Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Listening to Commentaries on Your Favorite Show is a Great Tool

If you are a screenwriter or even a writer, have you ever listened to the DVD commentaries? If you have not done so, I highly recommend you start. You can rent the series or movie with commentaries or you can buy your favorites. I like to invest in my favorite movies and shows, because I am honestly very obsessive in how I study what they did behind-the-scenes. I especially gain value from listening to the writer's commentaries, which are more rare. Actor's or director's commentaries are useful too. Directors tend to explain scene setups and special effects, which can still give writers invaluable insights. Here are the commentaries I have found the most useful and taught me a lot.

True Blood -- All Three Released Seasons
True Blood includes the writers, directors and actors in their commentaries. Since I think the show's writing is stellar, I really enjoy the writer's perspective. Remember, any show about supernaturals that gets you to emotionally invest in its reality is well-done. True Blood accomplishes this feat. The writers do an amazing job balancing between the multiple story lines and keeping harmony between funny lines and serious dialogue. The actors, in turn, keep the balance with their skills. When Eric Northman goes from ripping a man's body in half to asking Laufayette if he has blood in his hair, the writers could have easily turned that into a campy mess. Instead, it was delivered very believably by resident talents Alexander Skarsgard and Nelsan Ellis. The commentaries address everything from the "why" to the "how". If you perhaps missed something subtle, the commentaries will point it out. These insights help me as a writer to truly consider everything as I develop characters and scenes. Nothing is better for me than to get inside of the thoughts and motivations from a writer's perspective.

Generation Kill
I had to special order this series, because I really wanted to hear the commentaries. The show was directed by kick-ass Susanna White. I love that a show that contains non-stop actions sequences was put in the very capable hands of a woman. What I got out of the commentaries was where exactly it was filmed to replicate Iraq with such precision. I loved listening to writers Ed Burns and Evan Wright. I romanticized the idea of being the writer in that Humvee even though I probably would have been scared to death. I like how Evan talks about the real-life experience the real men. How he respected their stories. Well, how the entire cast and crew dearly wanted to respect their stories, and how they accomplished it.

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