Friday, May 11, 2007

A Script through Other Eyes

I'll get back to loglines shortly, but I just had to write about my experiences today. I had two meetings today, and in both, I learned something about how other professionals view a script. I wanted to bottle and bring it back for you.

First meeting was with a director who's working through a first draft of a script. She's a visual thinker, like most directors, and has come to writing because it helps her make movies. We were talking about her first act was centered tightly around her main character, but at the beginning of the second act, that focus splits, and we follow three characters. How to deal with that? Now, a writer is going to think in terms of plot or characterization. It's called "rhyming" -- meaning you build up resonances in the story line or in what the characters say/do. But since she's a very visual thinker, she naturally thinks of rhyming the visuals. There's a good opportunity for all three characters driving at the same time. Her thought was to place the main character driving left to right, which is the natural path for an eye to follow (like reading). Her aunt drives head on -- we're basically on the other side of the steering wheel looking at her. This allows the reader to examine this visually interesting character on her introduction. And the character working AGAINST the main character drives from right to left, in the opposite direction to a the main character, and the natural flow of the eye for most of her audience. She knows stuff like this because she's worked in film for twenty years. It helps her come up with answers that are eminently easier than the dialogue or plot twists or whatever other technique a non-directing screenwriter might try.

The second meeting was with a sound designer. We're hiring her for a short script with all kinds of radio and television ads, and a strong need for composition that goes back and forth from diagetic (natural, in-scene) sound and a more hallucinogenic feel. How does she see the script -- through her ears. She knows from experience how to cue viewers into tiny shifts in perspective without you even knowing it. That's her job.

Now, you may be objecting that you aren't supposed to include camera angles in spec scripts, and you have no clue what diagetic hoozywhat is going to convince a good sound designer to join your team.

And you'd be right. DON'T include that stuff. A good story INSPIRES that stuff. It opens up the potential for all these people to engage a story and bring so much more to it. There are more tools out there than you or I know about. Learning how to elicit that creative response is a lot of screenwriting.

BTW... Just one more example I have to relate. The sound designer was talking about a long trailing shot in a Tarkovsky movie. Basically, the camera just follows tight on the back of an actor's head. Fascinating, huh? Well, Tarkovsky used sound design to keep you riveted. The sound slowly goes from natural, explicable -- footsteps, the sound of a train. But as the character walks, all the sounds morph into something else. Without realizing it or knowing why, you're deep in the character's head by the time he reaches his destination.

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