Thursday, February 22, 2007

Make It Say Something

Theoretically, nobody opens their mouth without having something to say and yet, many screenplays have a beginning, middle, and end but no theme, point, or purpose.

I'm not talking about WHY a writer writes. I'm talking about WHAT a writer has to say. Nor am I even even hinting that a screenplay has to change the way people see the world but a story without an underlying thought or prevailing idea is like a soda with no bubbles -- or bubbles without the soda.

If I were a respected screenwriting guru who'd never sold a screenplay or been produced but published a book on how to write screenplays and get produced, I'd call the book "Make it Say Something".


ECHenry said...

I agree with you, Marry Ann. Having something to say is important. Have you seen the movie, "Million Dollar Baby?" That is a GREAT movie that has something to say, though I don't agree with the subject it ends up tackling, which is mercy killings.

GREAT movies have something to say. Bad movies make you wonder what was trying to be said (like "Oceans 12").

Anyway, would love to hear the themes you like writing about. Why don't you clue your peanut gallery in on that?

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Anonymous said...

my early scripts all had something to say... except that if I let anyone read them the only thing I'd be hearing would be "pervert" "fetish freak" "wanna be Tarantino"..

MaryAn Batchellor said...

From my perspective, anything between "feet, feet, gimme feet" and "save a tree, save the world" is better than saying nothing at all.

Tracy said...

Hey MaryAn,

Good point – no pun intended. Though, I wonder if it’s not so much that some movies have no point (or nothing to say), but rather the point they are trying to make is unclear – to both the audience and themselves.

For me, the problem is how to get across my point/theme to an audience so that they care or connect in some kind of way – even if it’s a simple laugh. How do I get them to SEE what I’m trying to say – my theme – my point? That’s what makes screenwriting so damn hard – getting others to understand and enjoy what’s inside of our head. But I do so love the process…most days…some days. Okay, just today.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Tracy, that's pretty much the gift, isn't it?

Here's my philosophy -- this gift -- everyone wants it, politicians want it, lawyers want it, teachers want it, parents want it. How do I make sure I'm understood? How do I get my point across? How do I get people to see what I'm trying to say? How do I make them care about my perspective? How do I get them to see this through my eyes?

Some of it comes with time. Some of it comes with age. Some of it comes with sitting in the mall and watching people interact. But some of it comes with just getting out there and spending time engaging with people outside your comfort zone.

My own opinion is that people who don't interact well with others, especially people they don't know, have a difficult time learning to persuade.

Just look how awkward and uncomfortable our president is in front of the camera - even in his better days he was awkward. His track record aside, this president couldn't convince a dying man to drink water. The man can't relate to people. (please, no political retorts, people - this comment is about relating to people, not about politics - I don't do politics on this blog)

Someone once told me that the most important word in the English language is "relationships". I believe it. Getting people to "hear" what you have to say is about understanding them. That goes for kids, voters, readers and viewers, too.

People are people. If you don't know people, you can't persuade them.

Okay, I could have written a whole post on this...

Anyway, thanks for the comment, Tracy. You got me thinking.

Tracy said...

Likewise… your post really got me to thinking about what a story has to say.

By the way, for me, relationship is key. Not just the relationship between my characters, but the relationship between the audience and story/characters, as well.

Theme is something I spend a lot of time trying to nail down. I’ve spent the past few days working on an outline and drilling down an overall theme. The hardest part is getting all the characters on the same page in terms of that overall theme.

It’s like, how can I communicate my theme to an audience, if my characters can’t communicate it to one another (of course, through action and subtext).

Anyway, thanks for the post – I’ll be on the lookout for your next post on relationships and screenwriting.