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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sweet Emotion

In a moment that will live in infamy forever, recently the Wave-inatrix lazily tuned into the last half hour of Deal or No Deal. It was horrible. What a spectacle. But j-u-s-t before I could click to the next channel, I found myself thinking – TAKE the eighty-six thousand dollar offer! TAKE IT! Okay okay he said no deal – choose briefcase number 16! The million dollars is in number 16!!

Suddenly, even in the lowest form of entertainment (the banker said that if the contestant’s family gained enough pounds eating chicken wings, live, on stage, that he’d add $1,000 for every pound they collectively gained), I found myself identifying with the main character – the contestant. He really needs the money! He and his wife have had a hard time financially! Eighty-six grand is enough to change his life! Go for it, guy from Iowa! GO FOR IT!

What a rush it was, gambling with someone else's money, someone else's life! It was vicarious and it was fun.

It’s the same reason that when I found myself watching 27 DRESSES (way cuter and solid than I had given it credit for, by the way) I was able to ignore a couple of silly plot choices in the third act because - dammit – if Heigl didn’t choose Marsden, then her one shot at true love would slip through her fingers. Choose him! Choose him! Go get him! Love is real! Love is GOOD!

It’s why I watched PHILADELPHIA the other night and literally cried my eyes out. Oh and what wonderful, cathartic tears they were. Love! Grief! Justice! Take that, mean Jason Robards!

It doesn’t have to be an experience you know personally, it doesn’t have to be anything you’ve ever done – but here’s the thing – we humans, we crave the sensation of feeling. PURPLE RAIN? Arguably a pretty lame movie – but, but – When Doves Cry? Not sad? Darling Nikki? Man, Prince was MAD! And it was effective. If you like Prince. The Purple King. The Glyph. The Tiny Purple Wonder. Nothing compares 2 him, take me with U!

We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed with our emotions when we watch a movie and we also know what it feels like to be grinning and laughing so much in a movie that the utter silliness of the world doesn’t matter – damn, ANCHORMAN is funny. It just is. And you can bet your bottom dollar, that as a performer, Will Ferrell can reach into that feeling part of himself that knows how it feels to be the big guy, the lumbering guy, the flabby-tummy guy.

Judd Apatow wouldn’t be able to write such great comedy if he didn’t identity personally with his main characters. He clearly has an empathy and connection with men who are vulnerable and imperfect and struggling. I don’t think many comedies have as much heart and depth as The 40 Year-Old Virgin – and as many belly laughs and memorable moments - (You know how I know you’re gay?) Apatow gets how it feels to be Seth Rogen in KNOCKED UP.

When a certain primal part of you is called forth, your intellect – the insistent, thinking part of your brain is on the merciful hold and your heart takes over.

So how do you imbue your script pages with those kinds of urgent, primal emotions? Fear, love, longing, grief, injustice – or pure, unmitigated, totally freeing laughter?

The secret is this, Wavers- you have to feel those emotions yourself as you write. When you’re writing – don’t think about the eventual audience. Get so into your pages that you are completely transported with the emotions on the page. The anger, the jealousy, the fear, the love, the laughter – feel it completely. Immerse yourself, suspend that thinking part of yourself as you write and reach the primal part of yourself that needs to see justice borne out or the girl get the guy or the bad guy killed off and justice wrought.

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