movies

The Great Dictator (1940). Spanish-language poster.

The Great Dictator (1940). Spanish-language poster.

“I’m really a freak in every place I go. I don’t quite fit in the independent scene, I don’t quite fit in the art scene, and I don’t fit in the Hollywood scene, so I’m a weird strange fat motherfucker. I’ll tell you this: I plan to stay that way, because there is something to be said.”- Guillermo del Toro

“I’m really a freak in every place I go. I don’t quite fit in the independent scene, I don’t quite fit in the art scene, and I don’t fit in the Hollywood scene, so I’m a weird strange fat motherfucker. I’ll tell you this: I plan to stay that way, because there is something to be said.”- Guillermo del Toro

Data Mining Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling

Scientists at the Computational Story Laboratory have analyzed novels to identify the building blocks of all stories.

by Emerging Technology from the arXiv 

Back in 1995, Kurt Vonnegut gave a lecture in which he described his theory about the shapes of stories. In the process, he plotted several examples on a blackboard. “There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers,” he said. “They are beautiful shapes.” The video is available on YouTube.

Vonnegut was representing in graphical form an idea that writers have explored for centuries—that stories follow emotional arcs, that these arcs can have different shapes, and that some shapes are better suited to storytelling than others.

Vonnegut mapped out several arcs in his lecture. These include the simple arc encapsulating “man falls into hole, man gets out of hole” and the more complex one of “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.”

Vonnegut is not alone in attempting to categorize stories into types, although he was probably the first to do it in graphical form. Aristotle was at it over 2,000 years before him, and many others have followed in his footsteps.

However, there is little agreement on the number of different emotional arcs that arise in stories or their shape. Estimates vary from three basic patterns to more than 30. But there is little in the way of scientific evidence to favor one number over another.

image

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Andrew Reagan at the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington and a few pals. These guys have used sentiment analysis to map the emotional arcs of over 1,700 stories and then used data-mining techniques to reveal the most common arcs. “We find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives,” they say.

Their method is straightforward. The idea behind sentiment analysis is that words have a positive or negative emotional impact. So words can be a measure of the emotional valence of the text and how it changes from moment to moment. So measuring the shape of the story arc is simply a question of assessing the emotional polarity of a story at each instant and how it changes.

Reagan and co do this by analyzing the emotional polarity of “word windows” and sliding these windows through the text to build up a picture of how the emotional valence changes. They performed this task on over 1,700 English works of fiction that had each been downloaded from the Project Gutenberg website more than 150 times.

Finally, they used a variety of data-mining techniques to tease apart the different emotional arcs present in these stories.

The results make for interesting reading. Reagan and co say that their techniques all point to the existence of six basic emotional arcs that form the building blocks of more complex stories. They are also able to identify the stories that are the best examples of each arc.

The six basic emotional arcs are these:

A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

Finally, the team looks at the correlation between the emotional arc and the number of story downloads to see which types of arc are most popular. It turns out the most popular are stories that follow the Icarus and Oedipus arcs and stories that follow more complex arcs that use the basic building blocks in sequence. In particular, the team says the most popular are stories involving two sequential man-in-hole arcs and a Cinderella arc followed by a tragedy.

Of course, many books follow more complex arcs at more fine-grained resolution. Reagan and co’s method does not capture the changes in emotional polarity that occur on the level of paragraphs, for example. But instead, it captures the much broader emotional arcs involved in storytelling. Their story arcs are available here.

That’s interesting work that provides empirical evidence for the existence of basic story arcs for the first time. It also provides an important insight into the nature of storytelling and its appeal to the human psyche.

It also sets the scene for the more ambitious work. Reagan and co look mainly at works of fiction in English. It would be interesting to see how emotional arcs vary according to language or culture, how they have varied over time and also how factual books compare.

Vonnegut famously outlined his theory of story shapes in his master’s thesis in anthropology at the University of Chicago. It was summarily rejected, in Vonnegut’s words, “because it was so simple, and looked like too much fun.“ Today he would surely be amused but unsurprised.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1606.07772: The Emotional Arcs of Stories Are Dominated by Six Basic Shapes

Stranger Things: References to films from the 70’s and 80’s.

