Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Next Reveal

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.


FADE IN:


In case anyone has been wondering why I haven't posted yet since last week, it's because I am deep into a screenplay and trying to beat a deadline. I had considered posting this project, a piece at a time, as it developed. I thought it would be a fun exercise and might get some comments raising a good dialog. But several folks convinced me, given the way things work on the Net, that's a bad idea. Too bad, because it could have been fun.


The script is a big change for me. I normally work in the horror and thriller genres. This script is kind of a "caper" tale. It's set in Hollywood during the "spec" boom of the late '80s to mid-'90s. It's kind of a "mashup" of The Player, The Sting, and Body Heat. But it has its own story. While writing it I've noticed I've had kind of a break-through in my writing. This script is much more free-form. It's like the difference between jazz and classical music, an Altman film and a Spielberg film. It's looser, more spontaneous, and turning out to be a real learning experience. And none of that was planned.  


I will try to get a new post up later today or tomorrow. It will likely be a Studio Stories post, with little commentary.


My apologies for the delays. #


FADE OUT


Lee A. Matthias

Thursday, March 25, 2010

People Will Talk III – Howard Hawks: Plot is Dead

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.
FADE IN:

Some people have gone so far as to relegate plot to the background or abandon it entirely. Director, Howard Hawks, interviewed in Peter Bogdanovich’s Who The Devil Made It, Ballantine, 1997, p. 356, said:
I...decided that audiences were getting tired of plots and, as you know, Rio Bravo and Hatari! have very little in the way of plot - more characterization and the fun of just telling a story. And it worked out very well. People seem to like it better than the other way. I don’t mean that if a great story comes along you shouldn’t do it, but I think the average plot is pretty time-worn. TV has come in and they have used so many thousands of plots that people are getting tired of them. They’re a little too inclined to say - if you lay down a plot - “Oh, I’ve seen this before.” They lose interest. But if you keep them from knowing what the plot is you have a chance of holding their interest. And it leads to characters who motivate your story: it’s because the character believes a situation happens, not because you write it to happen.
This observation bothered me for a long time because I kept wanting to say, “No, I don’t want plot to be dead. I, as a writer, need it!” But I realized that it was merely dead for Hawks. As we have seen since he said those words, plots have continued to work and even flourish. But it is true that writers have their work cut out for them: they need to know what’s been done, and they need to find ways to make their writing fresh. # 
FADE OUT 
Lee A. Matthias
Quote of the Post:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Studio Stories IX – "Kafka": The Power of a Single Word

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.






FADE IN:



In his great interview by Dan Schneider, screenwriter Lem Dobbs recounted the effect of changing a single word in Steven Soderbergh’s film of Lem Dobbs’ script, Kafka:
In Kafka, the marvelous actor Ian Holm -- if he’s to blame -- changed one word which, in a climactic summing-up speech, changed the meaning of the entire movie, if you ask me.  His character declares himself in favor of a mob because a mob is easy to control.  It’s the purpose of the individual he finds, as written, ‘questionable.’  But in the film what he says is that the purpose of the individual is always -- pregnant pause – ‘in question.’
Since he’s playing a mad scientist, the original phrasing is more in keeping with his project -- the revelation of the film’s mystery, such as it is -- which is to lobotomize individualism.  He’s saying, in effect, I know perfectly well what the individual human mind is all about, and I don’t like it, I find it suspicious, so I’m working to change the equation.  But by saying “in question” instead, he neutralizes his own argument and legitimizes his quest for knowledge.  He becomes an ordinary, inquisitive man of science trying to find out what makes the human brain tick.  What’s lost is, of all things, the Kafkaesque (‘questionable’ also carrying a hint of the interrogation room).
Now, this may very well be nitpicking -- the director certainly thinks so -- it may even be a better choice for the character, if you want to look at it that way.  But it wasn’t my choice and here’s the thing -- I bet you it was no one’s choice.  It was probably just the way Ian Holm happened to say it while the camera was rolling on that day in that take at that moment -- and no one cared or even noticed.  I could be wrong.  I wasn’t there.  It certainly wasn’t malicious; no one says, Let’s [ruin] the script.  Maybe there was discussion or debate about it, maybe Ian Holm said, ‘Would you mind if I said it this way, it feels more comfortable to me’ … But I’d be surprised.  The point is, it doesn’t cross anybody’s individual mind for a second that the writer might actually have selected the words he put down on paper with any thought or deliberation whatever -- with the luxury of time and contemplation to do so -- rather than in the midst of film set pressure and chaos.  It goes to show you, it’s not only the massive or truly destructive changes routinely wrought on scripts.  These relatively tiny details can drive you -- well, me -- crazy.  Let go.
In Steven (Soderbergh)’s interview book with Richard Lester, there’s a story about working on a script with Pinter and how desperately at the last minute he needed to add a comma.
--- Lem Dobbs, Interviewed by Dan Schneider) 
And I thought I was obsessed with minutia. # 
FADE OUT 
Lee A. Matthias 
Quote of the Post:
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

