Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Director Commentaries

Do you like watching tv and / or movies? Then this theory is for you!

Director / writer commentaries can teach you most everything you need to know about plotting, pacing, and character development.

These guys may write for a different media than us, but they have it going on! The writers and directors of the shows you love really know what they're doing, and if you listen to their commentaries, they will TELL YOU just how they did it.

To entice you to test my theory if you haven't before, I'll share this. Joss Whedon is a genius. (I would've started that sentence with an "I think," but his genius goes well beyond "I think.") I watched a lot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Firefly episodes while they were on tv, but got them on DVD a couple years later. I wasn't a writer at that point, but I still watched every single commentary on the discs because they were fascinating.

The cool thing? They break down the episode. They talk about every plot decision and why they made it. They talk about character development. They talk about sub-plots. They talked about challenges they faced in the plot and how they overcame them. They talk about the scenes they cut. (Including my favorite cutting advice ever, which I'll share at another time. This is, after all, my theory. It wouldn't be right telling Joss' theory. He needs his own day.)

Joss taught me an incredibly huge amount about writing, and laid the groundwork for me to become a writer. Because of him, a lot of things came by instinct when I started writing.

There are a LOT of really good shows out there, and tons of them have director / writer commentaries. So how do you get to these great commentaries? Good question. I'd say first try googling it to see if there are any online. The more sure bet, though, is to get the show on DVD. So pick one that has been out for more than just this season, get a month subscription to your favorite Netflix-ish provider, and order it on DVD. It's like getting candy, they come with so many special surprises!

Plus, then you can count watching tv as "doing research." You can even bring popcorn! Seriously. Give it a try.

Anyone else a commentary junkie like me? What show have you learned the most from?

22 comments:

Jessie Humphries said...

Never even thought of this. Good one Pegs! "I think" you're a genius!

Cristina said...

what a great idea... I LOVE Firefly and have been thinking about watching it again... hmmm... great idea :)

Kelley said...

I love commentaries. I'm a huge fan of Bones and have watched the extras on every DVD season. It is really neat to get inside the actor and director's heads.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

This is so interesting! I've never even thought of doing this... I may have to try it!! :D

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

What a great idea! I shall certainly investigate this further... Thanks a lot for the advice, Peggy.

prerna pickett said...

love Joss Whedon. He is definitely a genius!

Jenny S. Morris said...

Oh, this is awesome advice. I have all the Chuck season's on DVD. I'm going to go home and watch the commentaries. Thank you!

S.P. Bowers said...

I'll do almost anything for popcorn. This should be fun.

Carrie Butler said...

Oh, oh! If you want great Joss commentary, get the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog DVD. It's in musical form. Joss sings. You'll love it. ;)

i'm erin. said...

I love Joss! But I guess I never really thought about it that way. You're pretty amazing.

Susan Kane said...

Joss Whedon IS a genius. When I think about what makes or breaks a show or movie, it always goes to good writing. No matter how talented an actor is, if the writing sucks, then the show sucks.
Nathan Fillion. Oh, sigh.

M*A*S*H was a show of my young adult years, and the writing was great.

Cortney said...

I LOVE Buffy but I've never watched the director's commentary. Guess I'll have to pull out my first season and check it out. Interesting stuff!

Abby said...

This is brilliant. No, I'm not a commentary junkie, but apparently I need to be. AND if I can bring popcorn... all the better!

Maeve Frazier said...

This is really a great post. Thanks for the advice.

Tara Tyler said...

i will try it, when i find some time. i barely get to watch tv, much less movies...i have to tear myself from the computer! must. do. dishes.

Iain said...

I hadn't thought of the commentaries in that way. What a brilliant excuse to re-watch Buffy, and Firefly. :o)

David Powers King said...

I need to give this theory a try. Thanks for the brilliant idea. I expect nothing less from your blog! :)

Kristine said...

I'm not a commentary junkie - mostly because I don't watch it more than once or enough that I'd be okay with talking over the scenes! Plus, I have you. You tell me the cool stuff I'd be interested in! ;) I heart you.

CherylAnne Ham said...

This is the best advice! It just made my day. Television as research is brilliant and I can only imagine all the little gems of info you can glean from watching the commentaries. Thanks so much for sharing this. :D

Elizabeth said...

Cute blog name.

NEW FOLLOWER.

Elizabeth

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

Shilpa said...

Interesting. I am tweeting this now...oh yeah, imagine I am finally learning tweeting! :)

K. Marie Criddle said...

I ADORE the director's commentaries! I remember watching the "Serenity" commentary and hearing them go on a long tangent about the lighting in a scene and while it wasn't so much about the writing, it was such an integral part of the story that they got the COLOR in the scene right...and that made me think a LOT about details.

Oh, and I agree with Carrie up there: you HAVE to watch the commentary on Dr. Horrible! It's...stunning. (*goes off singing "Ninja Ropes"*)