Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Making Movies (2) - The Script: Are Writers Necessary?

Few points I liked from Sidney Lumet's book, "Making Movies".
1) The Director: The Best Job in the World
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# I ask scriptwriter the same questions I’ve asked myself: What is this story about? What did you see? What was your intention? Ideally, if we do this well, what do you hope the audience will feel, think, sense? In what mood do you want them to leave the theater?

# We are two different people trying to combine our talents, so it’s critical that we agree on the intention of the screenplay. Under the best of circumstances, what will emerge is a third intention, which neither of us saw at the beginning. Under the worst of circumstances, an agonizing process of cross-purposes can occur, which will result in something aimless, muddy, or just plain bad winding up on the screen.

# Once we’ve agreed on the all important question “What’s this picture about?” we can start in on the details. First comes an examination of each scene—in sequence, of course. Does this scene contribute to the overall theme? How? Does it contribute to the story line? To character? Is the story line moving in an ever increasing arc of tension or drama? In the case of a comedy, is it getting funnier? Is the story being moved forward by the characters? In a good drama, the line where characters and story blend should be indiscernible.

# In drama, the characters should determine the story.

# In melodrama, the story determines the characters. Melodrama makes story line its highest priority, and everything is subservient to story.

# Inevitability doesn’t mean predictability. The script must still keep you off balance, keep you surprised, entertained, involved, and yet, when the denouement is reached, still give you the sense that the story had to turn out that way.

# From a scene-by-scene breakdown, we move on to a line-by-line examination. Is the line of dialogue necessary? Revelatory? Is it saying it in the best possible way.

# It’s also important that as director I understand each and every line. There’s nothing more embarrassing than an actor asking the meaning of a line and the director not knowing the answer.

# A character should be clear from his present actions. And his behavior as the picture goes on should reveal the psychological motivations.

# Dialogue is like anything else in movies. It can be a crutch, or when used well, it can enhance, deepen, and reveal.

# What do I owe the writer? A thorough investigation and then a committed execution of his intentions.

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