Screenwriting Best of the Web 25/10/09


Here’s my weekly selection from the blogosphere. Feel free to recommend anything or give your feedback in the Questions and Comments below.

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COMING SOON to the Story Department:

  • Merrel Davis on ‘Avoiding Mental Spackle’
  • Structural breakdown of THE UNTOUCHABLES
  • Paul Gulino: Screenwriting, the Deadline Approach



1 thought on “Screenwriting Best of the Web 25/10/09”

  1. We are all linked by the ceaseless march of time and we are all affected by it. On stage narrative tends to follow a chronological development within the plot (sequence of events) as stage is real without necessarily being realistic. Film however is realistic without being real – it mimics reality and memory within its sequencing of events with the possibility of flashbacks and even speculative futures before returning to a present.
    Although we constantly use narrative in our daily lives, we owe our understanding of it to Ancient Greek Theatre – its use of ritual and celebration to create consciousness altering experiences within an audience. Aristotle in Poetics said that every story had a beginning, a middle and an end and we still believe this today – but as has often been said it is knowing where the real story begins that is the tricky bit.
    Further to this, it wasn’t until the time of Jane Austin that heroes had ‘sensibility’ (the ability to feel empathy for others) – which is why Shakespeare killed off the classic hero and focused on the journey of the villain (and without the villain acknowledging his wrong doings and getting his just desserts the audience would feel cheated.)
    If we move through time again – to the age of the Viennese Circle and the celebrity shrink of the era – Freud ,who never managed to cure anyone – we have a need to create a deeper understanding and reflection of the times on stage and in the playfulness of the discovery of the moving image.
    Also, prior this time – (Modernism/ Structuralism) plays had a five act structure (check it out – there is plenty of information on the web on the five act structure). It was the writings of the Realist playwrights Ibsen and Anton Chekhov that made the experimental form of the three act structure acceptable. Just as a minor diversion please be aware that Stanislavski loved Chekhov’s works but Chekhov hated what Stanislavski did to his plays (basically he turned his lovely little comedies into tragedies). Which probably echoes the moans of despair that many a writer has when they see the results of their work on stage or film (never mind what the director or producer thinks).
    We live our lives in narratives. I was reading a book today which said that narrative ‘is the principle way in which our species organizes its understanding of time’. which is a really good definition but then it went on to show non-narrative ways of organizing time: the clock (a major devise for driving the action in any film); the passage of the sun (used in film to show the passage of time but also has narratives woven around it – See Romeo and Juliet ‘Gallop apace …’ speech); The succession of the seasons (used in film to show temporal transitions of epic narratives and itself the inspiration of folk tales eg The Green Knight and Mummer’s plays); and the season cycles – years (a bit more awkward to disprove as a non-narrative time progression until you think of classic references to time: in the fifth winter or the reign of ….).
    The complexity of Narrative is marked and changed by Time and its progress and time, its progress and representation is an important element in narrative whose importance is sometimes underrated.


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