You Are Responsible For What You Create

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Creativity, art, storytelling and cinematography  is a fascinating world with seemingly no limits. It can heal, harden or soften hearts in ways nothing else can. With this ability comes great responsibility.

CREATIVE FREEDOM

Most of us are fortunate enough to be allowed to create whatever we want. As wonderful as it is, it also creates the potential for danger and room for abuse. Hence the stigma of artists seeing themselves as above society’s rules and seeing no need to abide by them.

This entitlement for creative expression is often a breeding ground for selfishness and not of use to anyone. The options for artists to create are limitless and should by all means be explored, because it can simultaneously be a breeding ground for beauty.

MANUFACTURING CULTURE

Creative freedom shapes a culture and its humanity. One could almost say artists manufacture culture, because they help define cultural attitudes.  Art, (in this case film), is the most accessible form of art and is not exclusive to certain social classes or ages.

There are countless movies which have impacted society and led to a change of law, culture or perspective. To name a few, after the release of Fatal Attraction, divorce rates dramatically decreased, Anti-interracial laws were abolished at the release of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Philadelphia provided a platform to discuss the taboo subject of HIV/AIDS, and the Star Wars saga was undoubtedly a contributor to popular culture.

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OUR RESPONSIBILITY

And as present and future culture manufacturers, we have a responsibility towards our audience for what we create. Don’t simply create something without taking its consequences into consideration.

Filmmaking is hard work. And if you’re already putting so much effort and work into it, why not make it about something that will contribute to the betterment of humanity? Think about what your story promotes.

NO COMPROMISES

I’m not advocating you push for a certain message, because then your art becomes manipulative and self-promoting. It’s not your responsibility to change the whole world or create something which is forced. By all means, don’t produce something that is not genuine. Don’t compromise your uniqueness, but ask yourself if your uniqueness is being used to edify your audience.

MY PERSONAL INSPIRATION

A wonderful example of someone who has a great balance of art, personality, edification and truthfulness is Taika Waititi, director of Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilder People and  and most recently Thor: Ragnarok.

Waititi doesn’t apologize for who he is, but he doesn’t use his uniqueness to prove himself to anyone either. His stories are relatable and humorous, but they carry so much emotional weight. It doesn’t feel like he is trying to push a message on his audience, but they are left with food for thought, or at least a softened heart.

CONCLUSION

Your viewers are responsible for what they take away from the movie as well. But you’re still responsible for what your audience gets to see.

It is a great gift to create, and I admire everyone who is bold enough to create and vulnerable enough to show it to others – but, just be aware what your audience is left with when they go home after having seen your film.

You have the power to be an inspiration – whether is it temporary or long term – so let it move your audience to contribute to the betterment of humanity, no matter how big or small.

Gavin Hood – Practical Advice and Inspiration from Eye In The Sky Director

Gavin Hood is climbing the ranks in the film industry, having directed some popular movies with tenacious morale.

I first noticed him after watching Eye in the Sky, which is about the disputes of modern warfare. I was thoroughly impressed. I don’t remember the last time I was on the edge of my seat for the duration of an entire movie. When I realized he’s a fellow South-African, I was intrigued even more – I have to admit I’m a bit biased…

The more I found out about him, the more reasons I found to acknowledge him and his work.

Gavin Hood is the kind of filmmaker who is in the business for the right reasons.

He is driven to create current and applicable content which is entertaining at the same time. When asked why he chose to direct Eye in the Sky, he commented: “It’s completely current and it’s about what’s really happening in modern warfare and it has elements of black comedy and farce that are grounded in real life.”

His choice to cast Helen Mirren (the role was intended for a male lead) as Colonel Katherine Powell was very strategic. He didn’t want to box the movie in as a war movie for guys.

He recounts saying, “I want it to be a movie about war but that it’s a conversation starter for men and women about a subject matter that I think is very topical.”

He’s also a filmmaker who works extremely hard to get where he is right now. When asked to give advice to aspiring filmmakers, he shared, “Unfortunately, […] there’s this notion that you can become famous and rich very quickly. It’s a curse I think. […]

The way you make it is by getting good at making films.

There’s no shortcut; just study the craft and practise and hopefully you’ll eventually connect with an audience. And if you don’t connect with an audience, you won’t have a career in this business.”

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It took a while for him to gain international recognition. Even though he wanted to be an actor, he followed his father’s advice and “took his big mouth and studied law” though he only practiced it for 4 months. He was already 30 when he actually started studying screenwriting, cinematography and directing.

