Monday, June 15, 2009

PLOT vs PREMISE

When it comes to storytelling, especially in cinema, you have 2 choices: Plot and Premise. Plot is perhaps best described as an intricate story that leads the characters through the development of the events from beginning to end. Premise is, loosely speaking, the idea behind the plot. Porn is adaptable to both. You can certainly use one or the other (or both) and tell your story successfully.

To illustrate, consider a well known motion picture. I’ll use The Wizard Of Oz as an example. In it, Dorothy is a bored, young girl who dreams of something more in her life. When the dull day to day events of her life culminate in the confiscation of her dog by Elvira Gulch, Dorothy takes her refugee dog and the odd little assortment of things she can fit into a picnic basket, and runs away from home. She unwittingly comes across a charlatan who claims to be able to tell her fortune. He convinces her to return home so that her Aunt will not be worried. A tornado comes up and Dorothy arrives home too late to seek shelter with the rest of her family and friends. She is struck in the head by a window that is blown off its hinges by the tornado and the concussion knocks her out. The tornado then picks up her house and deposits it in a far-away mystical land ‘somewhere over the rainbow’… I could go on, but you get the idea.

The premise of the movie, however, is that a young girl learns a valuable lesson about life and family while unconscious from a blow to the head.

Premise cuts to the chase. It also leaves the door open to many different interpretations. Using the basic premise, Dorothy might have been struck in the head with a shovel or fallen out of a hayloft and had any number of disturbing dreams course through her unconscious mind which ultimately would lead to the same basic conclusion.

Therein lies the beauty of premise. It’s a loose thread that you can tie up any way you like. Simple porn plots aren’t really plots per se. They are ideas that tie several vignettes together cleanly. The easiest of such premises is that certain events occur or have occurred between various and sundry characters, and they are bound together through a narrative.

I recently watched a DVD called “The Arousers” (a late-70’s porn flick that has been re-released on DVD) in which the premise was very simple. A young man is doing a study on homosexual experiences and has placed an ad somewhere (‘where’ is not important) asking men to send written accounts of their fantasies or experiences to him. When the film opens, he and his buddy/partner are enjoying a glass of wine and reading the responses to the ad. As the narrative begins, the scene dissolves into the first vignette. Once the sex scene is over, it dissolves back to the two ‘main characters’ who then pick up another letter and begin reading it. The scene dissolves into the next vignette, and so on until – predictably – there are no more letters, and the two buddies finish the film with their own sex scene. Pretty simple overall, and very effective. The premise tied all of the sex scenes together rather neatly, incorporated several unrelated fantasies into one story (whereby the premise actually became the fantasy), and drew the viewer (in this case, me) into the action. I wanted to see what each upcoming fantasy would reveal.

For what it’s worth the sex in that video was pretty mediocre, but that’s not the point of this discussion.

Plot is more difficult to sustain because all of the characters and actions MUST work together for the story to have cohesiveness. It is, in essence, a form of choreography. Every step along the way has to be pre-determined. And there has to be a definite beginning, middle, and end or else the story fails. It has been said that in porn, most plots end up being abandoned by the end of the second sex scene. I tend to agree with that statement based on what I have seen. I think one of the biggest mistakes made in porn is setting the audience up for a story and then losing focus midway through the project. It would seem that some directors haven't finished their stories before starting to shoot, or they start with a great idea and then get distracted and figure they'll just throw in some random gratuitous scenes they shot in order to fill time. And it shows in the final product. With plot-driven porn, as with any movie, you have to stick to the story no matter what. At all times there must be a logical point to what is happening and it all must get sorted out by the end or the story makes no sense and your audience will be left wondering what the fuck that was all about. And, you have to work some good exciting sex into your story as well. I mean, that’s the point of porn, right?

If you can weave a good story and have an aptitude for writing, I’d encourage you to go all out and try your hand at plot-driven porn. It’s OK if you borrow ideas and plots from other movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read – people love a good spoof. Just be sure you change the title and enough of the story and the characters’ names to protect you from copyright infringement. But if that's beyond your capabilities and all you can envision are various and sundry vignettes featuring men fucking and sucking in different positions, try creating a simple thread to tie your vignettes creatively together. That will at least give you an edge over the many producers who do the stock and trade point-and-shoot videos discussed earlier and it will help bring back that missing element of fantasy that the bareback genre so desperately needs.

Thoughts???

3 comments:

  1. Few porn production houses care to develop a film that have a clear plot. You see the cover of the DVD and you know what it's about, few lines or none and just sex clips tied together. I remember in the late 90s when I was transitioning from teen to young adult that most films were like an actual movie with an story, dialogues (even if the actors were really bad) and pretty good sex scenes. It was more erotic have stories that build up to sex, rather than have sex explicitly without anything else.

    I for one, I'm good at writing and I would like to work in a porn production house developing stories and even working on the porn actors to deliver believable performances which it's something that the director don't seem to care nowadays.

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