Cinematic Storytelling (7)

Here’s a scene taken from the completely visual screenplay written by a longtime friend, Bob Thielke.

This writer found himself so inspired by Jennifer van Sijll’s book Cinematic Storytelling that he wrote for himself a nearly dialogue-free screenplay.

The result is a creative exercise, just to practice the art of telling a story through visuals. The title: 99 Luft Ballons. It’s a story about a couple separated by a big ugly wall and the protagonist, Albert Schaff, dresses like a clown and floats over the wall with a bunch of balloons to be with the one he loves. It’s really moving, actually.

In this scene toward the end of Act 2, Albert’s at the job office (where he’s paid to be a clown for parties) and he just realized that the balloons won’t work. He goes to tell them he doesn’t want to be a clown anymore.

At the beginning of the scene, he’s small and in the background (feeling diminished) until he realizes that they need him to do the birthday party for the chancellor’s kid. He sees this as his possible escape and he moves up to the desk and towers over the poor little clerk who is now the diminished one.

This brings to mind the scene in Citizen Kane where Kane (having just learned from his guardian, Thatcher, that the crash of ’29 wiped out his estate) paces along the Z-Axis and walks from the foreground to the background and back to the foreground again.

Orson Welles communicated visually without one word of dialogue that Kane had returned to a state of boyhood. Great!

Ironically enough, in Bob’s script – which was virtually dialogue-free – this is one of the few scenes that actually has dialogue.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it:


Albert sits in his usual chair at the far end of the office, submissive look on his face.

The Clerk sits down and taps his pencil repeatedly.


Now you’re telling me you don’t want to be a clown? You are the most difficult person I’ve ever had to deal with.

Albert hangs his head in shame.


Your skills for office work are negligible, you’re too frail for manual labor, and you show no aptitude for technical skills.

Shrinking down in his chair, Albert looks away, feeling even smaller.


But, I do have some interesting news, if you’d care to hear.

Albert straightens up as his curiosity is piqued.


I don’t know how you did it, but the Chancellor wants to hire you to entertain at his son’s birthday in two months.

Albert is duly impressed.


There will be at least one hundred children there.

Albert, oblivious to the world, adds digits using his figures.


You realize what an honor this is. But you also realize that if you turn this down or mess this up, we’ll both be in huge trouble. I for one don’t care to visit Siberia anytime soon.


They’ve got to have balloons, huge balloons.




The children. They’ll want to have balloons.


What concern is that of mine?


If they don’t have balloons, they won’t be happy. If they’re not happy, I can’t imagine the Chancellor will be happy either.

The clerk comes to attention and scrambles to find a pencil.


What’s a party without balloons? How big do you want them?

– Mystery Man

In his own words, Mystery Man was “famous yet anonymous, failed yet accomplished, brilliant yet semi-brilliant. A homebody jetsetting around the world. Brash and daring yet chilled with a twist.”

MM blogged for nearly 4 years and tweeted for only 4 months, then disappeared – mysteriously.

The Story Department continues to republish his best articles on Monday.

Here, you’ll also be informed about the release of his screenwriting book.

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