Although he knew he was always going to go into film, he doesn’t regret having studied law, instead he recalls, “it trained me in terms of thinking and story and conflict and moral and ethical questions.”

He continually emphasizes the importance of making films in order to connect with your audience. He himself is drawn to stories compelling him to think. “I personally, with my background of being a lawyer and growing up in the turbulent times of the 80’s in South-Africa, I tend to be drawn to […] stories that somehow challenge me in a moral or ethical way.

“Don’t tell me what to think, but present me with something morally or ethically challenging.”

He started small by making short films; The Storekeeper was one I remember seeing in Middle School. It left a big impression on me, not only because of the dilemma it presents, but because it was so close to home. It was a South-African story which could be understood universally.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoAONuFrjtU

This is another thing I appreciate about him; he bloomed where he was planted. He started where he was and then expanded, instead of limiting himself to the small South-African film industry.

Tsotsi was his breakthrough film which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 – a film I highly recommend by the way…

It was again, an authentic story, but one exploring universal humanity.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-cQHJm25qI

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“I really believe that we focus so much on differences and not enough on similarities. Most people, on a very basic level, have surprisingly similar needs. The need for companionship, dignity, love. And when these basic needs are not met, you find individuals developing a very distorted sense of the world.”

By now, he has other popular movies under his belt like Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition.

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I celebrate people like Gavin Hood and believe there are many more like him out there who we simply need to discover.

Fellow filmmakers and actors, let us strive and work hard to tell stories worth telling. Stories that challenge people in their thinking to fight passivity.

Gavin Hood, I thank you for being an inspiration and persisting with a tenacious and creative spirit – all the best to you for your future projects!

Written by Annette Lange.

Spotlight on Botswana: revealing a ‘scandalous’ love story

BY ANNETTE LANGE

 

*** WARNING: This article contains spoilers!!! ***

 

Having grown up among the Batswana community in South Africa as one of the few white people in our township, I was always made aware of the fact that I was white, not black – from both sides.

 

Even though the Apartheid system had been abolished in 1991 (and I was born in 1995 – the so-called born-free generation), the effects of it and attitude were still ingrained in people’s minds. I never felt truly part of either the Batswana, or the white community in South-Africa – a weird limbo situation.

 

Needless to say, the trailer of ‘A United Kingdom’ sent tears streaming down my face – even when watching it for the 10th time. Seeing a powerful testimony of both the black and white community reconciled through the ‘scandalous’ union between Seretse Khama, a black inheritor of the Bamangwato chieftainship, and Ruth Williams, a white typist from London, pulled on my heartstrings even more.

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A United Kingdom follows the true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), who meet and fall in love in London in the 1940’s. Their relationship is not only opposed by their families, but by Khama’s uncle, the regent of Bechuanaland, his tribe and both the South-African and British Governments who do everything in their might to prevent their union.

 

Through it all, their love overcomes all opposition, efforts and exile, ultimately leading to Seretse becoming the first president of Botswana, now being an independent country after its state as a British Protectorate.

 

Under his leadership, Botswana became one of the fastest growing economies after being the world’s third poorest country. His uncompromisable stance for equality and integrity was a beacon of hope amidst a region ruled by racial segregation, civil war and corruption.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvOWLRNxVs8

 

I applaud Amma Asante (director) and David Oyelowo (actor and producer) for their incredible efforts in making this story come alive. I am and will remain a huge fan of this film. However, there were some melodramatic and westernized elements and choices that pulled me out of the story on several occasions.

 

Pike and Oyelowo’s acting performances are outstanding and they have great chemistry on screen even though Oyelowo’s accent pulled me out of the story every now and then, sometimes rolling the ‘r’, sometimes not. I realize this is a daunting task, seeing that Seretse would have had the British accent mixed with the Setswana accent due to him living in London for several years. Also, Oyelowo’s occasional choice of pausing in the middle of his sentences as if he had a hard time speaking English was unnecessary, since Khama was perfectly fluent and proficient in English.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shg1hXkvT4U

 

The cinematography and production design was beautiful and aided in creating the stark contrast between the different backgrounds of both Khama and Williams, the culture of London and Botswana and the obvious presence and absence of wealth and economic stability.

 

Most of the locations were the actual locations where the story took place: the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, the St Mary’s Church in Isleworth and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. For the scenes set in Bechuanaland, they mainly filmed in Serowe, Botswana’s biggest village and Seretse’s actual former house that was put back together after finding it in a dilapidated state.

