CMN 140 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Sitcom, Conflict Resolution, Action Stories

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8 Mar 2017
Lecture 7 - 2/7 - Entertainment Content - Chapter 10
Key Idea: Story formulas help designers of entertainment messages attract audience
attention and condition audiences for repeat exposures
- general entertainment story formulas = guides that help producers and audiences;
“genetic blueprint for a successful movie”
- 30% action, 17% comedy, 13% good vs. evil, 12% love/sex/romance, 10%
special effects, 10% plot, and 8% music
Good vs. Evil
Special effects
- Creators use formula to create successful product
- Consumers use formula to recognize elements of story
- recognize the good and bad characters and to quickly find where we are in the
- we are conditioned to expect certain plot points, certain pacing, certain types of
characters & certain themes
- General Formula: entertainment that follows this formula begins with a
problem/problem for at least one character, followed by heightened conflict, and the
climax where the conflict is resolved (problem conflict resolution)
- stories that follow the formulas usually have the largest audiences, because they are
the easiest to follow
1) Drama
1. Tragedy = must have characters that are perceived by the audience as nobel
& good
- bad things happen to these characters because they have a fatal flaw they
cannot get around or b/c fate has conspired against them (Ex: Titanic)
- audiences enjoy tragedies b/c i’s opportunity to compare themselves with the
tragic characters & feel better about their unfortunateness
2. Mystery = must have an element of plot that is missing
- serious crime triggers the story & someone must use the information available
to figure out who committed the crime
- suspense is in solving the puzzle
- audiences are drawn into the story to try to solve the mystery for themselves
3. Action/Horror = driven by good & evil fight in ever deepening conflict
- characters are stereotypes or comic book types
- audiences can distinguish immediately who the hero and villain is; characters
are static and don’t change
- plot relies on fast-paced action that maximizes arousal in the audience
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- primary emotions evoked are fear, suspense & vengeance; violence is a staple
in all action stories (it’s ok to behave violently as long as bad characters are caught in
the end, helping restore a sense of peace and allow law enforcement officers/good guy
vigilantes to break the law & use violence to go against bad guys)
2) Comedy = characterized by minor conflict situations, which flare up and set the action
in motion
- conflict heightened verbally, through deceits or insults; action resolved at end of show
with happy main characters & eliminated problems
- characters are developed through their unusual foibles and quick wit
1. Character comedy/comedy of manners
- Character comedy involves humor, which arises out of character quirks that
illuminate the craziness of everyday situations
2. Put-down comedy = involves certain characters that have power over other
- audiences have no trouble recognizing typical plots & stereotypical characters,
we have no trouble following this
3) Romance = romantic story begins with a person experiencing either loneliness from
a lack of a relationship or a relationship that is bad due to betrayal, jealousy, or fear
- audience members identify with main character & feel her pain and through
hard work & virtue, she experiences heart-rendering setbacks that leads to a climax of
fulfillment of goal, transmitting intense emotions to the audience
Entertainment Formula: Constraints/Challenges
1) Medium-related Challenges:
- Telling an entertaining story presents a different challenge as you move from one
medium to another
1. Newspaper: use words&images to trigger minds/eyes of readers; dependent
on reading ability of audience
2. Song: trigger vivid images & strong emotions from audience’s ears with words
& rhythm of music
3. Commercial television: one of the most challenging media for telling stories
(even though you have few perceptual constraints like able to use audio and visual
unlike newspaper/song)
- There is a significant amount of competition for audiences (easy for viewers to
switch to another channel)
- Producers must keep audiences engaged, so they do not change the channel
during commercial breaks (frequently interrupted by breaks of commercial, so
loses interest, forget story or motivation to stay tuned)
- producers build action to a high point before each commercial break so
that audience will stay tuned; keep action interesting every minute so that ppl
who are flipping through channels will want to stop & watch the show
- TV stories must be simple; so ppl can quickly pick up the story action if they
tune into a story in the middle
4. Entertainment messages on the web (Youtube, Hulu) also have intense
- no constraints of timing though
- million videos are uploaded, huge challenge breaking through the clutter
5. Hollywood films also face challenges as many films fail in the box office
2) Storytelling formula must evolve as public tastes change overtime
- the line of acceptability has changed over time
- producers need to know how far they can push the line of acceptability at any
given time w/out offending ppl & losing audience members (becoming more sensitive)
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