Home » Archives » January 2007 » Friends, Romans, Countrymen...
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01/18/2007: Friends, Romans, Countrymen...
They did something very interesting on the season premiere of "Rome" on HBO the other night. Are you aware of this show? It's wonderful. Bloody and funny and full of stuff you remember from Western Civ, only with real, fragile people in it and an occasional "as it is, so it ever was" wink to our own times. And, in this latest episode, there was also an interesting awareness that another writer had already tackled this subject matter. It is a unique and interesting problem. Spoilers ahead.
Okay, last season ended with Julius all bloody and dead on the senate floor. So at this point, you might be expecting some political maneuvering and speechifying from Brutus and Marc Antony. But imagine you're the writer of this. You've got a substantial problem on your hands. Someone has already written those speeches. Someone really good has written those speeches. Do you really want to sit down and start figuring out something *catchier* than "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him..."? Man.
So here's the solution they came up with... We get the maneuvering, and, sure enough, the speeches are on the horizon... but we don't see them. Instead, we get this great working class guy in a bar in the aftermath, *telling about the speeches*. We hear about Brutus' labored effort that went over everyone's head, and then about how Marc Antony slayed 'em all with his beautiful pathos. We hear it from a character who was personally emotionally affected by the speeches.
This probably isn't the choice the writers would've made in a World Without Will. It was distanced from the event, obviously. But it was still emotional, it was elegant, and it neatly side-stepped the problem. I approve. And I love the fact that the show pretty much assumes their audience is familiar with Shakespeare. Amazing. After all, there are shows that don't even assume we're familiar with the contents of the previous scene.
Now this problem, as I said, is unique, or it must at least be nearly so. How many shows have to deal with already having been written? But there is something very similar that can happen on all shows, and it can happen in your spec, too. Events can become predictable even if Shakespeare hasn't gotten to them yet.
I'm sure you've noticed this as a viewer. Do you ever fast-forward through a scene, even on a show you enjoy, because it's already clear exactly what's going to happen?
Look for these scenes in your spec. Are there any that feel inevitable? Did you write them quickly but without excitement? Do you find yourself skipping them when you reread? If the end of a scene *dictates* the entire contents of the next scene, ask yourself if there's some way to lose that next scene.
Cut it. Cut it. Cut it. After all, it ain't Shakespeare.
Lunch: leftover chopped Italian salad from Maria's. Not bad even the next day.