---Oscar Wilde

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Independent Film is Going to Change!

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.


FADE IN:

In his recent interview by Dan Schneider, screenwriter, Lem Dobbs identified an emerging reality that, like it or not, will change—NOT Hollywood (at least initially), but rather—independent films! Consider:

Dan Schneider: Let me now ask a few queries that I ask almost all my interviewees; because this is a series, and the parallax of replies is of interest to me and my readers. I started this interview series to combat the dumbing down of culture and discourse- what I call deliteracy, both in the media, and online, where blogs and websites refuse to post paragraphs with more than three sentences in it, or refuse to post anything over a thousand words long. Old tv show hosts like Phil Donahue, Dick Cavett, David Susskind, Tom Snyder, even Bill Buckley- love him or hate him, have gone the way of the dinosaur. Intellect has been killed by emotionalism, simply because the latter is far easier to claim without dialectic. Only Charlie Rose, as a big name interviewer, is left on PBS, but near midnight. Let me ask, what do you think has happened to real discussion in America- not only in public- political or elsewise, but just person to person? 
Lem Dobbs:  The people you’ve just mentioned, first of all, they were people -- individuals, characters -- like the old movie studio moguls.  Individualism was once prized.  In a more corporatized climate, as we know, as we knew in the fifties, or in a more authoritarian environment, the opposite is true.  And they were allowed their idiosyncrasies and given room to grow and become as known to us as their guests -- can you believe, Dick Cavett sitting and talking to someone for ninety minutes -- on a network -- when people were still awake?  But infantilization implies an undifferentiated, unruly, cacophonous rabble.  Infants haven’t matured into who they’re going to be yet.  No discussion is possible.  They haven’t the capability.  And they’re demanding.  So we have movies and books and music and culture on-demand.  This is a big change from the supply-system that once prevailed.
Something happened not so long ago.  Pick your own moment -- was it when you started seeing adults, in the evening, lined up outside theatres showing Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST -- with the collusion of the mainstream press long before Film Comment’s paean to THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX?   That’s what the “discussion” started to be about:  whatever was most publicized.  Or when great reviews began hailing the superior thrillers of John Grisham -- only, when you went to read THE FIRM or THE PELICAN BRIEF you thought … wait a minute … this is shit.  I mean, truly terrible.  And there, too, the unmentioned influence, the near plagiarism, of specific famous movies.  Is “Pelican” really so removed from “[Three Days of the] Condor” that the reviewers didn’t notice?  As well as ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, THE STEPFORD WIVES … People thought Harold Robbins or Jacqueline Susann or Mickey Spillane were “bad” writers.  What would their editors have done with the manuscript of THE DA VINCI CODE, do you think?
It’s like an hourglass has been turned upside down.  The professionals have fallen out, and the business, the industry, the profession -- film and publishing -- is now overrun by amateurs.  These people are so removed from what movies and books used to be, even from what they are.  It was bad enough when movies, say, became just one cog in a bigger corporate machine.  Movies at that point became at least unimportant.  They were widgets.  But when the corporations and mergers went too far and got too big and then began to collapse in the present recession/depression, suddenly it’s become a whole lot worse -- now movies are important as engines.  So they have actually turned their Evil Eye onto movies and are almost deliberately destroying them.  It’s like they’re taking away America’s pastime!  No more “stand-alone” movies was a recent studio directive.  In other words, no movie that can’t also be a comic book, a TV series, a Broadway musical, a video game, or lead to sequels and toy merchandizing.  The middle ground -- “dramas” as they now refer to most normal movies -- is no more.
Re-read that last paragraph. 
“...now movies are important as engines.” 
“No more ‘stand-alone’ movies was a recent studio directive.” 
“The middle ground – ‘dramas’ as they now refer to most normal movies – is no more.” 
We are approaching a point with films at which dramas (reduced as they are to a niche market) will be almost totally abandoned by the major film studios. Even now, only stars (actors and directors) with sufficient box-office-earned clout are allowed the professional indulgence of making a “serious” film. 
But the sky is not falling. 
