The Exposition Express is a term I like to use (I pulled it from a Rifftrax commentary) when the information is offered in such quantity and force, the audience feels like it’s been railroaded (haha pun!). This happens in the Matrix sequels, the Star Wars prequels, all the Transformers movies, and a host of other films where I just sit there and instead of experiencing cinema, I’m continually getting punched in the face with *FACTS* *FACTS* *FACTS!* RRRRAAAOOAWWWWRRR!!!!
So how does this happen and how can we fix this? Well, the Exposition Express breaks either one or both of Blake Snyder’s Immutable Laws of Screenplay Physics: Pope in the Pool and Laying Pipe (from his work Save the Cat).
Pope in the Pool is when a character has to give a lot of info, but the situation during this distracts the audience and they don’t feel like they walked out of a lecture hall. And there are a ton of creative ways to do this. The Aaron Sorkin “walk and talk”, the opening scenes of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and the opening scene of Joss Whedon’s Serenity are all brilliant examples of how to get a bunch of information across without it seeming like just a bunch of information.
Laying Pipe dictates that audiences can only handle so much pipe. If you’re writing Minority Report and realize the set-up of everything you want to say takes 40 mins to break into act II… there might be too much going on at the same time. He stops crimes before they happen, cool! There are the politics and morality around this kind of thing, fine. He’s under investigation by FBI, okay. We meet the pre-cogs, alright. He lost a child and has a drug problem, sure… He’s got a mentor who seems untrust worthy… zzzz… So much information dragged out over the better part of an hour that when the fun stuff happens: a cop discovers he’s the killer, I’m too wiped to feel enthused about this. Trim the fat! Audiences are willing to believe that Tom Cruise can kick ass when on the lam (we saw it in Mission Impossible), you don’t need to drill all the science and politics into our heads.
Anyway that last one got a little away from me, but the point is sound. And this needs to be applied to all our screenwriting, screenwriters (talking to myself just as much as everyone else, if not more so). If you want a ton of back and forth between witty characters, and lets face it a lot of it *is* good, then write for TV or put it in a novel. But writing for the movies is about asking an audience to sit in the dark with a bunch of strangers for two hours and tell them a story they can enjoy and make it feel like their over-priced popcorn and coke were worth it. And this can’t happen by falling into slip-shot, lazy writing.
Exposition is one of the hardest things to do in screenwriting, and it is the mark of a professional who can so so with flair and style. Happy writing everyone! 😀