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Friday, February 24

February 24, 2017
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Poetry Workshop: Today: Hulick, Bowser and Bocek. For Monday: comments and annotations for Hill.

Your Round 3 poem is due on the blog by 8 a.m. Monday.

Fiction Workshop: Today we workshopped Victoria and Cecil. Two new stories were handed out for Monday: Layla and Spencer. For the rest of you: stay aware of your due dates.

Please be aware that we will be setting the due dates for Round 2 sometime next week. The first due date will be Friday, March 10 (2 people will be due) and the second will be Monday, March 13 (3 people will be due). That’s about a third of the class; if you haven’t yet started your Round 2 pieces, you really should do so. Soon.

Family Values: Today you found your first apartments! Well, sort of. We did this to give some context to the historical data we discussed, and to the next show we’re going to watch.

From 1950 to 1959, the average household income in America increased by more than 60 percent, from $3,200 to roughly $5,100. There were several reasons for this, including simple inflation, but also the rise of two-income families after World War II and rising industrial wages. (For example, wages in the automobile industry more than doubled between the end of the war — 1947 — and the end of the 1950s: from about $56 a week to $115 a week.)

When you looked for apartments — which should, by standard guidelines on housing expenses, take no more than 25 percent of your income — we based your income on $30,000 a year for a family of two. That is not rich by any stretch, though it’s comfortably above the federal poverty guidelines (which are less than $20,00 for a family of two).

Adjusting for inflation (but not for location — and let’s be clear, there will always be differences in the cost of living between Beaver County and New York City), $30,000 is about what Ralph Cramden, the fictional star of The Honeymooners, earned per year in the mid-1950s as a NYC bus driver. He and his neighbor, Ed Norton (who earned the same wage working in the city sewers), were not poor — but they were definitely working class. The Honeymooners is the first sitcom that uses financial struggles as a perennial plot point.

You can see this in the 1951 sketch we watched today from the variety show Cavalcade of Stars, which is where The Honeymooners was developed. In this short, much of what made the show memorable is there already: the dingy apartment, the financial concerns (Ralph is jealous of “Joe,” and immediately imagines that he is rich) and Ralph’s hot-headedness and bluster. He works hard all day, and expects his dinner ready and a night out bowling as his rewards.

This is the third in the trio of NYC comedies we will see from the early days of TV. Like the Goldbergs and the Ricardos, the Cramdens live in the city. And like those earlier two shows, kids are not an important part of this show: the Cramdens are childless. The big difference is financial: on the previous two shows, everyone seems comfortably well-off. That is not the case here, and every “blue collar” sitcom that followed (we’ll see a few) uses this one as a template.

I’ll collect notebooks Monday. Remember that all the shows we’ve watched (there’s a list on the blog from last Wednesday, plus today’s clip) should have an entry with a discernable header, plus your response: to the prompt I gave you, when I gave you one, or just general observations when I didn’t.

BatCat: More design work. We will continue next week.

Comedy: Arrested Development, Season 1, Episode 10: “Pier Pressure” (2004; dir. Joe Russo)

Arrested Development, Season 1, Episode 11: “Public Relations” (2004; dir. Lee Shallat Chemel)

Your assignment for Monday is to (type)write a short (one page-ish) comic sketch featuring two characters, in which the laughs derive from one character being afraid to tell another character something — think of George Michael being afraid to tell his father he’s buying medical marijuana for Buster, or Michael being afraid to tell George Michael about his relationship with Jessie.You may use an (offstage) narrator, but otherwise, only two characters.

The sketch should end when 1. the first character gives in and says what they’ve been afraid to say, or 2. when it becomes clear that they are not going to do so (at least not at this time).

Could there be dramatic irony? Certainly, though not necessarily. Let’s consider:

  • Maybe the narrator tells us what is happening — what Character A is keeping secret.
  • Maybe Character B is doing something that obviously poses a problem to Character A, and to us — but not to them.
  • Maybe Character A reveals something to us before Character B enters.

It doesn’t have to be any of these three scenarios, though all would involve dramatic irony. It doesn’t have to involve dramatic irony, either — that’s just a common device in such a scenario, just as it was in “Pier Pressure” and “Public Relations,” where dramatic irony drives the plots.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today you handed in your Tootsie quizzes.

I handed back your outlines for your silent scripts. Some of you are very well on your way; others still have a little work to do in terms of developing/sculpting your stories. Remember: NO DIALOGUE! 🙂 Here is the assignment sheet for Part 2: screenwriting-2-24-17-assignment-5-silent-script-part-2.

In class, we went over scene headings. Here is the handout: screenwriting-2-22-17-scene-headings-handout and here is the handbook: screenwriting-2-24-17-handbook.

Your silent scripts are due next Friday. If you need any help, have any questions, or whatever – please either email me or come see me at your earliest convenience (mornings are best!).

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