Indeed, opportunity knocks. There’s a huge film-consuming audience that hasn’t suddenly disappeared. It just isn’t interested in buying action figures and “Happy Meals.” And lots of these folks don’t care to “see it on the big screen” every time. They sort of like the home theaters they’ve installed. They can talk, or not. They can pause it for the inevitable pit stop. They don’t step on or “stick to” soda and popcorn spills finding their seats in the dark. And they can see it again, and again, without losing half-a-day’s pay after all the tickets and refreshments have been bought. 
Up to now, the stereotype of the independent film is a contemporary drama that eschews the familiar tropes and story structures seen in most mainstream dramas. It is “quirky,” “odd,” “unpredictable.” And the reason most independent films don’t even pay for their own low, low costs is because they also lack “entertainment.” The larger audience refuses to pay to see them. The polarization of movies may be at hand. Patrons may end up choosing between the next special effects extravaganza or a film about the plight of an immigrant hotel worker with no green card. There may be no middle ground, stories about things the larger audience will want to see. 
But, with the advent of digital video and its accompanying technologies, making movies has never been easier. Only the advertising and distribution areas haven’t experienced as much improvement – though we are seeing signs of it with the impact of the internet on print media, and the transformation to digital exhibition. 
Independent filmmakers, take heed: you are staring at an emerging niche that you can fill. Even as the entire Marvel and D.C. comic book super-hero pantheons displace nearly all other subject matter, the various neglected genres we’ve lumped together as “dramas” can move to independent production for those filmmakers who are capable of producing worthy films. And this is where you can bring independent ideas to those same genres. This could be a transformational and re-vitalizing moment for movies themselves. 
We’ve seen certain notable independent films make splashes over the last few decades or so: Sex, Lies, and Videotape, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, to name three. These films were extreme successes for the independent film world. Why? What is notable about them in this light? The answer is that they used important genre trigger words in their titles signaling them as offering familiar genre story potential to a larger film audience. And mostly, they didn’t disappoint. The audience didn’t perceive them as sufficiently odd or weird to ignore them as they often have done with other independent films. The films had no stars selling tickets. All they had was an emerging groundswell of word-of-mouth and those tantalizing titles. And that was enough. 
Now, with independent filmmakers ignoring standard distribution altogether for straight-to-disk, straight-to-download/streaming distribution models, the studios are becoming irrelevant. The biggest bucks will remain with studio distribution, but studios only pick up the cream of the large independent crop. Would you as an independent filmmaker want to take your chances at the studio equivalent of the lottery? Or would you prefer a surer thing, one that offered you the chance to make your next film, rather than digging out of debt, all because your film didn’t make the cut at Sundance or Toronto? 
And let me tell you: most actors are with you on this. If you can prove your production chops, and you have a great script, many great actors will take a chance on you. It’s that or boots and a cape. # 
FADE OUT 
Lee A. Matthias
Quote of the Post:
It’s like an hourglass has been turned upside down.  The professionals have fallen out, and the business, the industry, the profession -- film and publishing -- is now overrun by amateurs. 
---Lem Dobbs

Monday, March 15, 2010

People Will Talk II – Barry Levinson and His Muse

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.



FADE IN:


In Levinson on Levinson, Edited by David Thompson, Faber and Faber, 1992, p. 42, writer-director Barry Levinson said: 
I don’t know how to write with an outline structure. I have to work from the characters, not a structure into which I then try and put the characters. I get the ideas in my head, and then at a certain point I begin and just go until I get to the end... I’ll play music constantly... trying to go as fast as possible, because all these voices are talking and these events happening and I’m just trying to keep up with it. In a sense I’m just taking dictation, but I have to race through because one scene starts suggesting other scenes. Sometimes I’ve had an idea, but I don’t necessarily know how to put it in, and then all of a sudden I go, wow, that will tie right into this, and this feeds into that. That’s the way I work. If I had to write an outline, then I would still be writing the outline for Diner!
Other than the music (and Diner), this is something I could’ve said with only one word changed, especially the part about just going through to the end. 