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I realize that Asante and Oyelowo’s main focus was the love and relationship between Seretse and Williams, they do not deny the fact that they are both ‘unashamed romantics,’ but in my opinion the focus on the romanticism took away from its authenticity and led to unnecessary melodramatic elements.

 

When Ruth first catches a glimpse of Sereste, we see him sitting confidently on the armrest of an armchair discussing politics in a macho-like manner among his African brothers. In my opinion it does not reflect Khama’s humble demeanor he is said to have had. “Seretse Khama was known for his intelligence and integrity, and a wicked sense of humour –puncturing the pomposity of those who had too high an opinion of themselves.” For the sake of his country, he stepped down as a chief and became a cattle farmer for a while. His weapon was humility, not arrogance.

 

In another scene, Seretse delivers a brilliant speech to his people who are assembled to vote whether or not they want him to continue as chief. However, the part where the men raise their hands to vote was drawn out dramatically with long periods of silence was a bit unrealistic. This particular kgotla (public meeting) in which he was recognized as Kgosi (king) by his people was the last meeting following a series of meetings through which he had gained more and more favor from the people. The men would not have taken so long to vote for his chieftainship as he “was popularly recognised as Kgosi together with his wife.”

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Another element of melodrama is seen in the portrayal of the antagonists of the story: Sir Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport) and Lady Lilly Canning (Jessica Oyelowo). Even though their intentions obviously weren’t pure, their portrayal as villains was unnecessarily exaggerated. It came across that Sir and Lady Canning made no attempt to hide their pleasure in Seretse and Ruth’s misfortune, even in their company.

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There were also a couple of moments that gave away the fact that the screenplay and dialogue were not written by an African.

 

Which brings me to the following examples of ‘westernisation’:

Ruth remains in Bechuanaland while her husband is in exile. During this time, her first child is born. In her effort to integrate herself into the Batswana community, Ruth nurses her newborn baby and joins the circle of other African mothers in the bush hospital, I am 90% sure they would not have just sat in silence acknowledging each other with a smile. I think I’d have permission to assume this group of nursing women would have been chuckling or at least chatting away in their native language, at least to the point when Ruth joins their circle. It was not the behaviour I expected from a group of Batswana mothers.

 

The people of the rural villages in Botswana are portrayed as meek and quiet. In view of the fact that Ruth had become a member of the royal family, I can imagine that a certain respect or reverence towards her might have caused members of her community to feel inhibited in her presence. From my personal experience, however, I would describe the Batswana as a lively, confident people.

 

The part that was executed extremely well however (the tearjerker for me) was the scene where the women of the village gather together in song to show their acceptance of Ruth as one of their own. I have seen such a scenario many times, and it never fails to make my heart skip a beat, when I see an example of reconciliation and acceptance such as this.

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Even though these few elements distracted me from the story now and then, I praise the filmmakers for brilliantly telling the story from both sides: Seretse’s challenges in being accepted in England as well as Ruth’s challenges in being accepted by the Batswana and the white community in Southern Africa (the part I identified with the most).

 

And, a bonus for me personally was of course, to see a story told that was so close to home. I was surprised I had never heard of the story myself, but even “many in Botswana did not know the story either, despite Seretse and Ruth’s son being the current president.”

 

I’m excited to see what the response to this film will be in Botswana and South-Africa and also to see future projects of Amma Asante and David Oyelowo. Hats off to both of them and the team!

 

Getting to know you

Written by Annette Lange.

 

“Creating a character is like getting to know a person.”

I remember Marion Cotillard saying this in one of her interviews. She briefly mentioned it before she continued to answer other questions, but that statement stuck with me – as if the penny dropped for the first time.

And it’s true.

When you act and see yourself on screen, your character looks the same as you, but you are completely different.

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When I think about the way I get to know people, I like hearing their story first. I understand them much better once I’m aware of their background and can trace why they behave in the ways they do.

As a matter of fact, I’ve realized it catches people off guard when I ask what their story is, after we’ve met only once. I might have to rethink my strategy…

When it comes to creating characters for acting, there always seems to be a wall. I still have a hard time getting into the character completely, because I tend to distance myself from the character.

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Yes, I realize this also has to do with lack of confidence, but mainly I think it’s because I judged them and didn’t treat my characters as people. They aren’t (don’t worry, I do understand the concept of acting), but every character reflects humanity in many ways.

If there is one thing I’ve learned after 3 years of travelling, meeting people from all over the world and hearing their stories, it’s that I have no right to judge anyone, because I have no idea what they’ve gone through.

