Friday, December 2, 2011

The Art Of Writing Visuals For Film

Some people believe writing is writing. When they find out I am a professional writer the first they ask is "Have you written any novels?"
No. I'm not that kind of writer.

Just because you are paid to blog does not mean you are a journalist. If you write stage plays you aren't also a screenwriter; or write children's books, you are not a poet.

For those of you who don't already know it, writing is a niche skill. Every different type of writing requires its own particular style. These are markers that let you know what sort of thing you are reading--a sonnet, a stage play, a film script, a novel, an autobiography, a news story. Some writers have no trouble writing across a number of specific genres because they have mastered a multitude of these niche skills. But not every writer has these skills and for the most part they stick with just one particular niche for the sake of their mental health.

Now, let's talk about film writing. When a writer prepares a script it contains much more than dialogue. It also has character emotions, plot outlines and scene descriptions; integral pieces of the film experience for the audience. But what if you are writing a silent film? No dialogue, or very little of it. How can you write a script without dialogue?

Very carefully.

In films, silent moments may be one of the most effective techniques to evoke a powerful emotion or to portray a character, and often what's seen on the screen is more powerful than any words could be.

But telling stories visually is usually thought of as the province of the director, not the writer, since writers are limited to words, whether it's dialogue or scene description. Yet writers often conceive images even when the story is still only words on a page.

The year's most extreme example is a film that is mostly silent: "The Artist." By choosing to (almost) entirely eschew dialogue and sound effects as a storytelling tool, writer-director Michel Hazanavicius limited himself to images to explain or evoke a conflict.

Hazanavicius points to a moment when fading silent star George Valentin meets rising talkie star Peppy Miller on a staircase at the studio. "She is on the top (of the stairs) and he is lower than she and he is a little sad. She dressed in white with very dark hair, and she is talking and talking because she is now doing talking movies. He is a little faded and not talking at all. Then there is a long shot where he is listening and looking at her where his eyes say he is in love with her. We use light and shadows," Hazanavicius says.


Click here to read more about "The Artist."

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