Saturday, November 18, 2006
Another incredible book!
I stumbled across this one at Amazon and it sounded like something I really wanted to check out, so I ordered it and let me tell ya, I was not disappointed! I've only read the first half so far, but already I give it 5 stars. And I've read a few other books about screenplay writing and directing technique that failed to even make a decent blip on my radar. The beauty of this one is that it gives you a set of powerful tools for breaking down your movie idea into sections (and breaking those down further) so you can work out all the shots and scenes before shooting (before doing a storyboard) and find the best dramatic possibilities. It doesn't replace Writing With Pictures in terms of how to actually tell a ripping yarn, but it covers the next part of thje process, how to turn that story into a screenplay. I see them both as essential texts for any aspiring filmmaker.
He tells you how to find the NARRATIVE SPINE of your film idea, which he compares to the armature in a sculpture (something we can definitely relate to) and to use that and the FULCRUMS (dramatic turning points) to keep everything in line so you don't end up going off track somewhere. Each movement (of actor, camera or object) should relate directly to that spine, as well as to the WANTS of each character. He also discusses the GRAMMAR of film.... he compares each shot to a sentence that must contain at least one subject and one verb and he breaks scenes down into NARRATIVE BLOCKS (paragraphs) and even further into NARRATIVE BEATS (each movement is essentially a beat, and must relate to the spine of the film and to the spine of the scene). I love the way he does this.... he writes out his screenplay leaving a margin along the right edge and next to each action he jots down a verb (narrative beat). It sounds like an almost mathematical formula, but that's not the way he approaches it at all - rather it's a way of breaking things down methodically so they can be examined and correlated very specifically.
What caught my attention and made me single out this book alongside the hundreds opf other screenwriting books that litter the shelves was this subtitle: "See your film before shooting". Now you KNOW I like that! So for me this one is an integral part of the process I've been learning - of cinematic storytelling. Until finding this volume, this part of the process was pretty random for me.... just visualise the whole movie scene by scene and shot by shot and "try to make sure everything works". Well, here's an excellent process for doing exactly that! Using beats the way he does turns your screenplay into something like a poem or a song (hence the musical terminology - beats).