We all act out of a place of hurt – our emotional baggage. We all have filters. So many things influence us and shape us into the person we are right now – and the same applies to your characters.

Viewing your character as a project creates a distance, but if you think of him/her as a person you can get to know intimately – it clearly shifts the perspective.

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It shifted mine and lifted off a lot of pressure because I can empathize with where they’re coming from.

This is why I fell in love with acting in the first place – you have the freedom to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and discover the intricacies of humanity.

You are challenged to understand and love people you would normally not want to understand and love.

We, as actors, writers, artists, filmmakers get to create.

As actors, a backstory is one of the things we need to create to make our characters believable. You have probably heard that many times before and know that it’s important to create one. And one that fits and adds to the story.

I have definitely caught myself being more concerned about the way my performance comes across rather than being concerned about who my character is. And I don’t like it.

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But, I want to encourage you, to create a character out of a place of curiosity and love for the hurting individual you are creating.

Focus on who your character is, rather than what he/she does. Because if you know your character inside out, the physical actions will follow automatically. This also prevents emotional mapping, e.g. planning beforehand when your character will cry or burst out in anger instead of responding to the given circumstances (which I am also guilty of).

What questions would you ask your character if you were to meet up with them for coffee? What’s their story? What emotional baggage are they carrying around and why? What happened in their life that led up to the situation they’re in now?

Questions you should always address about your character are:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where am I?
  3. When is it?
  4. Where have I just come from?
  5. What do I want?
  6. Why do I want it?
  7. Why do I want it now?
  8. What will happen if I don’t get it now?
  9. How will I get what I want by doing what?
  10. What must I overcome?*

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And this is not only applicable to the characters we create, but rather everyone we meet. The people you dislike, that get on your nerves. The people you find hard to love – do you know they’re background? Have you put yourself in their shoes?

That ability helped me a lot in my interaction with people, and I want to apply it to my characters too. Everyone is lovable. At the heart of every person is the desire to be loved and accepted in a world full of hurt.

Jack Sparrow & Me

Written by Connor Campbell.

Every filmmaker has those films that inspired them to pursue their dream and make films of their own. I am no different.

But looking back on these films, I noticed a distinct pattern and discovered a connection between the films that inspired me and the stories I now create.

When I think about this, it makes quite a bit of sense, but yet it still came as a bit of a surprise to me. But what is the specific connection I found? And how does apply to you? Well, follow along.

  1. Chariots of Fire

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This is the first film I remember being overly interested in. And by that, I mean I would watch it over and over again. But here’s the bizarre part: I was only four years old.

So how did a film such as this, which could be described as a slow-moving drama, captivate a four-year-old?

The simple answer is music and running.

As a kid I was fascinated by the running and racing in the film. According to my parents I would get quite into it and watch the film standing only a couple feet away from the TV.

The film’s epic soundtrack also assisted in capturing my attention. I absolutely loved the music in this film and still do today. It’s a great soundtrack.

Something deeper I noticed, however, is why these things caught my eye (or ear). At four years old, I didn’t understand story or character development. Theme would go well over my head. So what was it?

Entertainment. I was thoroughly entertained by this film. This was the beginning of my discovery on why I create the stories I do.

And I think this happens to people more often than not. Think about it. Look back and see if you can find that first film you really enjoyed. How has it influenced you?

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

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What young filmmaker hasn’t been influenced in some way by Peter Jackson’s brilliant film trilogy? Any filmmaker my age has mentioned how The Lord of the Rings influenced them at some point or another.

I could talk for a very long time on the how and/or why these films are so influential, but I feel like I took something much different than most.

Sometime before I watched these films, the books had been read to me. So it was incredibly fascinating for me to see these great stories retold on the screen.

Despite the fact I was exposed to the books first, if given the choice, I would choose to watch the films rather than read the books. This introduced my interest in visual storytelling.

When the books were read to me, I would imagine them as a film. So when I actually watched those stories in a movie form, I was hooked on the idea that I could do the same thing.

Learning something from these films is incredibly relatable to any up and coming filmmaker. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a film such as this? It’s epic scale and intriguing journey make for a great inspiration.

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

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So far my journey to film consisted of entertainment with a flare of visual storytelling.

After watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean, however, I was back to pure entertainment. I was old enough by then to understand story and I think this film’s story is quite good. But the amount of entertainment this film provides is through the roof.

