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Idea IS the format

The occasional downtime of Daniel W. E. Light

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Tuesday, 13 November 2007

2am eternal

Brandon Bird: "The Last Supper"

2am. I awoke suddenly and utterly a few moments ago, after just two hours sleep, neatly exiting a startlingly vivid dream into which one of my most notorious ex-girlfriends had just assuredly introduced herself. Still, nice to know the old ejector seat is still in good working order.

A couple of days ago I posted the first sequence of the first draft of a screenplay I've been working on, called WEATHERMAN, with a view to answering a few questions, specifically in relation to Syd Field's Basic Film Paradigm. I subsequently circulated the link to the following sprinkling of friends and acquaintances:

Dan Outram - writer and director of numerous short films and commercials
John Donnelly - writer and director of numerous stageplays
Kate Solomon - associate producer on UNITED 93
James Scudamore - author of The Amnesia Clinic
Dane McMaster - colleague, serial west coast technophile and screen guru
Emma Light - critic; therapist; confidante; wife

By the time I got up a few hours later I already had some good feedback. Dan was quick to set me straight on a fundamental tenet of screenwriting technique, asserting that "you shouldn't write anything other than that which is seen or heard. Only that is allowed to tell the story. Otherwise the audience will not know it." I've already taken that on board, and the updated version is available here.

Dane picked up on the question of whether short films need to conform to the paradigm: "Yes, in this matter at least, syd field is correct. a three act structure such as this should be adhered to as closely as possible. once you've mastered this you can destroy it and begin to build your own form of... well, form. Kubrick's 2001, for example, does not follow this structure. Nor does Full Metal Jacket. But he's one of the few directors who can stray from it and make it play. David Lynch actually adheres quite strictly to this formal structure... even if the elements that form his 3 parts are in a somewhat abstract form. David Mamet is another huge supporter of this form."

Set-up, confrontation and resolution it is then I guess. I like the idea that it has to be mastered in order that it can be transgressed. It's a fascinating point about Full Metal Jacket as well. Though I may have lacked the 'education' to put my finger on it, I always knew intuitively that there was something unusual about the form of that movie.

Dane also advised me to change the title. "Nicolas Cage got there first. Nobody needs to be reminded of that movie." For the uninitiated (which, in the case of this movie, will be most of you) he's talking about The Weather Man. He's probably right, but I don't need to start worrying about that quite yet. When I was a kid I'd spend days dreaming up great titles for my first novel, avoiding the trickier business of actually writing one. Speaking of which, in the words of the late Clarence Boddicker, "Sayonara Robocop." [stabs Robocop in the chest with metal rod].


posted by Dan Light  # 17:59
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