For me, the story must be approached first from premise into which I then find and place characters. I find that if I have a fleshed-out character in my head first, the premise adapts to it, and I prefer to put the worst-prepared people into their most difficult situations, rather than people who might be sub-consciously modified by me while fitting them to some idea after the fact.


But if there’s one thing new writers should heed here, it’s this: finish the draft before fixing the draft. First, because only with a completed whole will you know what fixes will be needed, or not needed because of being covered elsewhere. And second, because stopping a draft mid-way is the surest way to lose your momentum and never, ever, finish the thing. 
Imagine God when he was creating Man: if he’d stopped to say, “No, wait, four fingers not five, it’s a round number,” we wouldn’t have gotten opposable thumbs! But he went with his first draft long enough to know that five was better. Then he created the second draft, and perfected it with women. At least that’s what my wife tells me. #
FADE OUT
Lee A. Matthias
Quote of the Post:
For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.
---Aristotle (384 BC to 322 BC), Nichomachean Ethics

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Studio Stories VIII – Casey Robinson Sees What No Other Writer Saw & Saves "Dark Victory"

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.

FADE IN:
As a storyteller, have you ever worked on a tale five times as long as you should have only to find you couldn’t “lick” it? Somehow, somewhere, there was a problem, and it undercut the whole piece, but you couldn’t see what it was. Then, perhaps, after putting it aside for months or years, or maybe after showing it to someone who maybe wasn’t even a writer, you arrived at the solution. Maddening, isn’t it?
In Patrick McGilligan’s Backstory 1, University of California Press, 1986, pp. 300-2, screenwriter Casey Robinson related his experience working on Dark Victory (1939):
The New York play was a failure in 1935. They had tried three or four different endings while testing it on the road, and nothing worked. (Robinson) saw the play (about a woman dying of brain cancer), and had an epiphany as to what was wrong. He asked his boss and mentor, Hal Wallis, at Warner Brothers to buy it for Bette Davis to star in. Unfortunately David O. Selznick already had the rights locked up. Robinson said:
“So for three years I had a prayer every night: ‘Please don’t let David’s writers get the right ideas.’ Well, (Selznick) had, I believe four scripts prepared. He had very good writers. But nothing was happening. Finally, I heard that Ben Hecht had said to him, ‘The only way to save this is to make it a comedy.’ And I guess they tried that. At any rate - and now we are into 1938 - word comes that Selznick is willing to sell DARK VICTORY...
“The play was about a rich, spoiled girl who gets carcinoma of the brain and is going to die. In the second act she learns she is going to die and accepts it gallantly. Oh, there was a little sadness about it; she was in love with her doctor and that part is still in the picture. But what had happened is that they had played the third act in the second act. Where were they going to go? If she accepts death, this is the end... (By the actual third act) it was dissipated. It was all gone. And they just had a lot of gabble in the third act that meant nothing. There had to be, in the middle of the piece, a period of great rebellion against fate - of anger, which, of course, was mixed up with her love for the doctor. Also, the anger that she hadn’t been told, and so on...”
So often in writing, writers grapple with problems they cannot put their fingers on, cannot understand, yet know somehow that until they are fixed, the story will not work. Even “the greatest screenwriter in Hollywood” at that time (according to many), Ben Hecht, couldn’t solve the script. But Robinson had that “epiphany” and saw what it was: the narrative was in three acts, but the protagonist’s transformation was only in the first two, making the third act an anticlimax. Billy Wilder is famous for saying, “If you have a problem in the third act, the problem is gonna be in the first.” ---Conversations With Wilder, by Cameron Crowe, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. The essential truth is there: a story is an organic unit, a failure in a key component anywhere can mean death everywhere. #
FADE OUT
Lee A. Matthias
Quote of the Post:
If you have a problem in the third act, the problem is gonna be in the first.
---Billy Wilder

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teaching Creativity

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.


