Development Program : Staging as Applied to Presentation of Story and Gag Ideas

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From the collection of Hans Perk at A. Film L.A. and reprinted here with his permission.

[...] The second point to consider, which I think is a very important one, is the mental capacity of the average audience. In other words, don't get too sophisticated. Timing is very much concerned with the quickness of the mentality of our audience. I don't wish to set any rules about just what the mental age of our audience is. However, I don't believe it is quite as low as the moron or twelve-year old mind. Still, it is not sophisticated. This is my personal opinion, but I think we must keep our ideas simple, no matter how they are sugar-coated for presentation to the audience.

The whole key-note of my talk will be on the clarity of the idea, the simplicity of the idea, and the directness of the idea. This is a part of the secret of our medium -- clarity, simplicity, and directness. We should consider very seriously, when we are building an idea, the mental capacity of our audience. It goes a little deeper that saying that we will make it simple. We must analyze the idea and go back a little farther than that. We must consider the continuity build-up of the idea. In my experience with the Story Department, I have found, broadly speaking, that they don't go back far enough in the analysis of an idea to know why it is or is not funny. I think it is important that we be able to answer when someone asks us why we consider a thing funny, or why we consider it is not funny. We can't get it by intuition. We need a continuity build-up to a spot idea. We must plant the seed of an idea, whether it is a gag or a personality touch. We must so build the idea we are going to expose at a later date that we will be sure the thing clicks when we present it.

The next point I wish to make is the importance of continuity build-up to "spot" staging. I am not talking about story construction. I am talking about presenting the idea simply and clearly, at the proper moment.

I have culled from some book, the name of which I don't have, the following statement, which I have changed to read into our medium:

"It is to careful building that the idea owes its smoothness. The goal or idea for which the story man, director or animator should strive is to so build gags and points that by the use of one simple action he relates gags or points to the next with naturalness and inevitableness. The careful building makes the whole perfectly smooth." [...]