by Ulysse Thevenon

The Prestige: Hiding In Plain Sight

by Evan Puschak

Del Toro in Colors

by Quentin Dumas

Joel & Ethan Coen - Shot | Reverse Shot

by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou

Hands of Nolan

‘Always leave the door open to allow life to enter the set.’ - Jean Renoir

‘Always leave the door open to allow life to enter the set.’ - Jean Renoir

Stephen King on a good opening line and his top 20 rules for writers.   In one of my favorite Stephen King interviews, for The Atlantic, he talks at length about the vital importance of a good opening line. “There are all sorts of theories,” he says, “it’s a tricky thing.” “But there’s one thing” he’s sure about: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” King’s discussion of opening lines is compelling because of his dual focus as an avid reader and a prodigious writer of fiction—he doesn’t lose sight of either perspective:  We’ve talked so much about the reader, but you can’t forget that the opening line is important to the writer, too. To the person who’s actually boots-on-the-ground. Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both.  This is excellent advice. As you orient your reader, so you orient yourself, pointing your work in the direction it needs to go. Now King admits that he doesn’t think much about the opening line as he writes, in a first draft, at least. That perfectly crafted and inviting opening sentence is something that emerges in revision, which can be where the bulk of a writer’s work happens.  Revision in the second draft, “one of them, anyway,” may “necessitate some big changes” says King in his 2000 memoir slash writing guide On Writing. And yet, it is an essential process, and one that “hardly ever fails.” Below, we bring you King’s top twenty rules from On Writing. About half of these relate directly to revision. The other half cover the intangibles—attitude, discipline, work habits. A number of these suggestions reliably pop up in every writer’s guide. But quite a few of them were born of Stephen King’s many decades of trial and error and—writes the Barnes & Noble book blog—“over 350 million copies” sold, “like them or loathe them.”   1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience.  “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”   2. Don’t use passive voice.  “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”   3. Avoid adverbs.  “The adverb is not your friend.”   4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”    5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar.  “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”   6. The magic is in you.  “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”   7. Read, read, read.  ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”   8. Don’t worry about making other people happy.  “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”   9. Turn off the TV.  “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”   10. You have three months.  “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”   11. There are two secrets to success.  “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”   12. Write one word at a time.  “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”   13. Eliminate distraction.  “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”   14. Stick to your own style.  “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”   15. Dig.  “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”   16. Take a break.  “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”   17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings.  “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”   18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story.  “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”   19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing.  “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”   20. Writing is about getting happy.  “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

Stephen King on a good opening line and his top 20 rules for writers.

In one of my favorite Stephen King interviews, for The Atlantic, he talks at length about the vital importance of a good opening line. “There are all sorts of theories,” he says, “it’s a tricky thing.” “But there’s one thing” he’s sure about: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” King’s discussion of opening lines is compelling because of his dual focus as an avid reader and a prodigious writer of fiction—he doesn’t lose sight of either perspective:

We’ve talked so much about the reader, but you can’t forget that the opening line is important to the writer, too. To the person who’s actually boots-on-the-ground. Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both.

This is excellent advice. As you orient your reader, so you orient yourself, pointing your work in the direction it needs to go. Now King admits that he doesn’t think much about the opening line as he writes, in a first draft, at least. That perfectly crafted and inviting opening sentence is something that emerges in revision, which can be where the bulk of a writer’s work happens.

Revision in the second draft, “one of them, anyway,” may “necessitate some big changes” says King in his 2000 memoir slash writing guide On Writing. And yet, it is an essential process, and one that “hardly ever fails.” Below, we bring you King’s top twenty rules from On Writing. About half of these relate directly to revision. The other half cover the intangibles—attitude, discipline, work habits. A number of these suggestions reliably pop up in every writer’s guide. But quite a few of them were born of Stephen King’s many decades of trial and error and—writes the Barnes & Noble book blog—“over 350 million copies” sold, “like them or loathe them.”

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

How STAR WARS can get back to it’s indie roots, or a boy can dream, can’t he?    Quick poll: Who else wants to see an indie Star Wars film?    Do you hear that? It’s the sound of all the air being sucked out of the room, more specifically, 
it’s the sound a Star Wars film makes when released. Since May of 1977, 
Star Wars has held a rare place in cinema; each time a film is released,
 it assumes total market dominance. The addition of solid leadership by 
superstar producer, Kathleen Kennedy, and the backing of Disney’s 
marketing machine means there is no end in sight for the franchise. This
 gives them great power, but as Luke’s new bunkmate Spiderman will tell 
you;   ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’   There are sequels and prequels and ‘stand alone’ plans, Han Solo origin story anyone? Certainly, we will have Star Wars films for years to come. That’s the good news.   The bad news?   Well, they’re all going to be giant tent pole films. Don’t get me wrong; I 
love a good CGI extravaganza as much as the next guy but isn’t it 
possible the fans could burn out on event after event? It seems to be 
working fine for Marvel (also acquired by Disney) and for Transformers, 
though the latter has a multi-year break between pictures.  Now,
 I could be totally wrong about this, but in celebration of Star Wars 
creator George Lucas, an indie filmmaker more interested in 
documentaries and tone poems (early music videos without the band, or 
the group, or sometimes the music) I’ve compiled a list of nine indie 
Star Wars films. They’re cheap to make and easy to sell. Why open one 
Star Wars film every year when you can open two?…   https://medium.com/@futurePratt/how-star-wars-can-get-back-to-its-indie-roots-or-a-boy-can-dream-cant-he-5b69a5f876d3

How STAR WARS can get back to it’s indie roots, or a boy can dream, can’t he?

