Edgar Wright – How to Do Visual Comedy

Edgar Wright – How to Do Visual Comedy


One, two, three four Hi my name is Tony and this is
Every Frame a Painting. So today I’m going to talk about
a director whose work I love. but before that let me be upfront.
I think comedy movies today especially American ones
have totally lost their way. I don’t hate the jokes
or the actors or the dialogue or the stories though
there’s plenty of issues there. My real qualm is that the filmmaking the use of picture and sound
to deliver jokes, is just…–What?
–This is booooring.–Delete. Look, everyone’s taste is different. What you find funny is what you funny.
So I’m not saying these movies suck or you suck if you like them.
What I am saying is that these movies aren’t movies.
They’re lightly edited improv. Everyone stands still and
talks at each other in close-up. Almost none of these jokes come visually
They’re overwhelming sound. And not even the full range of sound,
just dialogue. And this is really sad because that’s just a fraction
of what’s possible in cinema. Apart from animation
and some commercials, visual comedy is actually
moving backwards. And that’s why if you love this kind of stuff,
I cannot recommend Edgar Wright enough.–You’re a doctor, deal with it.
–Yeah, motherfucker. He’s one of the only people
working in the genre
using the full range of what is possible And because of that, he can find
humor in places that others don’t look. Here’s an example.
Say you need to move your character from one city to another to get the
story going. How do you shoot it? And can you get a joke out of it?
…Well, no. Not if you send out a 2nd unit to do it,
every shot pans from left to right you include obvious landmarks and signs,
you mix in generic helicopter footage and you put upbeat music under it
so the audience doesn’t get bored. This is just lazy filmmaking and boring.
We’ve seen it a million times. What would happen if you were truly
inventive with this type of scene? There we go! And this isn’t
just a series of quick cuts. There’s a lot of good
visual storytelling here. These two taxi shots tell you exactly
where we came from and where we’re going These two shots emphasize
the move away from civilization. Our main character always faces
forward or to the right so screen direction is respected.
Turning the music down and the sound FX up is funny
because each cut is jarring. And there’s even some nice performances
from Simon Pegg and Ryan Gosling. Okay that was 1 example without context.
You’re right. Totally unfair. Well what if you had a movie where
a horrible apocalyptic event happens, and you want to foreshadow it earlier,
maybe by having the characters not notice something important on TV.
How would you show it? Would you just throw it in the edit
for 2 seconds and 2 frames and no shot shows the relationship
between the characters and the TV?–he’s having a housewarming party,
he just finished building his house. Or would you do this?–Although no one official is prepared
to comment, religious groups arecalling it judgment day. There’s–panic on the streets of London–as an increasing number of reports of
–serious attacks on–people who are literally being
–eaten alive Okay still unfair. What if you had movie
where one character has stopped drinking but the others are disappointed in him
and you want to get a joke out of it. How would you do it? Would they just stand around
and talk about his drinking?–No I appreciate it but I told my wife
I wouldn’t drink tonight–Besides I got a big day tomorrow.
You guys have a great time.–Big day? Doing what?
Or would you do this?
–What?!–I don’t believe this. This is what separates a mediocre
director from a great one. The ability to take the most simple mundane scenes
and find new ways to do them. Great directors understand that you
can get a laugh just through staging. Here’s an example from David Bordwell:
things popping up into frame are funny.–Slow ahead, I can go slow ahead.
Come on down and chum some of this shit! And it’s not just things entering frame.
Consider the opposite.–I said tell Ms. Laura “Goodbye”–Bye, Ms. Laura You can get a laugh from a zoom. –You wanna pop the trunk and roll
the windows down, please? You can get a laugh from a crane up.
–Shirley, I’m so sorry.–I’m going home, Britta.
–I know, Shirley, I know.–No I’m going home, can you help me up?
–Oh You can get a laugh from a pan. As Martin Scorsese put it cinema is a matter of what’s in
the frame and what’s not in the frame. So think about the frame. And this isn’t
a matter of smart or stupid comedy. Really if it works, it works. So here are 8 things Edgar Wright
does with picture and sound that I want to see other
comedy filmmakers try out. #1 Things entering the frame
in funny ways #2 People leaving the frame
in funny ways #3 There and back again #4 Matching scene transitions #5 The perfectly-timed sound effect #6 Action synchronized to the music #7 Super-dramatic lighting cues #8 Fence gags And you know what, let’s thrown in
#9 Imaginary gunfights So if you’re a filmmaker, work on this.
The frame is a playground. So play. And the next time you go to
a theater and pay $15 to see a comedy don’t be satisfied with shit
that is less inventive than Vine.

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