Screenwriting : Are Comparisons Odious? by K Kalyanaraman

K Kalyanaraman

Are Comparisons Odious?

Why do we make comparisons? "Godfather like", "Taxi Driver kind of approach", "somewhat like Casablanca" and so on? (we don't hear "like Franz Liszt Consolation #3" or "similar to Beethoven Symphony #9"). Doubtless, these references and inferences are precious to a newbie on the climb up the stairs. But does it make it easier for a writer to quote a previous memorable creation, when the obvious ask comes up-mostly at the pitch?

Richard Toscan

What Joey said. I think this comparison business plays mostly to mid-level execs who may like being sure they're not walking off a plank by thinking a story has legs that's too far out of the center of what's current in Hollywood. Among other things, the practice lends itself to parody (SKYFALL meets HAPPY FEET).

Gordon Olivea

there goes my "Spaceballs meets Alien". Oh wait ...

K Kalyanaraman

Thank you Joey and Richard , for your observations.

Lisa Molusis

We all use metaphors and similes in our everyday language. It's a way to better communicate what we mean, or clarify an idea by comparing it to something someone else is familiar with. In my current spec I use... it's Silence of the Lambs meets Source Code, both good references that are spot on in describing 'what' my story very closely represents. It is enough to get people to request more information. As another member mentioned producers in the industry will often say they're looking for something 'in the vein of' to give the writer an idea of they're looking for so the writer doesn't pitch something they're totally not into. After Die Hard came out the big pitch ideas were (and still are) "It's Die Hard in a (fill in the blank)." It's a great tool to use IF you can deliver on the promise of the premise.

Lobotomous Monk

do you ever read Foucault? comparisons by his terms would be considered a necessary tool for engineering the formation of discourse and would have great value in their ability to structure the hegemonic formations within broader discursive formations. it is desirable to have comparison not because it arranges benchmarks that may pigeonhole your own work within a canon to which your work does not properly belong, but because it provides value to your work by virtue of creating reference to the hegemonic formation. comparison begins the process of setting coordinates for your own text within a discourse to which your text actually belongs. in fact, the fear would be that there would be no comparison because the text would then have no relationship to any other... it would be alien. and the ideal would be the maximum amount of comparison, so that your text is optimally situated in discourse.

K Kalyanaraman

Lisa ( Scott), that was the premise that set me thinking. Though I may refrain from stating that my script is "similar to/inspired" by (etc.) at the outset, if the conversation gets to comparisons, I would feel privileged that I have passed the first test, and we are on the same page. My tenet remains- I will still produce an original, but refer to something done fantastically before, as a prop. Thank you for your comment!

K Kalyanaraman

Lisa (Molusis), You are bang on the dot -"producers say that they are looking for something in the vein of". The intent of any writer will be to deliver an original, based on the premise that we follow the same goal, but use a different path. It can be the opening gambit to get people to tell them more. I appreciate your comment. Thank you!

K Kalyanaraman

Typo Monq, no I have not read Foucaltian philosophy and its relevance to imparting information. However, I am inspired by Aristotle's Poetics, which speaks about imitation, being one of the better forms of flattery. While none us want to imitate, we can take a leaf or two, to get inspired. Having written this, I agree that you have brought a more pedagogical definition to comparisons :-). Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hello K. IMO, a clever comparison is the best way to make a concept catched while saving words. E.g. "Alien" = "Jaws" in space. This is an analogical way our mind catches faster, just like it's easier to read the hand of a speedometer than a changing digital display. Obviously, some stories cannot be compared with something else, but most of the time, this is the writer who doesn't find the proper comparison.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Have you trully read Poetics? This is the WORST work by Aristotles we have: -- we know it only by translations from the versions by Al-Farabi and Averroes and we use Averroes version because it's closer to our humanist occidental philosopy, -- it seems that several chapters about Comedy are missing, -- this is just a well designed analysis of litterary and theatrical codes of his own culture and time with definite value judgements (Tragedy is higher than Epic, ...), -- Definitively simplistic and out of date. Using this as a reference is just like trying to elaborate Quantum Mechanics using only Pythagore's Mathematics! Please read it, that's quick and easy: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Poetics_translated_by_S._H._Butcher

K Kalyanaraman

Hi Jean-Marie, it is interesting how I got to read Poetics. I am doing some research on Prometheus and learnt that his story is similar to a spectacular tradegy, as defined by Aristotle, (among the other tragedy types-pathetic, complex, ethical and simple). I downloaded a copy of SH Butcher from the Penn State Library archives. I don't know Greek, so the one I could relate to and understand was SH Butcher's! Not much of it would be relevant to our screenplay endeavours in today's parlance. But thank you for your kind effort and response!

K Kalyanaraman

Jean -Marie, I liked your comparison between analog and digital speedometers :-).

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Thank you so much. Unless I am mistaken, Poetics was written about 340 years BC. It was reproduced during about 1500 years until arab philosophers Al-Farabi then Averroes (who lived in Spain) translated it to Arabic (1150 AD). While the Greek version was then lost, it was retranslated to Greek and Latin one or two hundred years later.

Karen Keslen

I guess people doesn't make comparisons for be bad, but to use like reference in what kind of genre, movie or art they are looking for.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Happy New Year!

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