Quick poll: Who else wants to see an indie Star Wars film?

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of all the air being sucked out of the room, more specifically, it’s the sound a Star Wars film makes when released. Since May of 1977, Star Wars has held a rare place in cinema; each time a film is released, it assumes total market dominance. The addition of solid leadership by superstar producer, Kathleen Kennedy, and the backing of Disney’s marketing machine means there is no end in sight for the franchise. This gives them great power, but as Luke’s new bunkmate Spiderman will tell you;

‘With great power comes great responsibility.’

There are sequels and prequels and ‘stand alone’ plans, Han Solo origin story anyone? Certainly, we will have Star Wars films for years to come. That’s the good news.

The bad news?

Well, they’re all going to be giant tent pole films. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good CGI extravaganza as much as the next guy but isn’t it possible the fans could burn out on event after event? It seems to be working fine for Marvel (also acquired by Disney) and for Transformers, though the latter has a multi-year break between pictures.

Now, I could be totally wrong about this, but in celebration of Star Wars creator George Lucas, an indie filmmaker more interested in documentaries and tone poems (early music videos without the band, or the group, or sometimes the music) I’ve compiled a list of nine indie Star Wars films. They’re cheap to make and easy to sell. Why open one Star Wars film every year when you can open two?…

https://medium.com/@futurePratt/how-star-wars-can-get-back-to-its-indie-roots-or-a-boy-can-dream-cant-he-5b69a5f876d3

George Lucas On How He Built His $4 Billion ‘Star Wars’ Empire   ‘If you own the movie, which I came to do, you make a lot of money. But you have to own it, and that means you have to put the money in, so you have to take the risk.  I was talking to Ladd Jr. on the first Star Wars. I had 50 percent of the net profits because my company was going out and making the movie, and I said, “I know what I’m doing for my 50 percent. I put my heart and soul in this, my whole career is at stake, I have to actually go out and make the movie… What are you doing for your 50 percent?” He said, “Well, I provide the money.” I said, “You don’t provide the money! You go to a bank with a letter of credit and they supply the money, so you’re not doing anything! And you get 50 percent of the movie!”  So, I came back for The Empire Strikes Back and, instead of them giving me the boilerplate contract, I gave them the boilerplate contract. I went to my lawyer and I said, “You’re going to do a distribution contract from scratch.” He said, “Do you know how hard that is? That’s really a lot of work! It’s 180 pages!” And I said, “Look: How many chances are you ever gonna get to write a distribution agreement for a studio? Nobody’s ever done it, and nobody’s ever gonna do it again.” I went to Laddy and I said, “Here’s the deal. I’m going to finance the film this time.” And he said, “Well, wait a minute… you’re getting 100 percent of the profits!” And I said, “Yeah. I’m financing it! Remember that 50 percent you had? Well, I’m doing that now. You don’t get that 50 percent, and I get my own 50 percent, so I get 100 percent.”’

George Lucas On How He Built His $4 Billion ‘Star Wars’ Empire

‘If you own the movie, which I came to do, you make a lot of money. But you have to own it, and that means you have to put the money in, so you have to take the risk.

I was talking to Ladd Jr. on the first Star Wars. I had 50 percent of the net profits because my company was going out and making the movie, and I said, “I know what I’m doing for my 50 percent. I put my heart and soul in this, my whole career is at stake, I have to actually go out and make the movie… What are you doing for your 50 percent?” He said, “Well, I provide the money.” I said, “You don’t provide the money! You go to a bank with a letter of credit and they supply the money, so you’re not doing anything! And you get 50 percent of the movie!”

So, I came back for The Empire Strikes Back and, instead of them giving me the boilerplate contract, I gave them the boilerplate contract. I went to my lawyer and I said, “You’re going to do a distribution contract from scratch.” He said, “Do you know how hard that is? That’s really a lot of work! It’s 180 pages!” And I said, “Look: How many chances are you ever gonna get to write a distribution agreement for a studio? Nobody’s ever done it, and nobody’s ever gonna do it again.” I went to Laddy and I said, “Here’s the deal. I’m going to finance the film this time.” And he said, “Well, wait a minute… you’re getting 100 percent of the profits!” And I said, “Yeah. I’m financing it! Remember that 50 percent you had? Well, I’m doing that now. You don’t get that 50 percent, and I get my own 50 percent, so I get 100 percent.”’