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Surprise Your Audience Mar 27

Ros goes down the elevator shaftA friend sent me this excerpt from a recent interview with David E. Kelley (Harry’s Law, Boston Legal, Boston Public, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope, L.A. Law). It highlights an important mindset to have when crafting scenes:

L.A. Law is where we first got a taste of what would be your trademark, those surprise, odd twists, like Roz going down the elevator shaft. Where do those ideas come from?

I promise it isn’t drugs. You know, you sort of get smarter through the years, but that’s the one question I’m really still unable to answer. I do subscribe to the theory that it is entertainment, and when people sit down in their La-Z-Boy chair at the end of the night, they maybe should be able to see something that they’re not going to see in everyday life. So arguments of mine [between characters] will tend to be more melodramatic, and some of the eccentricities will be heightened. That’s just kind of what I like to do. Also, I loved The Twilight Zone as a kid, and Outer Limits and shows like that, which went in directions that you just never imagined. I do do that. I do say, “Okay, this is the scene, this is the normal way it would go. Is there another way it could possibly go that fits within the context of the show that you may not see coming?”

So what are the important takeaways? Give the audience:

A) “something that they’re not going to see in everyday life.”
B) something that they “may not see coming.”

Bonus

If you have 4 1/2 minutes, I highly recommend watching the following animated short that I found recently, created by Graham Annable. It has several moments that I hadn’t seen before and definitely didn’t see coming.

Pay special attention to how the slow pacing (especially in one particular scene) is brilliantly utilized for humorous effect.

Full David E. Kelley interview via Vulture.


Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

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2 Responses
  1. Scott says:

    That was a great short. Very well done.

  2. Trevor Mayes says:

    Hey Scott. Glad you liked it. Yeah, I think it’s brilliant.

    … And thanks for the tip on the David E. Kelley excerpt!

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