unlikely to have story without scene. Some stories cold be related thrugh some combination of narrative, pastiche of newspaper account, pages of memoir or, look at Manuel Puig in Betrayed by Rita Hayworth. Go ahead; look. He pastes a story together with the scraps and souvenirs of people's life.

Show the chicken salad sandwich scene from Five Easy Pieces. Deconstruct it. You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
I want you to hold it between your knees

Show Act I, Scene II, Richard III.
The Book scene in The Remains of the Day.

Maybe one more. Terry Molloy in the taxi with his brother in On the Waterfront. I coulda been somebody.

A scene has:

characters have some spine or agenda
emotional overlay
events (or beats)
blocking (staging. Who sits where.
arc (moves the story from X to Y)
Nobody gets into the scene without expectations or agenda. Even the kid who delivers the pizza wants something. Maybe wants to be the best pizza delivery person in town. 

 Maybe came to L.A. from John Eaton's semi-rural Georgia, where folks just knew he had a calling for delivering pizza, but L.A.? You know L.A.; everyone there thinks he has a calling for delivering pizza, and so he has to settle for part-time unless he can get customers to call in, Hello Dominos? I just had a three-cheese and onion pizza delivered by I guess the best delivery person I've ever had pizza delivered by. I mean he was so good I said screw the cholesterol. Name of Fred. Best damn delivery I ever had on a pizza, you know what I mean? What's that you say? You telling me you had to fire Fred cause he was knocking off customers' silverware? You telling me he's bogus?

You may have set tomorrow's lecture in motion.

If that doesn't fill two and a half hours, you can drag in a witness, which is to say a point of view. Which character or characters experience the scene, then filter the events and implications to us? I? You? He/She? Multiple? Omniscient?

Now you can go back to thinking about some painting, a photo, a statue, that informed Westerners would consider art, then expose it to someone from an oher culture altogether and try to find out what that individual makes of it. Then get said individual to show someone from this culture a work his culture considers art, then compare and contrast.

You can perhaps slip in five or ten minutes thinking through the implications of environment being a crucible for culture

"Listen, Earl, how come you always drawing like moose and woolly mammoth on the cave walls? Wherever we go, you draw stuff like that. The guys in the hunting clan, they asked me to you know, talk to you. "

"Listen, yourself. You notice every time I get a little high on grass, draw one of those things, we always get meat."

"Aw c'mon. You think you drawing it makes it happen? Them's heavy duty guys onna hunting clan. They's the ones bringing the meat."

"Okay, how about we put up a little escrow here. I don't do a drawing, those guys come back empty handed and we gotta send out for Chinese."

"Man, you got a way to go before you got shaman powers."

"What a hoot. You never hear of low-residency master's degrees? I've got shaman stuff you wouldn't believe."


R.L. Bourges said...

does an internet connection - even a lousy one - count for a low residency master's?

x said...

Shelly: Your blog is SO much better than the Bennington low-residency MFA program I dropped out of. You can use that in your blurb. Just cite me as "Bennington drop-out but Harvard graduate."

x said...

And, to add, there is really no need for low-residency programs with the internet. Ironically, at least the two teachers I had, were extremely stingy about their internet communication. Someone should write about this.