|They're called the Expos cause they|
got some splainin to do.
The KEY to exposition is to make your audience want to know the information you're trying to tell them. Sounds easy enough.
Here are some strategies.
1. The Mystery
The Matrix's first 30 or so minutes is basically a mystery. We know that Trinity and Agent Smith can jump impossibly high, and then she sorta vanishes some how. Then there's the "bugging," and the mouth closing over. Basically there's a bunch of things that are impossible in the real world. Then we have Neo mention, and wonder aloud about what the matrix is. The audience is along with Neo as he's trying to figure out what the Matrix is. So when we have that set piece where Morpheus directly explains what the Matrix is, it's mind blowing instead of dull exposition.
|You take the Red Pill, then I explain a bunch of crap to you.|
The Thirteenth Floor, which is a very similar movie from the same year uses the same thing. Except they use the mystery as almost the entire plot.
Instead of coming right out to the audience and saying "Okay, so this movie is set in the year 1995 and there are wizards." You can have little hints about the fact that wizards or magic exists and then the main character and the audience are looking for clues about what's going on.
|What's he standing on?|
2. The Lay Person
|A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...they had these laser|
sword things and they went all WOOSH and were awesome.
3. The Info Dump
Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are pretty big fans of this. Just throw a ton of information at the audience right off the bat. Make them read if you want to. This is the laziest and least dramatic way to do it. However, it can be effective for delivering a lot of information quickly and therefore getting the story moving faster.
4. Small Talk
"Hey Timothy Johnson, how are you doing since your son, Chris, died five years ago. I bet that's been hard to get over. How is your wife, Cindy, handling it?"
This happens far too often in films. You can adeptly deliver exposition through conversation, but it takes some finesse, other wise a lot of the audience will immediately see right through it.
5. The Expostion Device
|Nice head. Too bad it got blown off. I mean...oral sex.|
6. Bad Narration
|(V.O.) And then I pointed my gun at him and|
made a squinty, wrinkled brow look to show
him I meant business.
7. The Status Quo Beat
One of the most popular ways to deliver exposition is to have a 10-15 minute sequence at the beginning of the film, showing the main character in action doing what they do, prior to the real inciting incident. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we get to see Indiana on a mission, running from the big-ass ball, and then he goes back to being a teacher. Then the real plot begins. We've established his character by showing him in action. Minority Report (another Spielberg flick) does the same thing. We see Pre-Crime in action for a quick mission, establishing the characters, the setting, Pre-crime and how it works, and all while on an otherwise meaningless mission that has nothing to do with the real plot. That starts right after we've set up the status quo. Gladiator also uses this method. There's a quick battle that has nothing to do with the bigger plot, but establishes Maximus as a badass.
|Before we get to the plot, first we have to show|
the audience how this cool Operating System works.