Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Video on Exposition!

Hey guys, it seems impossible to go on, but we must go on. Let’s all pretend that my silly little story advice has any meaning in post-apocalyptic America! That said, here’s a new video on exposition: This one is the shortest yet, barely squeaking in over three minutes. Is it too short? Let me know!


Jesse Baruffi said...

Hi Matt,

I think you made some decent points as usual, but I thought of a real butt-kicker of an example you might have used if you were concerned about making it a bit longer: The Matrix!

There's a lot of exposition that movie requires to make sense, but early on, people aren't confused because they don't understand; instead, they're intrigued. People can argue about how interesting Thomas Anderson is as a character, but we as the audience share his curiosity and desire to know what's really going on. And indeed, when we do finally find out, it's a whopper of a revelation, not only for him, but for us.

Now, imagine instead if they movie opened by explaining the war between machines and man, and how we're all in the illusion. It would be unwatchable, right? Same events, but the different sequence of telling makes all the difference.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

I think this one's very good. Sounds good, makes sense, examples are well placed, solid stuff.

I second Jesse's comment above -- there's a lot to be said for offering counter-examples. Even The Lord of the Rings, the ur-text for fantastical, detailed world building, eases us into Middle Earth. We follow Frodo before we hear about Ring Wraiths and Balrogs and Snozzwanglers and Sneeches-with-Stars-Upon-Thars and whatnot, and we learn about the world when he does.

If you wanted to revise the video, one example you could address is the big "BLOCK OF TEXT TO SET UP UNIVERSE" that everyone knows: Star Wars. Why does it work there and not in John Carter or Green Lantern Because the SW opening crawl is so brief and generic? Because what it says informs the very first scene and can be forgotten after that?

Matt Bird said...

Jesse: "The Matrix" a great example.

Good question: Why does it work in "Star Wars"? I think the intentional cheesiness of it and the lack of visuals helps.

Fabian said...

I thought the video was very interesting, but maybe a bit too short. A few more examples might have been helpful.

I would argue Star Wars works because the block-of-text exposition is less than 2 minutes long. In Green Lantern it takes 14 minutes until the protagonist appears, in John Carter 10 minutes.
Lord of the Rings: Frodo is introduced after about 7 minutes. Nevertheless, it works better than Green Lantern and John Carter.

Matt Bird said...

Thinking more about it, I think one reason that "Star Wars" works is because the opening crawl catches us up on things the characters already know, as opposed to John Carter and Green Lantern, which are trying to give us a head start on the story before the characters catch up.

Glen said...

Would be great if you did a second part to this and looked at films like 'Spotlight' or 'The Big Short' which are very heavy on exposition?

I personally don't think the Star Wars opening works very well at all... Do we give it a pass for sentimental, nostalgic or this movie is not complete garbage reasons?

I think there is a lot to be said for making the opening entertaining with dialogue and images, which then gives you some liberties to dump a lot of exposition about your new world set-up. L.A. Confidential does this quite well....

The Prufeshanul said...

Great video.

The Star Wars exposition is interesting because it sets the scene and immerses you in the world very quickly. It was re-written by Brain De Palma - George Lucas had a much more lardy version which gives a completely different feel to the opening of the movie:


The problem of exposition is one that seems to be handled better by TV shows these days - although obviously there is a longer time frame in which to set things out with a series.

To some extent, the theme of the story will determine how much leeway you have with exposition.