With the UGP in mind, our CO301d class is making an effort to “immerse” ourselves in our chosen genres. Basically, spend time getting to know them by reading them and examining them in much the same way as I did with blahgs. Let me begin by saying, I didn’t read three full screenplays. But, I did try to find three that were different in style and audience to get a good idea of the genre.
Screenplays are interesting because they don’t have a simple audience. While most texts have a particular reader in mind, screenplays have to have at least two: the viewer of the film, and the people involved in the making of the film.
I chose to take a look at the screenplays/scripts for The Lion King, Silver Linings Playbook, and Interstellar. Each film and their writers had to write a story that had appeal to big-wigs in a production company that felt like the movie was worth producing. This audience is primarily concerned with the question of, “what’s in it for us?” These guys/gals want to make money. Meanwhile, the writers also had to consider the people who would eventually be viewing the film. Who are these people, and what do they want to see in a movie? Lion King, for example, is primarily aimed at children. It has specific moral lessons to teach but it also has to have humor. The script also includes elements of song, in league with the musical, because it’s Disney and that’s what they do. There’s always someone singing about important things happening. Then, if we look at Silver Linings, the story revolves around mental illness and the drama of someone recovering from a failed marriage. These themes might not be any more “mature” than those in Lion King (spoiler alert: Simba’s dad dies and he has to deal with that) but the way they are portrayed is aimed to adults. Silver Linings isn’t animated, for one, but it also avoids sugar-coating any of the emotional difficulty of the characters. The screenplay (and film) portray the struggles of the characters in a believable way, trying to unmask the characters and let us inside their heads in a way that Disney wouldn’t dare. Not to mention, the language in both Silver Linings and Interstellar demonstrate their adult audience.
While juggling these factors, the writers also have to consider how to give actors, film staff, composers, and a host of other people an idea of the “vision” of the film. What will scenes look like? What camera angles are the photo-crew going to use to portray emotion? What actions will the actors be engaged in while the dialogue flows, hopefully in a natural way?
With all of these considerations in mind, screenplays do have their defining characteristics. They’ve got the dialogue, the cues for action, music, and camera angle, and often they have suggestions for music. The form is fairly standardized and looks like the script for a stage play.
Now I have some interesting things to wrestle with. Like I said in my previous post, writing a screenplay will take careful management of dialogue and plot. Both of these aspects are challenging for me. But, as someone going into English Education, plot and dialogue are inseparable from literature. Struggling with crafting convincing dialogue and a compelling plot will be part of my (someday) students daily lives. At least, I hope it will be. If all they struggle with is the dreaded five-paragraph-essay, then I will be almost as miserable as they will be.
All that to say, I’m still excited to take on this project. Struggling through these things will be good for me, both as a writer and an educator.