Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Notting Whim, Actually: A Controversy in the ATW (Part Two)

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

So here we are back to telling about the recent controversy surrounding our Saturday serial, “Flash Ahhhh!” But not being content to just tell my point of view, I have instead turned it into a romantic comedy, which is named “The Wedding Flashers.” No, sorry. It’s simply “The Flashers.” “The Wedding Flashers” is the proposed sequel that is being developed in case this one is a runaway hit. You can read about it in Part One, but the basics so far are than Nathan, played by Tom Hanks, has been assigned to write a daily blog with Chris, played by Meg Ryan, and as part of the daily blog, they are writing the serial “Flash Ahhhh!” together. Having bonded at an office party things are going well between the two, but in a romantic comedy, there is always a misunderstanding that threatens to come between them. Let’s pick up just before the misunderstanding, where the two are harmoniously writing the serial.

They Start to Fall for Each Other (Part Three) – Since Chris is writing Part Two of most episodes, he is more or less in charge of furthering the plot that Nathan sets down in Part One and setting up a major or minor cliffhanger to keep the audience coming back. In this way, since Nathan is writing Part One he is more or less in charge of getting the characters out of any danger they might be in, and setting up the next section of the plot. Chris realizes this. When Nathan gives a few brief notes about which direction to take the story, Chris decides to take on a more arbitrary role in the storyline. He thinks it makes sense, but doesn’t really explain it to Nathan, because it has little to do with the week to week writing of the serial, and more to do with the editing, which Nathan isn’t doing. Miguel, as their boss and comic relief, but also as a true friend, reads the serial every week and finds it funny, along with the rest of America, and forty-two other countries around the world. Because, as we established in Part One of this synopsis; According To Whim is wildly, emphasis on wildly, successful.

They Start to Fall for Each Other (Part Four) – Most episodes come to Chris with Nathan’s latest furthering of the plot. Chris reads it, and often reads bits of previous episodes just to try to keep some amount of continuity going. Chris comes up behind Nathan and patches little continuity errors, often by calling blatant attention to them, and since it’s a comedy serial, finding some almost logical, but mostly silly, explanation of why it’s not really a continuity glitch. This is the special circumstance of writing in such a way that you can’t go back and fix previous episodes. Just ask the writers of “Lost” how tough this is. The big difference is that Nathan writes his part, passes it on to Chris, and mostly doesn’t think about it again, until Chris’s part is written. Chris reads Nathan’s part, writes his own part, edits it, and posts it. Chris also takes notes for things that might be referred to later, but not with any sort of plan for referring to them, just that if something comes up he has that note to remind him. Just the way he did with the Reece/Larry character. In our romantic comedy world, a lot of this is discussed with Chris’s mom and sister when Chris and Nathan vacation together so that Nathan can meet the family. Chris’s dad, played by Sean Connery, is a cantankerous but lovable guy who only wants what best for his daughter, since Chris is being played by Meg Ryan, and he and Nathan hit it off while fishing, or something rustic like that.

They Start to Fall for Each Other (Part Five) – Chris doesn’t think that it’s important to explain to Nathan his process, because Nathan is often saying that he barely has time to write his regular blog posts, much less do a lot of work on the serial. Chris often massages Nathan and shows his support, because it’s totally not gay if Meg Ryan is your personal taste, but Chris doubts that Nathan would want the added strain of rereading episodes, making notes for loose ends and continuity, and paying attention to the basic pacing of a three act structure. This is all on state of the art computers that will seem obsolete by the time the movie reaches the DVD market. It seems to work out for a while. Nathan makes notes about how he would like to unfold the plot, Chris follows his lead, Nathan writes the set up, and Chris only really rocks the boat every so often as a means of either preserving a storyline that hasn’t fully resolved, or to help bring a close to a storyline that is threatening to go on too long. He is not, however, contradicting Nathan’s notes for where the plot should go, or even making any specific plans for where the plot should go. He is simply avoiding loose ends, and as many continuity problems as possible.

There is a Misunderstanding that Threatens to Ruin Everything They Are (Part One) – On two occasions; Chris does a full read through of the story. He realizes to his embarrassment that he’s being played by Julia Roberts not Meg Ryan, and Nathan is being played by Hugh Grant not Tom Hanks. He totally got the romantic comedy team mixed up. Sheesh. At least he didn’t say Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The first read through is around the end of Act One, so that he can make notes for things to bring up in Act Two. Anything that Chris thinks might come up in the final act of the story needs to have at least a small role in Act Two, so as to remind the audience that they exist. The funny drunk guy from the party stops by Chris’s desk one day to tell him that’s a good idea. Chris makes a list of characters and situations to reference in Act Two, and does so. The idea is that, much like the Reece/Larry character, if they do become a major plot point they won’t just be showing up out of nowhere 30 to 40 episodes later, and if they don’t become a major plot point there can be a small tying up of the loose end. He figures that if Nathan wishes to pursue any of these situations, he will. If not, they will be relegated to the minor plot point section. The other read through is when Chris, one night, decides to write some mini-essays about the process of writing the serial. In both of these cases, he takes notes about loose ends and continuity. He likens it to having a continuity job on a TV show. The continuity person doesn’t tell the writers how to write their stories. The continuity person doesn’t create grand plans for how the story will resolve. The continuity person is merely an editor who does their best to make things make sense within the canon of the story. Again, this is all in the spirit of needing enough material for 52, count ‘em 52, episodes, and attempting to pace the story for those who might sit down and read it from beginning to end.