This film has everything I enjoy: Great characters, genre blending, and visually interesting.

While great characters and visually interesting is a more typical thing to enjoy about a film, genre blending is not.

I thoroughly enjoy mixing different genres together, especially if they’re not commonly put together. Pirates of the Caribbean mixes fantasy, swashbuckler, and comedy and ends up with great balance.

And while I didn’t realize this at the time, this film also proves you don’t necessarily have to follow the structure of story to the letter. This has had a massive influence on me as a storyteller. I enjoy adding bizarre moments and beats that don’t always make sense until much later in the film.

Think about the films that you like, but you don’t even really know why. I mean, you know you enjoy it and it’s a fun time, but what is the true reason behind all of that? If you looked deeper into those films, you’ll begin to discover commonalities with your own work.

So now my interest in entertainment value expanded into practical application.

  1. Star Trek (2009)

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Sometimes films just speak to you. And more often than not, those films heavily influence you. Don’t ever think that that is a bad thing. Allow those films to help shape how you create.

This is my favourite film of all time, so it’s no shock that it ended up on this list and I openly admit it influences nearly everything I have written since seeing it.

Every time I watch this film, I enjoy it more and more. And now as I’ve gained more knowledge about film I can articulate why.

This is another case of taking something I already knew and portraying it in a way I was much more captivated by. I watched seasons upon seasons of Star Trek television shows and while I enjoyed them very much, the 2009 feature film reboot was what I really wanted.

J.J. Abrams, who I am a big fan of by the way, perfectly merges together the two things that make a good film: entertainment and story.

These elements are vital in producing good content. Story is obviously very important, but to me film is a form of entertainment. Although you may not see it this way, a good story does not always equal entertainment.

I won’t really elaborate on this, because that statement is purely based out of my own perception.

But going back to Star Trek, I remember walking out of the theatre and think that that was the most fun I had ever had at a movie.

I know that you’ve probably had those moments, so I’ll give you a tip on how to use that feeling to your advantage. Don’t try to copy what you’ve seen on screen. Dive deeper into the reasons why you loved the film and try adding those techniques into your own stories.

For me, this film brought on the idea of writing stories in the genre of science fiction, which I have since been fascinated with. But also it showed me how to use an ensemble-like cast but still have a clear focus on who the main character is.

  1. Avatar

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James Cameron’s box office wonder hit Avatar only solidified my interest in science fiction and world building.

Yes, the story isn’t the most original, but you cannot deny the incredible detail and depth to the world James Cameron created.

I was mesmerized by the images on the big screen. Everything was so well thought out and intricately detailed.

In every science fiction story I create, I strive to do this. Build a world that is both interesting and detailed, but without sacrificing story for the sake of wow-factor.

Films like this should merely hint at a well thought out backstory.

To me, Avatar did this immensely well and it’s the reason why everytime I watch it, I’m still intrigued with the world. So much so, I am still very excited to see where James Cameron takes his sequels and how much further they will delve into the world created in the 2009 film.

Conclusion

I think you can see the pattern that got me hooked on film. Yes, story is a common theme, but entertainment and world building are the big standouts to me.

This reflects heavily on my own storytelling and how I go about conceptualizing new ideas.

So this is just a little insight into the films that propelled me into the film industry. I hope this gets you thinking on what films inspired you and the reasons you create the way you do.

Creating Dialogue that Doesn’t Completely Suck

written by Brenden Bell

 

I hate writing dialogue. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I’m not good at writing dialogue, and therefore I hate it. When writing a script, it’s always the thing I change a million times more than anything else.

 

This is probably because my least favourite experience as a screenwriter is sitting in an audition for my script, and hearing the shrill sound of my untested dialogue performed out loud. It makes me cringe every time, and takes everything within me to not assure the performers that the dialogue is still being tweaked (when in reality, I had no intention of doing so).

 

I get story; still don’t get dialogue.

 

I’ve done quite a bit of research over the years on how to create dialogue that doesn’t completely suck. I’ve grown a lot since my early days of “on the nose,” awful dialogue; occasionally, I write a line or two that I am proud of.

 

I want to share a few tips I have learned over the years.

 

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  1.  Have a Point

 

Many first drafts I read include long conversations between characters that don’t really go anywhere. In real life, we have conversations like this all the time. However in film, it’s boring to watch a conversation that is totally pointless.

 

All this to say, if you include a line of dialogue in your film, have a holistic purpose behind it. David, over at screenwriting website whatascript.com, calls this “fulfilling dialogue intentions.”

