3 Tips For Conveying Comedy In Film
August 20, 2013
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Are you funny?
Whether you answer yes or no, you can be sure that it is harder to be funny in film than in everyday life. Sometimes, funny things don’t translate from the screen to the audience. In other words, writing, acting or directing humor can take a lot of work. It is a unique skill.
Some people argue that comedy cannot be learned – but at Brooks, we believe those people may just need convincing. Read our three tips for conveying comedy in film. Practice these skills and focus on developing comedy as you continue through your degree program.
1. Write Funny
Comedy starts with the script. Sitcom writer/producer Fred Rubin of Script Frenzy and comedian Kelsie Huff recommend these tips for improving your comedy writing:
- Be Yourself: Huff notes that “humor is specific personal truth.” Focus on your basic principles and what makes you funny as an individual.
- Focus on Specifics: Especially when making jokes or allusions, Rubin emphasizes specifics. Stay away from general language.
- Never Write to a Joke: Do not construct scenes to lead to a specific joke. Humor should come out of the character or the situation, not the other way around.
- Edit: Do not get too attached to your scenes, especially not the dialogue or the jokes. Editing, trimming and discarding can lead to funnier moments – and even a more cohesive script.
2. Act Funny
Actors play an essential role in making comedy work. Though they can take classes and practice, it may be up to you to work with them on comedic acting. Consider these tips from acting coach Scott Sedita
- Break Down the Script:Understand the storyline, including the themes, jokes and characters.
- Identify Your Character: What is your character’s sense of humor? Dry? Sarcastic? Silly? Shameless? Quirky? Focus on breaking down your character and developing their personality. Humor should be a major component of this individual – how does it fit in?
- Stay Committed: To your character and to the script. Comedy is all about rhythm, timing and pace – a good script and good characterization should have all of these things.
- Watch the Masters: Watch the films of your favorite comedic actors. Analyze their technique. What makes them funny?
3. Direct Funny
You may not think there is a certain style of directing to increase humor. However, Shawn Levy – the director of films such as Night at the Museum and Date Night – disagrees. Here are his tips for film students:
- Don’t Be a Dictator: Allow actors to work with you – not under you. Good comedic actors are smart, intuitive and insightful. Focus on their talents and collaborate with them.
- Try Not to Cut: If possible, never say cut. Levy notes that “comedic actors like to rev it up, find a rhythm, get a head of steam and see where it leads them.” Cutting breaks that rhythm and disrupts their work.
- Focus on Timing: Timing is essential to comedy. Assistant director Peter D. Marshall, who has worked on films such as Happy Gilmore and Look Who’s Talking, argues that nothing can kill a comedy scene quicker than a lack of pace. He advises directors to use rehearsals to block out actor movement – focusing on movement and reaction.
- Laugh: Levy believes that one of the best things a director can do is enjoy the actors. Laugh at the comedy – as it is one of the biggest compliments you can pay the people you are working with.
Considering pursuing comedy in Film? You can emphasize these tips at Brooks Institute with classes such as History of Film, Feature Screenwriting and other elective options. Talk to a Film degree program instructor or advisor today.