There is a Misunderstanding that Threatens to Ruin Everything They Are (Part Two) – Chris does, on a few occasions, discuss a few things with Nathan having to do with continuity, and these discussions take place in places like coffee shops (with product placement clearly blocked in the frame) and while parachuting out of planes. In real life they would happen over the phone, but in a romantic comedy the conversations have to be visually stunning, have to have potential for laughs, and often to give young, unknown actors and actresses a chance to say a couple of lines. He explains about a weird throwaway gag having to do with a weird detail that Nathan wrote. He explains that he has been rereading things and making notes for things that might come up. He never specifically broaches the three act thing, but Nathan has expressed that he doesn’t have time to reread and do all of that. The point is that he has not left Nathan out of the process at all. He simply hasn’t bothered Nathan with the technical side of things so Nathan could focus on the plot of the story.

There is a Misunderstanding that Threatens to Ruin Everything They Are (Part Three) – Later they are in a meeting with their boss, who while normally comic relief is being shown as the leader he really is. He wants to know how things are going with the serial. It is at this point that Nathan tries to explain that Chris’s writing has become sloppy. This comes from the fact that in episode Twenty-Three Chris used a dream sequence to fix a continuity problem. Nathan, in sort of a weird retaliation, started the next episode with another dream sequence. This gave Chris the idea to use the dream states as a plot point. So he started using them more. His idea was that with all the super powers and scientific gadgets running around that certainly Nathan would find some reason for the dreams, but Nathan ignored them. Then Chris remembered the Reece/Larry character. His power could conceivably cause the phenomenon, and he was nearby in story and setting the first time a dream sequence was used by Nathan. So he made a plot decision, one of the few he had made that wasn’t based on Nathan’s notes, and brought Reece/Larry back. Feeling a little insulted that his writing was called sloppy, given the amount of work he had been putting into the serial for the last seven months, Chris felt the need to explain why it wasn’t sloppy. For some reason when he explained his thought process to Nathan, Nathan took it to mean that the whole time Chris had some grand plan for the story that he didn’t tell Nathan about. And thus the misunderstanding. In our romantic comedy, Nathan storms out of the room, running into the funny drunk guy from the party who is carrying a birthday cake, because there always seems to be a birthday in these things, if not Christmas. The cake gets all over the funny drunk guy from the party, giving a little lightheartedness to this otherwise emotional scene.

Montage – This is where there is a big montage showing them trying to live their lives apart. Everyone is of course sad that they are split, because in romantic comedies people rarely think of their own personal issues, but rather care deeply about the lead characters. And there are probably scenes of Nathan and Chris talking to Miguel at separate times. Probably at the water gardens.

There is a Misunderstanding that Threatens to Ruin Everything They Are (Part Four) – Nathan writes the serial that week, and expresses his upset feelings through the characters, saying that he shouldn’t even try to write something good since it’s Chris’s writing project that Chris will just hijack from him if he tries to do anything creative with it. One of the characters makes the statement, “I mean when did we start caring about continuity?” Chris finds this funny because he has been paying attention to continuity literally every week of the writing process. It was what led to the misunderstanding. Chris fires back a reply in the context of the story, showing that almost the entire plot and most of the active characters are Nathan’s creation, not his, and that he doesn’t have some grand plan. He was simply doing the job of editor and continuity person.

They Resolve It and Live Happily After Credits – For all intents and purposes, this movie is like “Casablanca” in that the writers don’t know the ending yet. Scratch that. This movie is like “Flash Ahhhh!” in that the writers don’t know the ending yet. But if I had to guess how this would end, Chris would write a weird blog post, probably set in a romantic comedy, expressing the fact that he was not trying to fool Nathan into thinking that they were collaborating on a story while simply twisting the plot to his own means. Nathan would then read it and realize that Chris isn’t collaboratively challenged, and forgive him the transgression that was never really there. There would be a big office party celebrating the last episode of “Flash Ahhhh!” that would show everyone having a good time, and doing wacky things. Somehow, Chris’s family would be there and Nathan and Chris’s dad would be telling stories about their fishing trip, or other rustic activity. This would all take place on New Year’s Eve since the serial was a year long feature, and funny drunk guy would be at it again, and all the people we’ve seen in the office (which has an incredibly low turnover rate) would be having a good time deciding who will be his designated driver.

Credits – As the movie ends, someone would point out to Chris and Nathan that they walked around last year flashing everyone, and they should do it again. As the credits rolled, you would see everyone from the movie lifting their shirts to show their chests, but in each case there would be something obscuring any real nudity. There would be a funny segment where you see two of the women from the office lifting their shirts to reveal their bras. Then Nathan and Chris’s dad would lift their shirts to reveal the same bras. Another funny bit would be a parody of REM’s “Pop Song ‘89” music video, with Chris standing in as Michael Stipe, though it would be funnier if Chris wasn’t played by Julia Roberts.

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