Question from Zachary:
I know you always say we need to read scripts, watch movies and tv, and write pages. It brings me to a question. Should you be watching and reading the subject matter you are currently writing. For instance i am writing a comedy at the moment and i often wonder if watching or reading dramas will ruin my zone for comedy.
If you’re writing a comedy, I suppose it’s not such a good idea to watch The Road on an endless loop. But frankly I would be more concerned about watching comedies while writing a comedy project. In fact I actually have a personal rule about it: When I’m in the page-writing part of the process, either first draft, rewrite, or polish, I do not watch movies in the same genre of that project. There is one big reason why not: Once I’ve found the tone of the story, I do everything I can to protect it.
This is especially true with comedy. Humor is such a subjective thing to begin with. Working with a story’s collection of characters and finding out where they go comedically is a big challenge. The difference between what works and doesn’t work can be a razor’s edge. Having found the right comedic tone, the last thing I want to do is read a book or watch a movie that causes me to:
* Rethink my tone
* Compare my tone to their tone
* Question my characters and their voices
So my advice: Once you type FADE IN, avoid watching movies in the same genre.
On the other hand, when I’m prepping a script and doing research, it can be important to watch movies in the same genre to get a Gestalt sense of what has come before. For example, if I was writing a compressed time frustration comedy about a group of guys who get into a situation way over their heads, I’d watch movies like The Hangover, Dude Where’s My Car, and After Hours to immerse myself in that subject area.
But not when I’m writing pages.
How about you? Do any of you find watching a bunch of dramas causes you to lose your comedic edge? Like me do you avoid watching movies in the same genre as your current project? Or does it not make one whit of difference to you?
[Originally posted January 31, 2011]