Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Short Laughs or Long Thrills?

Last night, just over four pages. The screenplay now stands at 33 pages, about a third done if it runs short, over a quarter done if it runs long.

Here's an interesting issue: Generally speaking, comedies are expected to be shorter, while dramas are longer.

That is, with an eye to the guideline that one page of screenplay equals one minute of screen time, comedies usually clock in at closer to 100 pages, while dramas run more like 120 pages.

In fact, many comedies are even shorter than that, while we can all name a half-dozen recent event movies that ran well over two-and-a-half hours. Hypothetically, those screenplays would have been 150 pages or longer.

So, what should be my page-count goal for a thriller where the defining relationship - between the two protagonists - is comedic?

The obvious answer is "As long as it takes to tell the story."

But a story can be told many different ways. I need to figure out whether the energy that propels the story forward comes from the thriller part, or the comedy part.

The choice is meaningful.

There's latitude in comedy. Plot holes can be papered over with jokes. Ridiculous degrees of coincidence can cause, exacerbate or solve any and all major plot complications. Events are compressed to serve the need for coincidence and the high energy and rapid pace of comedy.

A thriller needs to operate like a elegant clockwork machine. It can be a Rube Goldberg device - serving no purpose other than to make us marvel at its baroque intricacies - but all the parts have to fit together. Logic and precision must not just underlie the thriller, but be on display for all to see - that's the point.

(Exceptions? Plenty. But many of those get by on an innovative hook or sheer style. )

I know that the answer to this will become clear as I move forward with the first draft, and into the second. The path I follow will determine whether this is a comedic thriller, or a... uh... thrillulent comedy.

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