Alexander Film Works

If It Ain’t On The Page…

In Film and Related on September 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm

My screenwriting class this term is more along the lines of the organic development of story, rather than the mechanical following of invariant paradigms.  This is a good thing, since story develops from character, and character is formed by the actions of the story.

Circular reasoning?  You might consider it so, but no less an authority than Henry James codified it.  “What is character,” he observed, “but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?”

When you write a character, you end up knowing her or him better than your spouse, better than your kids, possibly even better than you know yourself.  You must be psychologist, anthropologist, sociologist, demographer, accurate recorder of events, able to extrapolate human behavior (or, at least, depictions of human behavior) from inadequate information, to intuit surprises from information that leads a dispassionate observer to expect a totally different outcome.

It’s not an easy job.

Also important is the realization that writing a screenplay is a severely limited form.  There are only two things you can use  in order to put the story on the screen, its ultimate home… what the audience sees, and what the audience hears.

That’s it.

When you do it wrong, you get some piece of dreck like Dude, Where’s My Car?  When you do it right, you get something like The Godfather.

A hard target to hit… but worth the attempt.  If it wasn’t worth it, nobody would do it if they didn’t have to.

“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”  Noted writer (on almost every subject in the Dewey Decimal System catalog) Isaac Asimov said this when asked why he wrote.  I am of the same opinion.

This is what I do.  This is who I am.

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