Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My first day off since I started working again. Mmm.

What I should be doing with all this time, of course, is writing. I have notes to write up for a writing buddy in Script Frenzy, I need to hammer out some of my own plot points so that I don't resort to cliches, and I have a short that I started yesterday that it would be nice if I finished it before Friday. I'm a little frustrated with that one, though, because it's not coming out as brilliantly as it's playing out in my head. Typical.

In the screenwriting community, there's a little bit of a debate between those people who stress the visual aspect of film over the dialog aspect. Only there's not really a debate because people general profess that the visuals of film should trump the dialog. Film is a visual medium, show don't tell, its visual capacities are what set film apart from theatre, blah blah blah. There's no way I can argue with those points (especially the show don't tell axiom), but I feel this presents two problems for screenwriters.

One, we don't really get to write the visuals... Descriptions should be tight and concise, stage directions limited, etc. etc. Of course, in a few lines, a lot of visual information can be communicated. But as a general rule I've noticed that writers are stifled when it comes to writing non-dialog material. And you're not supposed to direct the actor as to what she/he should be expressing. You're supposed to be a good enough writer to make that obviously, I think. Too much direction in your screenplay is generally considered to be amateurish. Prose is for novelists.

Two, everyone likes a good quote. My gosh, I don't remember how many lunches I sat through last year where my guy friends spent the entire time quoting lines from websoides, movies, and video games. My friends at Michigan are quoting Anchor Man all the time. People don't talk about the beautiful lighting (cinematographer's job), the expressive moment that demonstrated the complete irony of the scene (actors and directors), or whatever visual moment you can think up. People are looking for a movie that resonates with them, and it works so much better for them if they can find a line that resonates with them. It's often when a character finally erupts and tells the truth with such passion and commitment and manages to nail what we know and feel on the nose that we burst into tears.

I remember reading The History of Love when I was over in England and thinking, Holy crap, she's managed to describe in words the feelings I've been having my whole life. And while I found the whole book beautiful, it's those couple of passages that made it work for me and they're the ones I always remember. The audience can't take the prose we write with them. They don't know how we described the characters or scenes. It's unlikely that their singular favourite moment of the film will be a visual still. It will be a line of dialog when the audience member thought, Holy crap, that's beautiful. It's our responsibility as writers to create as many of those authentic moments as we can.

Speaking of beautiful, I've been listening to a lot of Joshua Radin lately. Everyone should check him out. Maybe it's just another celebrity crush, but his music makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

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