Sunday, January 24, 2010

Active vs. Reactive: The Art of Interaction

Howdy those who care,

We're back and though we've never used tags we seem to be coming back to this Active vs. Reactive thing. In my travels I've found that every conversation, meeting, presentation is based in this theorem. Cinema, as a reflection of life's studies and crises exemplifies this best as it transcends time making what happens today a reawakening memory after 20 years.

The one thing that is consistent in every form of cinematic expression is the necessity for personality interaction\conflict with the banality of the participants affecting the shape of the narrative where a mid level drug dealer and a scared rookie cop would make a different narrative than a cold blooded collector though the abstract view is that of cop chases or evades drug dealer and her minions. The dialog between disparate banality types - I'm an ENTJ who thought several questions sucked too bad to answer can cause characters to veer left or right which doesn't perhaps effect an increase or decrease in tension but does allow that 50 couples will react differently to a small kitchen fire.

Film makers need not worry why but use the abstract narrative to influence interaction. In those 50 couples there are an unlimited number of combinations of the active\reactive dialog types. A mixture of a Demanding Wife and Abrupt Husband creates a different character-dialog than even a Demanding Husband and Abrupt Wife where the Demanding Husband may use a humbling approach to retrieve admission of the source of the fire and the Demanding Wife may use a guilt-inducing approach to achieve the same result. The state of prominence of the character need not change with the difference in their active interaction though transposing character-dialog between them allows for a more rounded banality (used in place of personality for the purposes of international copyright) - wow hopefully the humor in my scripts is better. Wait who said that was a joke? OMG and he has multiple banalities - :-)

At any rate, the preceding is just designed to show that interaction is the key to good cinema which is why you don't want one-sided conversations, but everyone expressing themselves equally and subjectivity of the viewer (cinema of the seer) determines the leanings while the screenwriter merely determines who gets the last word - something Eula seemed to continually do to Rooster as they fought outlaws and carefully handled nitro.

In this sense we can say that underneath emotion is personality as different personalities will interact differently with other disparate personalities. On the one end of the spectrum you have the passive personality and the other end is of course the aggressive one. The most drama in these interactions can truly be garnered as personality types converge rather than diverge. If a character is too passive all interaction will be one-sided which can become tedious. But when there is an active verbal sparring that comes from "equally matched banality."(read:people who stand their ground)

This also enables a better path to "character parallels" as interaction with disparate personalities and types (dialog types - Demanding Sarcastic, Supportive Probing, Prohibitive Abrupt, etc). Active\reactive dialog is more so a way to look at personality by defining a person's purpose which then can guide you to the most "impressive" lines by determining both the active style of dialog and the reactive style for the character. Some characters may do better with more supportive active dialog but more Inhibiting reactive dialog whereas a different feel can be created by having the active dialog be usually Inhibitive while the reactive dialog can tend towards supportive. (Augie and Ronnie: Role Models)

Combining these types can paint a "dialog-picture" of the character more succinctly than a bio or history as the "dialog-picture" represents the moment where back-story can often cloud the scene - meaning a person should react in the moment as no one really has "flashbacks to childhood" before reacting. This is very important in cinema as everything needs to be more spontaneous and impactful as to elicit the most emotion in the viewer. When interaction is the key to your scene construction you have less opportunity to "talk to the audience" which is indeed a no-no. This violates the concept of the "cinema of the seer" where the viewer is a participant and therefore doesn't need "explanations" they need to be involved.

That's all for this post, but we will revisit the subject.

As an update, we actually did more fleshing out over at Go Into the Story:

I basically feel the same way. I think the writer can make implications about back story using props; I used a picture to imply the death of a parent, certainly actions; a character says, "Hey I've got a sister" when asked why he did something. The former being before the start and the former being after.

I always think about parents, siblings, birth place etc. as a part of the process and then I try to abstract the type of personality by showing their emotional reaction to situations.

I do this in the outline and then I will give that character a "dialog-interaction" frame - where they generally state things in a demanding way or supportive way or inhibiting way and respond to positive or negative interaction prohibitively or angrily or abruptly or sarcastically.

I've been working on a theorem that says using these emotional states leads better to personality which is in fact what people go to see.

So I guess backstory is good for the writer but not for the reader.

The full theorem is basically:
SITUATION sits above
EMOTION sits above


The subtext of the situation is the dialog, the subtext of the dialog is the emotion and the subtext of the emotion is the personality and the subtext of the personality is The Soul.

So after three years we have finally fulfilled the purpose of this blog. THough we will continue to refine the Active vs Reactive paradigm, we'll be doing more thought work for directing. As I've been studying it, I understand why you don't find a lot of Director blogs. It's nearly impossible to translate what you think in terms of blocking, framing etc. and how you work with actors could be considered trade secrets.

Onward and upward.

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