THE DEEP END
Marvelous to be back working with words again. Mind you, there are surprisingly few words in a screenplay.
You may have a page a minute – say 100-120 for a feature film – but the layout of each page is such that you just cannot fit in that many words. DIALOG, for instance, is written in a slim column to distinguish it from ACTION which is set much wider. I guess that is a gentle hint. Long conversations are rare things in movies. Film is a visual medium.
Yes, we all know that intellectually, but if one is a book-writer, it feels—at first—if you have put your head on backwards. Fortunately, I have a highly visual mind for which I give many thanks. Also, I have been a movie addict from the age of about four. If my mother wanted to go shopping (or whatever) she would dump me in a news theater where I would watch the same program again and again—without the benefit of popcorn or anything similar. This was just after WW II and rationing was still in progress.
I can still remember the first two feature movies I saw. One was THE THIN MAN and the other was THE CHRONICLES OF CAPTAIN BLOOD with Errol Flynn. I was completely fascinated by the latter and couldn’t imagine anything more exciting. Of course, I hadn’t discovered reading at that stage. Or women, now I think of it.
ACTION does not necessarily mean violence (although it is scarcely rare). Instead, it covers the visual aspect—what the camera has to convey. That covers a multitude—everything from mood to movement—yet you have very limited space at your disposal.
You have to train yourself to write tightly—and that the director will have the talent and vision to follow through.
Writing a screenplay can be rough on the ego. Typically, a book author hogs most of the glory (if there is any). Where a movie is concerned, though the screenplay is the foundation of the whole enterprise, the writer becomes disposable once the screenplay is delivered—and it may even be re-written multiple times. The glory goes to the stars and the director.
By the way, the Captain Blood movie featured a hanging—an image which has stayed with me ever since. Little did I know that a real hanging was subsequently to play such a significant role in my life.