Monday, November 27, 2006

WHAT IS A SCREENPLAY by Syd Field

"I don't think you should feel about a film. You should feel about a woman, not a movie. You can't kiss a movie." ~ Jean-Luc Godard

"i myself think i'm so bodoh that i usually don't bother to interpret anything in a film. i just look for aspects of humanity which may mirror me in an honest way. in short, i just sit back and dengar cerita. kalau nangis, nangis lah. kalau ketawa, ketawa lah. i watch films like a child would. i don't care how much subtext or semiotics or dramatic ironies or whatever the filmmaker put into into his shot, if he failed to move me, he failed." ~ Yasmin Ahmad

Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense and audience manipulation, once said to Ernest Lehman, while they were filming North by Northwest, "We're not making a movie; we're making an organ, like in a church. We press this cord, the audience laughs. We press that cord, and they gasp. We press these notes and they chuckle. Someday, we won't have to make a movie. We'll just attach them to electrodes and play the various emotions for them to experience in the theatre!"
ref: Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias (pg.13)

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*Ilmu utk dikongsi dr buku Screenplay : The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field ISBN:0385339038 (page 19-20)


What is a screenplay? Is it a guide, or maybe an outline, for a movie? A blueprint, or a diagram? Or maybe it’s a series of images, scenes, and sequences strung together with dialogue and description, like pearls on a strand? Perhaps it’s simply the landscape of a dream?

Well, for one thing, a screenplay is not a novel, and it’s most certainly not a play. If you look at a novel and try to define its fundamental nature, you’ll see that the dramatic action, the story line, usually takes place inside the head of the main character. We see the story line unfold through the eyes of the character, through his/her point of view. We are privy to the character’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, words, actions, memories, dreams, hopes, ambitions, opinions, and more. The character and reader go through the action together, sharing in the drama and emotion of the story. We know how they act, feel, react, and figure things out. If other characters appear and are brought into the narrative line of action, then the story embraces their point of view, but the main thrust of the story line always returns to the main character. The main character is who the story is about. In a novel, the action takes place inside the character’s head, within the mindscape of dramatic action.

A play is different. The action, or story line, occurs onstage, under the proscenium arch, and the audience becomes the forth wall, eavesdropping on the lives of the characters, what they think and feel and say. They talk about their hopes and dreams, past and future plans, discuss their needs and desires, fears and conflicts. In this case, the action of the play occurs within the language of dramatic action; it is spoken in words that describe feelings, actions, and emotions.

A screenplay is different. Movies are different. Film is a visual medium that dramatizes a basic story line; it deals in pictures, images, bits and pieces of film: We see a clock ticking, a window opening, a person in the distance leaning over a balcony, smoking; in the background we hear a phone ringing, a baby crying, a dog barking as we see two people laughing as their car pulls away from the curb. “Just making pictures”. The nature of the screenplay deals in pictures, and if we wanted to define it, we could say that a screenplay is a story told with pictures, in dialogue and description, and placed within the context of dramatic structure.

That is its essential nature, just like a rock is hard and water’s wet.

Because a screenplay is a story told in pictures, we can ask ourselves, what do all stories have in common? They have a BEGINNING (act 1/set-up), MIDDLE (act 2/confrontation) and an END (act 3/resolution), not necessarily in that order, as Jean-Luc Godard says. Screenplays have a basic linear structure that creates the form of the screenplay because it holds all the individual elements, or pieces, of the story line in place.

ajami hashim