Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Original Jimmy

I had dinner with some old friends last night. The dinner was what it usually is at Amy and Laura's: lots of good stories and rolling conversation and red wine. A good night. They've got very different storytelling styles, and watching them bounce off each other somehow makes the stories all that more interesting. If you were writing a scene about the dinner, you'd say that the conflict is built right into the set up.

One of the key ways the two keep each other focused is with the phrase "What's your Jimi?" Roughly translated, it means, 'What's your point?' or 'How does this tie in to the conversation?'

The phrase goes back to a stoner conversation Amy had two decades ago when she was an undergrad at Oberlin. The conversation was about Jimi Hendrix. Or at least it started that way. But, as pot-filled conversations at small liberal arts colleges frequently will, the topic had soon branched off in thirteen different directions, and rollicked through countless cul de sacs and numerous giggling fits. 'What's your Jimi' was a clarion call to remember where you started.

Now, two decades later, the phrase lives on. It lives on because it serves a real function. It returns the conversation to its controlling idea.

This is useful in pot-filled conversations. It's useful in project management meetings. And it's useful in scripts.

Returning to the original Jimi is funny, of course. How did we start talking about Jimi Hendrix, and end up discussing heirloom popcorn? There's dramatic distance there, and returning to the Jimi is as funny and illuminating in direct proportion to how much distance was covered.

Not infrequently, you'll run into a "What's Your Jimi" moment in your own script. Listen to this moment.

A controlling idea is absolutely essential to a script. Not sure what to do with a plot development? Not sure why it's there, even though it kinda feels like it needs to be (or it 'needs' to be but doesn't feel right?) Try finding your original Jimi. How do you bring your controlling idea in strongly and clearly? More often than not there's drama and humor and entertainment waiting for you right there.

Making sure that the reader/viewer has a strong handle on the original Jimi at the *beginning* of the script is very important, of course.

No comments: