Verbalise Your Vision – Oh, Those Screenplays!

 

Since last December, when I decided to focus more on screenplay writing rather than fiction writing, I have been looking at and studying some screenplays of the movies that I like .

 

My choice of screenplays to study is based on my own preferences and cinematographic likes and dislikes, but in creativity everything is more or less subjective or coloured that way.

 

Before I embarked on the road of screenplay writing, I genuinely believed that those who ‘made’ it certainly know how to write and verbalise their visions into being. Well, the reality somewhat disappointed me, since it spoke a different truth.

 

I’ve heard the industry ‘gurus’ say that a bad movie can be made from a great script but never a great movie from a bad script. Guess what? Most of the great movies seem to have been made from badly written scripts. By ‘badly written scripts’ I do not mean lousy ideas or shallow stories, I mean bad writing and poor use of language to communicate the story’s vision.

 

As a writer, I believe that all starts with clear communication. The better your vision is communicated, the easier and cheaper for everyone involved will be to make your story into a movie. Why? Because a well verbalised and visualised story that is properly communicated can save time and money. For producers and film directors will be able to assess it from all angles – producing, filming, acting, designing, editing etc.

 

So far, out of the screenplays I have read, the one that I believe is closer to clear communication in relaying the vision is the one written by an American author and screenplay writer, Stephen Chbosky Beauty and The Beast (2017).  He also wrote the screenplay and directed it into a movie based on his bookThe Perks of Being a Wall-Flower (2012).

 

Here is an excerpt from the ‘Beauty and The Beast’ screenplay together with my version of the same scene to follow:

 

INT. BALLROOM – CASTLE – NIGHT

The dance speeds up. The Prince connects momentarily with a

beautiful woman but quickly moves on when his eye catches

someone even more dazzling:

 

DIVA

What a display!

What a breathtaking thrilling array

(coos to the dog)

Every prince, every dog has his day

Let us sing with passion, gusto

Fit to bust - oh

Not a care in the world.

 

KNOCK KNOCK. The Prince stops. A gust of wind blows open

the windows. Sconces flicker and go dark. The figure enters

in silhouette, hobbling on a CANE.

 

Furious, the Prince grabs a lit candelabra from the Footman.

He rudely pushes through the crowd, sweeping people from his

path. He crosses to the windows, finally revealing --

An OLD BEGGAR WOMAN shivering from the rain. She looks to the

Prince with hope and offers him A RED ROSE.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Then, one night, an unexpected intruder

arrived at the castle, seeking shelter

from the bitter storm. As a gift, she

offered the Prince a single rose.

 

The PRINCE’S HAND waves her off. The woman begs on her knees.

The Prince motions to the staff.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the

Prince turned the woman away. But she

warned him not to be deceived by

appearances, for beauty is found within.

 

The majordomo and footman approach to usher her out. The woman

lowers her head as if to cry –

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

And when he dismissed her again, the old

woman’s outward appearance melted away

to reveal...

 

Suddenly, the old woman’s cape and hood cocoon. AN ERUPTION OF

LIGHT as she transforms into...

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

...a beautiful Enchantress.

 

The wind picks up inside the room. Frightened, the Prince

falls to his knees.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

The Prince tried to apologize but it

was too late. For she had seen that

there was no love in his heart.

 

My version of the same scene:

 

INT. CASTLE - BALLROOM – NIGHT

The dance speeds up. The Prince connects momentarily with a

beautiful WOMAN but then quickly moves on as he catches the sight of another dazzling beauty:

 

DIVA

What a display!

What a breathtaking thrilling array

(coos to the dog)

Every prince, every dog has his day

Let us sing with passion, gusto

Fit to bust - oh

Not a care in the world.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Then, one night, an unexpected intruder

arrived at the castle…

 

KNOCK, KNOCK. A GUST OF WIND blows open the windows. Sconces flicker and go dark.

 

A figure enters, hobbling on a cane.

 

The Prince stops dancing. Grabbing a lit candelabra from the Footman, he rudely pushes through the crowd, sweeping people from his path.

 

He crosses to the windows, the light of the candelabra revealing -- an OLD BEGGAR WOMAN, shivering from the rain. The woman looks to the Prince with hope and offers him a red rose.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Repulsed by the woman’s haggard appearance, the

Prince turned her away.

 

The PRINCE’S HAND waves her off.

 

But the woman begs on her knees.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

The woman warned him not to be deceived by

appearances, for beauty is found within.

 

The Prince motions to The Majordomo and Footman. They approach the old beggar woman to usher her out.

 

The old beggar woman lowers her head as if to cry. Her cape and hood cocoon. The LIGHT ERUPTS as she transforms into a BEAUTIFUL ENCHANTRESS.

 

The wind picks up inside the room. Frightened, the Prince

falls to his knees.

 

NARRATOR (V.O.)

The Prince tried to apologize but it

was too late. For the woman had seen that

there was no love in his heart.

 

Now, I think in this particular scene there are several ways of presenting the sequence of actions and the narrator’s voice. For me, the fun lies in trying to weave in the actions that we see with the narrator’s voice that we hear. I have cut on the narrator’s explanations of the obvious – the actions we see – and left only the narrations that complement the action. In the version of Stephen Chbosky, he paid less attention to ‘weaving in’. Who knows, perhaps, it was an intentional choice of his.

 

PS: I also saw the movie last summer and loved it.

 

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

 

 

 

 

 

 

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