Friday, 20 March 2009

Writing with pictures

More musing on the whole agonizing creative process... Thinking about this a lot this week because my wife is starting up her story consultancy site. I came across this quote from Deborah Moggach on adapting Pride & Prejudice into a movie script:

'Film acting is all about reacting. It’s about the unsaid, and it relies on tapping into the heart of the story. For instance, in the opening scene, where the Bennet family is aflutter with news of Mr Bingley’s arrival, Elizabeth has little to say on the page. In the film, however, we can’t take our eyes off her because the camera picks up her reactions and holds on her stillness in the middle of a busy room.

'Films are deeply connected to the subconscious, and screenplays reflect this. It’s all subtext, and a good director and actors know what a scene is really saying. When Elizabeth bumps into Darcy at Pemberley they have the most stilted, dull exchange. “I thought you were in London.” “No, I’m not.”

'Watching it is almost unbearable, however, because they’re both in torment. Their faces betray their feelings. We’ve come on a long journey with them by this time, and the scene is poignant with what is not put into words. A novelist is terribly tempted to over-write a scene.'
I draw my little sketch layouts before finalizing the dialogue for this reason. For us control freaks it's actually better than movie making, because you get to look at how your dialogue is working and you have total freedom to change it.

And then often I change bits of dialogue again when the art comes back from Leo, because he will have put in some nuances of performance that means a line of dialogue isn't needed after all. Mirabilis is still pretty heavy on dialogue, but that is because it's meant to be. We wanted it to be a dense read - something with a big cast of characters and the room to introduce them all. In that sense it's more like a TV series than a movie.

I am toying with a silent episode, though. Partly in homage to the "Hush" episode of
Buffy, because when
David Bailey saw it he said it was the kind of idea he'd expect me to come up with. If you're not familiar with the story, it's about hideous levitating fairies who cut out people's hearts but can be killed by a mortal's scream, ergo they steal everybody's voices. So David's remark - well that's, you know, kind of the sweetest thing anyone's ever said about me.

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