FADE IN:

Consider this on the subject of creativity from that great interview by Dan Schneider of screenwriter Lem Dobbs:

Dan Schneider - But, to be a good writer, I think you must learn all the rules until you’ve inculcated. Once that’s done, you have to seriously unlearn them to be truly creative. Creativity is one of those things that you either have or do not have. There’s no teaching it. Thoughts?
 
Lem Dobbs -  Well, I have tried teaching it and in exactly those terms.  Somerset Maugham said if you can write a play, it’s as easy as falling off a log, and if you can’t, no one can teach you.  I tell students right away that Picasso didn’t just reinvent the human form right off the bat.  First he learned to draw better than anyone else alive.  Buñuel could be surreal because he could also be real.  Sometimes both in the same movie.  My father was among the last generation who went to art school when going to art school meant learning how to draw.  From life.  Day in, day out, sitting looking at a model.  Then the Sixties came along and Do Your Own Thing became the norm.  Let the students express themselves, that’s what being “creative” is.  If they want to hang a toilet seat around their neck and chant while splashing paint on a wall, let them.  Who’s to say what Art is?  And that was the beginning of the end.  That’s how we came to this pass -- one man’s heaven, another’s personal hell -- where “quirky” now equals quality and we have SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and JUNO instead of STAGECOACH and OUT OF THE PAST and SERPICO.  There was always an insufferable subgenre of the kooky -- movies purporting to show that “nonconformists” lead more authentic lives -- A THOUSAND CLOWNS and A FINE MADNESS and anything with Liza Minnelli -- but it wasn’t the defining barometer of critical taste.

  It’s why every jackass in the world now writes screenplays -- that and the money they started hearing about.  Everyone thinks movies are accessible to them, you see, everyone has spent their life going to movies, watching movies on television, renting movies … They didn’t grow up performing appendectomies.  No one seems to realize that the people at the very top, the ones everyone else would like to be -- Spielberg, Scorsese, Tarantino -- they know more about movies than you do, they’ve seen more.  Thousands more.  Movies are in their blood.  It’s incredible when you read the bad screenplays of amateurs and aspirants, not only do they not resemble real life or human behavior, they don’t resemble movies.  “Creativity” is promoted now like it’s a civil right.  But to mention the sordid subject of talent is unseemly and elitist and muddies the playing field.  After all, America’s got talent.

  The fools who write those unreadable HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY books don’t seem to have any knowledge of movies beyond a superficial understanding of the same handful of classics or modern hits that everyone knows.  Some director recently announced his attachment to some project and said, “I seem to be attracted to reluctant hero stories.”  Does he really not realize those are the only stories Hollywood has ever made?  You have to inculcate movies, not “screenwriting.”  There are shapes and patterns and a certain commercial contract made with the audience at the dawn of time.  Then if you want to break that contract and go off and make Cassavetes or Antonioni films, fine -- or fine.  Cassavetes, at any rate, had to do one to subsidize the other.
--- Lem Dobbs, Interviewed by Dan Schneider