 

When you’re writing dialogue, ask yourself the following questions:

 

Is it moving the story forward?

Is it revealing character?

Is it communicating relevant information or exposition?

Is it creating conflict between characters?

Is it calling forth emotion?

 

Your dialogue should fulfil at least ONE of these intentions, it could accomplish more than one, and is even better if it’s able to accomplish all of the above.

 

If your dialogue isn’t doing at least one of these things, then you should probably cut it.

 

 

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  1.  Use Subtext

 

A sad reality of life is that we don’t always say what we’re thinking; sometimes this is intentional, while sometimes we aren’t even honest with ourselves.

 

Think of when you’re yelling at someone close to you about being late or forgetting something at the grocery store, are you actually angry about that particular thing? Partly, but you’re ACTUALLY angry about feeling disrespected or neglected by them. The tardiness/forgetfulness is the text, the disrespect/neglect is the subtext.

 

It’s easy as a screenwriter to write a conversation and focus the text on the disrespect/neglect. It’s stronger to keep it as subtext, under the surface.

 

The film Bridesmaids does this well; there are so many scenes that are entirely subtextual: Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Helen (Rose Byrne) have a “toast off” trying to one up each other’s toast to their friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). The text of the scene is them trying to give a better toast than the other; the subtext is them fighting for position of influence in their friend Lillian.

 

Another great scene comes later, when Annie gets in a car accident and is discovered by a cop (Chris O’Dowd) that she’s had an on again/off again relationship with throughout the film. The text is has them arguing about why she hasn’t fixed her car. The subtext? Their failed relationship.

 

Check out the “toast off” scene below!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bJu1fjIkGY

 

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  1.  Know Your Characters

 

Since you are only one person, the tendency is for all your characters to sound like you. Unless all of your characters have your  exact same life experience, this probably won’t work super well.

 

Everyone is different and sees the world from the perspective of their own culture, education level, socioeconomic status, personality type, past experiences, etc.

 

This is why it’s important to know your characters; if you know who they are at a core level, then you know how they’ll respond in a situation and what they would and wouldn’t say.

 

This isn’t only about giving them a backstory (that may or may not be fleshed out in the film itself), but also giving them a “spine” or prime motivation.

 

What I mean by this, is the one thing that drives your character to do what they do. The character may or may not be aware of it, but it is there all the same.

 

For example, Nina Sayers’ spine in Black Swan is to be perfect; everything she says and does is from the desire to perform her roles in Swan Lake as the black and white swan, as well as her role in life as “the good girl,” perfectly.

Flesh out who all of your characters are, where they come from, and what drives them. The dialogue will flow out of them.

 

 

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  1.  Read it Out Loud

 

Something that my boss, Jason Solari, and I did a lot when we were writing Out of the Woods, was read the scenes out loud. If dialogue felt unnatural or clunky, we would cut it or adjust so that it would flow more naturally.

 

This is important to do, because unlike writing in literature, film dialogue isn’t meant to be read, it’s meant to be heard. It might look beautiful on the page, but sound atrocious coming out of someone’s mouth.

 

I know a lot of screenwriters that even ask their acting friends to come in and do a table read of the script to listen to how the dialogue is sounding when spoken out loud and interpreted by performers. This will save you from cringeworthy auditions, where you’re embarrassed by listening to your own dialogue.

 

 

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  1. Don’t Use it

 

The greatest lesson I’ve learned about film dialogue is to not use it at all.

 

Like many of you, I came from a theatre background. Not on a professional level in any way; I was heavily involved in high school theatre as well as in college. I had grown accustomed to reading scripts in a theatre perspective, and had not read any screenplays.

 

Theatre almost always uses dialogue to move their story forward, because they have little other choice. The audience is so far removed from the stage that they almost have to. This is not so with film. We can move our camera directly in the actor’s face, or even focus in on an item or object in the scene if we so choose.

 

Film is a visual medium, and visuals should be used more than anything to push your story forward. A good practice to challenge yourself is to imagine your film as a silent movie; in the silent era of film, dialogue is displayed only when totally necessary. The story of the scene should be carried not in you dialogue, but in the action and visuals within.

 

Check out Steve McQueen’s dialogue-free scene from Shame, and tell me you don’t know exactly what is happening.

 

 

I’m only skimming the surface here; there is so much that goes into creating great dialogue, and so many different approaches to creating it. Find out what works for you and go for it.

 

Screenwriting is an art form, not a science. Take these principles and forge a path forward for yourself.