Friday, January 25, 2013

Okay, It's Like This

I’ve been working on a spec screenplay – that’s Hollywoodese for no one is paying me to write this bad boy – and even though there’s the advantage of film being a visual medium, there are times when you have to explain what the heck it is the viewer is seeing.  My hero is a former Night Stalker, one of an elite band of chopper pilots who ferry in Rangers and SEALs on those high value target missions like the one that eliminated Osama bin Laden.  His backstory is on one such mission something went way wrong and he winds up crashing, Black Hawk down as it were, killing two innocent civilians, a mother and child.  He is wracked with guilt over this and as they would have said in one of the 1930s Warner Bros. aviation B efforts, he’s lost his nerve.
But how to communicate that without, as my Criminal Minds colleagues have noted in their posts on this topic, you have the information dump scene.  Say where the guy’s buddy says as they drink their beer.
“You know, Bob, when you cracked up your chopper when the mission went bad in Tikrit five years ago, killing that mother and child, and you subsequently lost your nerve, I thought you’d never fly again.”
Turns out it took me several scenes to tell that, or rather show that to the audience.  I still had to sneak in some dialogue exposition, but hopefully it’s indirect and not too on the nose.   I was listening to Quentin Tarantino on Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment on my local NPR station the other week discussing his new, and somewhat infamous, film Django Unchained (which I enjoyed, but that will be a riff I undertake next week on Dr. Pop, the other site I blog for regularly).  He was talking about trying to have his characters doing some other bit of business while also conveying expository dialogue. 
Te'o and the woman, Diane O'Meara, whose image was stolen
by the fake Lennay Kekua
Though the more twists and turns you employ in the plot, the more the reader or viewer will go along with a character telling you what has gone on.  Take for instance the Manti Te’o story and his would-be girlfriend "Lennay Kekua."  I won’t go into a chronology of events as, for one, it seems there’s several versions of the chronology of what happened, and who said what when.  But I will try to outline the events.
Te’o is an NFL prospect, a former outstanding linebacker for the Fighting Irish.  Last September at the Notre Dame versus Michigan game, after Notre Dame won, the night supposedly of Kekua’s funeral, he dedicated his two interceptions to her.   Te’o never met this woman who he maintained an online relationship with over several months -- yet according to him they did talk over the phone numerous times.  At various times he also indicated, or seemed to then, that they had been physically together.  He has now stated he kept the lie going when he found out the truth this past December so as not to embarrass himself.  And apparently it was actually a man pretending to be the female Lennay Kekua all the time.

This story begs for exposition. 

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