Plussing - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

We've been watching last season's 30 ROCK episodes -- I bailed out too early, after a shakey pilot. Gosh that show is funny. (I know: duh.)

30 ROCK seems particularly brilliant at plussing: adding additional funny material to a scene that's already funny. (As I understand it, plussing is a term from animation, where the staff try to come up with other funny things that could be going on in the frame.) Tina Fey's writing staff for 30 ROCK are constantly adding sight gags to other scenes. E.g., when they need to start a scene with Tracey Jordan alone in his personal office, he's not watching TV -- he's stepping on a giant sheet of bubblewrap. Because he can. Another scene starts with stress-eater Jack Donaghy putting cream cheese on his brownies; in the same episode, he has a whole conversation with Kenneth while absently eating Kenneth's lunch.

This is the sort of thing I found entirely absent from BACK TO YOU. The characters don't seem to have any existence when they're not mouthing setups and payoffs. They're not doing anything until they pop up, whack-a-mole style, for their jokes.

If you have a dialog scene, ask yourself what your character can be doing simultaneously that counterpoints the dialog or illuminates the character or both.

Plussing isn't just for comedy, either. You should do exactly the same for your drama scripts. Try to figure out what the character is doing that can illuminate who he or she is, and that can counterpoint what is being said in dialog.

Labels:

6 Comments:

Trying to think of a clever way to comment using the word nonplussed... but I can't think of anything. I'll just say GREAT POST!

By Blogger Andy M., at 2:02 PM  

Personally, I think Wes Anderson is the undisputed king of plussing. But maybe that's just me. And him.

By Blogger Alan, at 2:35 PM  

I assume the repetitive fruit-eating of Life would count more as minusing?

By Blogger R.A. Porter, at 5:21 PM  

Now, why in the world would you say that? Did you feel it was inaccurate because of the ample amount of fresh fruit you received during your 12 years in prison?

By Blogger DMc, at 11:33 PM  

hey i had the exact same experience last year. I really didn't like the pilot, and then watched it almost by mistake and just find it to be really funny.

i hope it sticks around for awhile

By Blogger Mef, at 11:07 AM  

I noticed some plussing in the pilot episode of Chuck, but didn't have a name for it. I love that word. Thanks you.

By Blogger Jill Golick, at 9:18 AM  

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