Ted Baehr

Ted Baehr

A great story goes somewhere.

It tells us something.

That something is a premise.

A poor story wanders about, gets lost and bores an audience.

In a baseball game, the team with the most runs wins. You watch the game to see if the team that you like can get the most runs and win the game. Imagine how boring baseball would be if there was nothing to win: if “games” were like practice sessions where players just hit and fielded balls without a clear purpose. No one would want to pay to watch.

A premise says, “To win, I must show you that [premise].” It’s the filmmaker’s job to prove the premise with every ounce of skill they can muster.

The baseball team intent on winning a game does so with great pitching, fielding, hitting, running, and strategy. It’s obvious from the first pitch to the last what the goal of every action is. It’s to win.

A great movie aims to prove its premise with script, acting, lighting, sound, music, and editing. Hundreds of experts in their craft work to prove the premise, just as baseball players strive to win a game.

Think of it a little like Jesus Christ telling a parable. His parables were often stories, well told. They had characters doing things for a reason. Jesus didn’t tell the story of the prodigal son just to entertain his listeners. He was proving a premise about God’s love for those who’ve done wrong. His parable about the Good Samaritan proved that Godly love is not just meant for family and friends. Every character in the story, and every action they took, was important in proving the premise.

A premise has three distinct parts. A “this,” a “does” and a “that.”

The premise of the prodigal son story would be, “God forgives sin.” There is a subject “God”; an action “forgives”; and, an object “sin.”

On his way home, the prodigal son does not pass a Samaritan in a ditch. Such an event would be a distraction from the premise of the prodigal son story. On the other hand, the jealous brother is a powerful subplot. The jealous brother serves as a contrast to God’s love. The brother reveals human nature. His role in the story makes God’s grace look that much more amazing.

Subplots, like all aspects of filmmaking, should serve the premise.

A great movie delivers on the premise with show, rather then tell. Audiences don’t come to hear sermons delivered in dialogue.

Imagine a movie of the prodigal son story. The lighting, the music and a close-up on the father’s face, when he first sees his wayward son approaching, should say in music and image all you need to know about love and forgiveness. Body language and action should be like an inspiring work of art as he runs to meet his son. An audience should be in tears before the two speak a word to each other. What they are about to say should already have been said with facial expressions.

David Lean was a master of creating emotion without dialogue. In movies such as THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, he cut gracefully between sweeping scenery, and close-ups, telling far more than dialogue ever could.

Every aspect of a movie works to prove the premise. In a movie, you can “prove” a premise that’s not true. The entire American sexual revolution was built on media “proving” sex outside of marriage is healthy and desirable. It’s been a disaster.

Fortunately, we’ve been seeing more and more movies with premises supportive of faith and values. We long to see this growth continue.

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

Without a premise it’s unwise to start a script. It’s like wandering around in the dark. With a premise you have a reason for each character, each scene and each line of dialogue.

Ideas for scripts don’t always emerge the form of premise. You may get an idea for some situation and characters that you find to be entertaining or inspiring. Before you go off building a story around a clever idea, pause and ponder the premise such an inspiration demands.

You’ll find that beginning with a solid premise will save you from dealing will all sorts of headaches as your script develops.

It’s healthy to ask yourself on a regular basis, “How does what I’m writing help prove the premise?”

If it doesn’t help, or if it actually hurts, drop it.

_______

To be continued…

 

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Ted Baehr

Ted Baehr

Communication is an important part of the uniqueness of humankind. The human drive to communicate through a variety of forms, formats and media is remarkable. In the garden of Eden, God tasked Adam with naming all the animals. That desire to name, to create, and to communicate is still one of the most essential human traits, lasting from infancy through adulthood.

Christians and Jews have long been known as people of “The Book.” Since the Bible is full of stories and Christians are called by Jesus to communicate the Good news, which He did through Parables, Christians are a storytelling people. In faithful obedience to this call, they tell the Good news through every conceivable medium and genre. Thus, the church invented modern drama with the Mediaeval Mystery Plays. And, since the beginning of the motion picture industry, Christians have used movies to communicate the gospel because movies and television programs are the most powerful, audio–visual storytelling media.

Story, image and effect

There are three elements of a movie or television program that help capture the attention of the audience: story, image and effect.

When I was the Director of the TV Center at City University of New York (CUNY), Brooklyn College, one of the professors, Jim Day, had been a founder of Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) that produced Sesame Street. CTW would test every program. In one segment, they wanted to show the difference between an internal skeleton and an external skeleton. The animation showed an ant while a voice over said that the ant had an external skeleton so it could not grow as big as an elephant, which had an internal skeleton. As the narrator spoke, the animated illustration showed the ant growing as big as an elephant and then exploding. When CTW tested the segment and asked the audience whether an ant could grow as big as an elephant, 90 percent of the audience said “yes, an ant can grow as big as an elephant,” because they had just seen it in the animated sequence, and the visual was much more powerful than the audio.

CTW also tested the extent to which each Sesame Street program would capture and hold the attention of the audience. CTW would show a program segment and have a distracter machine next to the TV set. (The distracter machine was merely some blinking lights.) Observers would watch the eyes of the audience to see when they looked away from the TV program and at the distracter machine. At that point, CTW would put in another effect, such as a cut, dissolves, pan, wipe, or animated sequence, that would hold the audience’s attention.

To be continued…

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

Go to:

www.movieguide.org

and

http://howtosucceedinhollywood.com

 

 

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Gail Gaymer Martin Today is December 25.  Wishing you a blessed Christmas from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com

The screenwriting outline article I have been sharing with you lists a fifth and final major point for creating a dynamic story—pacing. Pacing is not only important for screenwriting. It is vital for plotting a novel. I’ve stressed this before in other articles on writing, but this will be a good review.

5. Pacing needs to flow like a river with all its hidden dangers. Through outlining the author can visual pacing before writing the book. He can see the river's calm and the turbulence and then place these scenes in the most meaningful way to impact the story.

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Gail Gaymer Martin It's another writing blog day and I'm a day late, but better late than you know what. . .as they say. First I want to wish you a blessed Christmas and joy in the new year, and next I want to continue talking to you about the fourth point on the Outline series I've been sharing with you which is  Subplot Arcs.  At the Gideon conference, I had the opportunity to hear about some interesting concepts that work while outlining plot elements for a dynamic film or book. The fourth point under outlining dealt with developing subplot arcs.

4. Develop subplot arcs affect the main plot. Weave these subplot arcs through the novel rather than dropping them into the story and then resolving them early. A subplot must make an impact on the main story and change it in a meaningful way by adding conflict.

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Another Monday, and hello from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com  I'm to share another topic on techniques in writing.  

Gail Gaymer Martin

I’ve been cover information I learned about screenwriting techniques from the Gideon Media and Film Festival. The third technique to enhance your novel is using setting to make a difference in characterization and mood.

3. Setting should be specific and used to deepen characterization and conflict, not just a place to plop characters. Setting influences the storyline because it influences the lifestyle of the characters, and it affects their needs and wants or their ability to reach these goals.

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