At the risk of joining the ranks of the fools, I have a book in process that focuses on helping writers to increase their “creativity.” And this “jackass” also writes screenplays. But while I won’t challenge Tarantino on his knowledge of Asian action movies, I feel I could go toe to toe with both Spielberg and Scorsese on domestic films, and hold my own on international films. But knowing the length and breadth of world cinema won’t get wannabe screenwriters a meeting with that MBA studio exec who knows movies all the way back to “the early 2000s, plus Star Wars, of course. But if you want to talk about Keynesian approaches to economics...” I have, more than once, in conversations, referenced famous classic films to blank stares from industry professionals. When they compare your idea to a recent re-make, rather than the original, you know you’re in trouble. 
Dobbs, however, makes a host of valid points here. Picasso’s paintings, First Communion (1896), and Science and Charity (1896), both demonstrate that he mastered classical and Impressionist approaches to painting before he created his own unique styles of expression. 
But I believe that creativity is less mystical than many see it. Creativity, I feel, is mostly just finding a good road, less traveled. Where, normally, one idea leads fairly obviously to a next idea, and “Joe Average” takes that easy path, the creative person chooses to look for other paths to that next idea. Why? Perhaps it’s a need to get to a new and different answer. Perhaps it’s boredom. Perhaps their own experience of the world points them. Perhaps they just want to stand out. But given a hundred random individuals, it’s a sure bet that a few will find wholly different answers compared to the majority. And that’s not magic. There is no creative gene, no “midi-chlorians” giving some people a creative “force.” 
If you want proof, ask yourself whether you feel you are one of the highly creative folks in this world. I’ll venture you’ll say you’re not. Then list some of your own really good ideas over the course of your life. I don’t mean earth-shaking ideas, just good ones, things you felt blessed to have come up with for big reasons or small. Can’t think of any? Never had a single idea worth anything? I don’t believe you. Think harder. Think wider. Think farther back. “Oh, there was that one time...” Right. That was a good idea, wasn’t it? So, now, if you’re not creative, where’d you get them? I’ll tell you: you got them from the odd moment in which you thought further, longer, differently, or maybe “sideways,” rather than thinking straight-forwardly and as little as possible, the way you usually do. Think about those ideas. Examine the process you went through. Where did they come from? Might you have had some creative inspiration of your own? And might you have said one or another came “right out of left field”? That’s lateral thinking, folks. 
So, I see creativity as a conscious method employing lateral thinking to find alternatives to the obvious or stereotypical. And given this, it is only a small effort to develop strategies toward using such thinking consistently. That is what I try to do in Lateral Screenwriting. I offer approaches to laterally-derived creative idea-generation, and I apply them to story-telling in general and screenwriting in particular. And, lest this seem like a con, I offer scores of examples of how this has worked for others and myself, both in writing and in life. 
People, however, and artists foremost among them, prefer to believe that their creativity is a kind of “super-power” that they and only a small group of similarly-blessed “heroes” have. They don’t like to think too hard about how they get their inspiration, because, to put it frankly, they are threatened. Maybe it has the effect of knocking them down a notch or two in their own and other people’s estimation. Everyone is equal, but, as Orwell said, they prefer to be “more equal.” They don’t like the thought of someone using a “method” to create the same thing as what they achieved “magically” through their “God-given” talent. And to extend it further, I’ll venture that talent is just creativity applied along with focus and practice, to a particular expression or art. It’s why someone gets better at something, they apply focus and practice to the thing for which they first showed an affinity. It’s work... by creative people, people like... all of us. Including you
So, like lateral thinking proponent, Edward de Bono, I believe creativity can be taught. And that’s not to say that it can be guaranteed. The great artist is probably far more practiced at employing such strategies, far more able to take the approaches that much farther along. But you have it already, and you can get better at using it. Do so and, viola! You’re talented too! #     
FADE OUT 
Lee A. Matthias 
Quote of the Post:
Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.
---Pablo Picasso

Thursday, March 4, 2010

People Will Talk I – Judith Rascoe Bucks the Screenwriting Priesthood

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.

FADE IN:

I started a recurring type of post a few months ago called Studio Stories. It recounts film-related tales I find worth repeating. But it is usually sufficiently thought-provoking that I need to comment, making the thing longer than it would be as a stand-alone quotation.

Today I begin a similar recurring post, but in this case it will strive for brevity. If I comment at all, it will be brief. I call this one, People Will Talk, and it is intended to be a self-standing post that has something significant – thought-provoking or humorous – to say about the worlds of writing, books, screenwriting, and movies. Here’s the first one:

Screenwriter, Judith Rascoe, (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Who’ll Stop the Rain, Havana) in her interview in American Screenwriters, Edited by by Karl Schanzer & Thomas Lee Wright, Avon, 1993, p. 146:

...I’ve been browbeaten into putting in... description. I’m always being told more, more. Is this being said with a smile? Does he stare at her when he says this? I’m actually encouraged to write the performance. I’d think it would make the director and the actor crazy, but I know what’s happening is that, first of all, there are a lot of studio executives. They need storyboards. They sure need parentheticals. And I’ve seen in rehearsals that lots of actors are not going to bear down on the right words in that sentence unless it’s underlined. And if they misread it, the line won’t make sense... Sometimes, even with very solid actors, there are misreadings.

So, someone forgot to tell the studios, executives, directors, and actors Ms. Rascoe works with that putting in direction and performance is an offence punishable by rejection, with extreme prejudice. #

FADE OUT

Lee A. Matthias

Quote of the Post:

When movies were good, the filmmakers and their bosses were more or less creative, intellectual, cultural equals.  Unfortunately the same is true now when movies are bad.---Lem Dobbs