George “The Animal” Steele used to tell stories about working with Randy “Macho Man” Savage and chuckled at Savage’s tendency to want to go over every part of the match before it happened. George usually blew him off by saying something like “Randy, we’ll go out there, get *THIS* close to starting a riot, and then we’ll end the match.”
Getting the audience to lean forward and care about a wrestling match (especially when it’s “fake” wrestling), is one of those arts that goes woefully underappreciated in the business itself. You have to make the audience care about the wrestlers, make the audience care about the story they’re telling, and, if you do it right, you’ll get *THIS* close to starting a riot.
Al Snow explains the concept of “heat” in this next little clip. Heat, in pro wrestling, is the audience caring about a particular outcome and how the heels and the babyfaces work together to make the audience care. (Warning: Al Snow uses salty language that might not be perfectly safe for work.)
With what Al Snow said in mind, I remember the movie “The Rundown“.
If you haven’t seen The Rundown, you pretty much need to get out there and watch it *RIGHT NOW*. It’s a great little action movie romp with a charismatic main character in The Rock and Christopher Walken plays the bad guy. It’s got Rosario Dawson as a selling point and Seann William Scott as a reason to *NOT* see it, I suppose, but it perfectly runs with the best wrestling formula that gets The Rock “heat”, as described in the first half of the clip. We establish in the first scene that The Rock is a really, really tough customer… and then put him in a situation where we have him meet Christopher Walken and Christopher Walken’s goons and then we have The Rock and the goons meet each other and then watch them *NOT* get in a fight.
Then a handful of things happen again and again and we see them continue to *NOT* get in the fight.
Then, in the first half of the final action sequence, we see them agree “okay… *NOW* we’ll fight…” but The Rock says “I’m going to fight with one hand tied behind my back.”
And then, in the second half of the final action sequence, we see The Rock say “Okay. We’ll all just fight for real now.”
And the final action sequence resolves itself.
We have a handful of small scenes after that. Some dénouement. Lets you catch your breath after that really big exhalation at the fight scene.
I’m comparing to any number of action movies I’ve seen in recent years and there are a couple of other ways to do it. One of the ways that works well is the “video game” structure of having your hero fight the little bad guys, then fight a Minor Named Bad Guy, then fight some more little bad guys, then fight a Mid-Tier Named Bad Guy, then fight some *MORE* little bad guys, and culminate in the fight against The Big Bad Guy. Another way is to just screw everything up and give no real thought to pacing at all and just have a couple hours of amazing stunts and big special effects and get people into the theater on the first weekend and forget about the movie by the time they walk back to the car.
But, seems to me, the *BEST* way to get people to talk about your movie is to take the simple formula described by Al Snow in his discussion of Heat above. Show the audience what they want… then withhold it from them for 85 minutes only to give it to them good and hard in the last 20.
And send them home happy.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?