My learning log has taken a back seat of late, although I am writing most days in my notebook which, I suppose, is better than nothing. I mentioned in my last post that I would be writing about the exercises taken in Conflict and Dialogue but alas, I didn’t get round to it…
Three months has lapsed since then so the following two posts will be my reflections on Assignments 2 and 3 respectively.
It took a while for me to get started on Assignment 2, primarily because I wasn’t happy with my synopses and partly due to fear of writing a plausible screenplay that keeps the audience involved and satisfied. The following is my Reflective Commentary for Assignment 2:
The exercises in ‘Part 2 – Conflict and dialogue’ helped enormously in understanding how crucial conflict and dialogue is used to move the script forward and keeping the viewer involved.
On watching Cold Mountain (dir. Anthony Minghella, screenplay Anthony Minghella), I was aware of the importance of main and secondary conflicts that the main character faces, and reflected in my diary that I must keep this in mind when writing my screenplay and, whilst obstacles are an important process in getting to the end goal for the character, they are crucial for the viewer too, in as much as they keep the viewer watching.
From there I discovered that the protagonist should get much of the attention, but equally, the antagonist must keep the viewer intrigued and compelled to keep watching them. During this part of the assignment, I watched Winter’s Bone (2010, dir. Debra Granik, screenplay Debra Granik & Anna Rosellini) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994 dir. Frank Darabont, screenplay, Stephen King & Frank Darabont).
Whilst I spent much of my time watching films and reading various scripts (see bibliography), I lost confidence in my synopses/ideas from Assignment 1 to start my screenplay, so I focused this assignment on two scenarios from the exercise in ‘Project 5 – conflict in dialogue’.
In my first scenario set in a supermarket car park, my aim was to keep the script simple and focus entirely on the interaction between two female characters: Belinda and Sophie; both very different but, very much in command of the situation as it occurs. I purposely wanted to start the scene with Belinda trying to emulate a sense of calm through her motivational CD rather like the character Carolyn Burnham does in American Beauty (1999, dir. Sam Mendes, screenplay Alan Ball) and for the viewer to wonder why she is doing this. Then as the scenario escalates, we can see Belinda unravel, becoming the person she is trying to escape from. Sophie, on the other hand, is far more relaxed, self-confident and free.
For my second scenario I had started to write from Marnie’s point of view but as I continued with it, Derek seemed to take over, with much heavier dialogue, and a far more confrontational influence, not just to Marnie but the other characters in the scene.
I tried to work with idiom and idiolect in both scenarios, with Sophie in scenario 1 and Lady Shanus Jubilee in scenario 2, but feel that I haven’t got to grips with it on this assignment. This is something that I will work on throughout this course and listen to what is going on around me.
Going forward, I will continue to read scripts – I am familiarising myself with its form from the various scripts I have read. I am starting to understand the importance of dramatising a script through actions, reactions and dialogue and tweaking actions to more dramatic effect.
For the next assignment, I will endeavour to keep working on idiom and idiolect as well as creating characters and ideas that will help my screenplay come to fruition.
My tutor seemed pleased with my commentary, especially because I took his advice following Assignment 1 and followed his pointers below:
- What you did and why- how the pieces were structured, and choices you made regarding that. The point of view of characters or the narrative stance from which the script was written. Choices you made about the language used. How you edited your work with one draft to another.
- What you think about what you did.
- What you’ll do next time.
I was conscious whilst writing my second reflective commentary to take his advice and it seemed to pay off. In his words: In the reflective essay, you have thoughtfully and with reference to technical developments given me a detailed account. I think it is a strong reflective essay with a good range of references. It is also structured well.
As each assignment is written my aim is to improve upon each one and I felt I had with number 2. As my tutor states: Generally speaking, I think you are making good progress. In both the pieces you create sharp, engaging and distinct characters. They are also memorable and have very sharp dynamics between them. I found myself laughing out loud a few times, which shows just how successful you were with these characters and situations!
During the assignment, I did slip into novelistic terms when describing characters, as my tutor points out: There are quite a few little points in the piece where I have asked for this specificity a little more in terms of ensuring you visualizing everything the reader will see. Remember that nothing novelistic can be offered about the characters- we only know what we see, and at times more specific description would have really helped the viewer to get a sharper image in their mind.
Whilst working on Assignment 3, I kept this in mind throughout.