My last video got me lots of hits and followers, and they’ve all been waiting patiently for video #3, so here it is: Moments of Humanity! I hope you enjoy it! As usual, please let me know what you think! This one is a little different, in that the advice is not as counterintuitive, so it seems less “cool” to me, but hopefully it’ll be useful to see all these examples thrown together. Let me know!
Something that occurred to me while watching this one is that perhaps missing from your account (and what makes this point more accurate and more interesting than "save the cat") is that these moments are not (generally) just random moments of "humanity" but specifically a moment of *that character's* humanity--directly tied to the personalities of the characters and the themes of the films:
The Crowd - that mirror, that speck of dirt, the location tell you so much about the character
Modern Times - that scene sets up Chaplin's tramp's ingenuity, as well as the individual v. collective theme
40 Year Old Virgin - I mean, that's what the whole movie is going to be about
Mean Girls - her public self vs. her private self
I won't do the rest. But the point is you couldn't randomly assign these, the way you could randomly have a character save a cat. At this early stage of all these films, it would ring false for Rick from Casablanca or Han Solo to have Aladdin's moment, whereas for Aladdin it sets up his whole personality of being a "selfish" thief with a heart of gold (or should I say a diamond in the rough). Cady from Mean Girls might try as hard as the Tramp, but she either wouldn't give in to the urge to scratch, or wouldn't figure out how to catch up with the assembly line. Etc.
Great point Mark!
I find a lot of writers employ a moment of underdog to introduce a character to get that humanity in there. Like how we are introduced to Ben Stiller's very unlikable character in Night at the Museum getting a clamp put on his tire for parking in the wrong spot. Most people have parked illegally hoping they wouldn't get busted, and to see someone get busted by the cosmos/system puts the audience on his side. Or how Pip in Great Expectations is introduced to us as being an orphan who is accosted by a criminal at his parent's grave. So when he grows up to be a jerk for a while, we're still on his side. I always think of this as a "Charlie Brown" moment. The hero's kite is eaten by a tree. The football is taken away. And usually because the hero was showing some optimism for humanity that is quashed.
Mark - That's an excellent point.
Brian - I generally like to differentiate between moments of humanity and humiliating moments, because I feel like they should be distinct. It's tempting to simply say, "They'll identify with the hero because the hero suffers humiliation like they have", but I think that doesn't always work. Moments of positive identification are just as important as moments of negative identification.
I totally agree. I think it is one of the ways or categories I see people displaying humanity. Empathy through misfortune. Not really humiliation, but the feeling of the universe being against oneself, that one is small and insignificant and can't influence the world (which is why when they do, we cheer for them).
The advice isn't counterintuitive but it's one of the most "aha!" inspiring ideas in the book, at least for me. It's one of those ideas that's half-formed in most people's heads but rarely spelled out and clarified.
One bit of advice: talk a little more slowly. The clips you're using have an effect on your speaking pace, sure, but it'll sound better if you slow down just a bit. The viewer has more time to digest and you sound more confident.
But I re-recorded it in order to slow it down! I'll try to slow down some more. Keep in mind, I moved to NYC from Atlanta and the New Yorkers thought I talked to fast.
When speaking in public, I always feel like I'm talking too slowly and over-inflecting like a morning deejay, but recordings of such talks sound fine, better than a naturally paced and inflected version would. (During such gigs, I always hear Jon Lovitz yelling "ACTING!") One thing that worked pretty well for me is to silently count at commas and periods -- count to one at a comma and to two at a period. Doing so feels as artificial as William Shatner's hair but the enforced pauses sound proper to an audience.
The video-and-narration interaction was well done. Very clear.
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