Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In Which Our Heroine Tries to Take Up Less Space

Recently in a Creative Writing class, I had the opportunity to watch the darkly humorous British short film Joyride. The simple story it tells in under a half hour astounded me, not only because of how much happens but also because of the completeness of the story arc. From inciting incident to resolution, the plot is suspenseful and intriguing - and the script was probably no more than ten pages.

Less recently and also funny yet tragic: local filmmaker Sean Garrity's Zooey & Adam. This film didn't even have a full-fledged script - instead, it evolved organically out of a three-page outline written by Garrity. These two films represent minimalism at its finest and most efficient.

I am not that kind of a person.

I'm the kind of person whose outline probably resembles an entire script in length - and not for a short film, but for a James Cameron-length epic. I'm the kind of person who, when Karen Press announced a ten-page short film script assignment, promptly wrote what amounts to a novella in order to establish my characters' backgrounds, but I haven't made any headway on the script. This is mostly due to my indecision. What to keep from the novella, and what to toss? And how to convey all this background information while at the same time advancing a compelling plot from its start to its finish?

My saving grace will probably be the fact that I can work with images. I can convey, with a single shot of a character's apartment, her relationship status, work ethic, favourite colours, financial status, what books she likes to read, etc. Rather than needing five pages to describe a bar, I can have the protagonists enter the bar and the audience can take in all the sights and sounds at a single glance.

As I embark on only my second adventure into screenwriting, it is very important to keep these things in mind.

And it's important to try to be a minimalist. Wish me luck!!

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