University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

SHOW BUSINESS: The Development of a Language for the Screenplay

Bovey, Simon (2018) SHOW BUSINESS: The Development of a Language for the Screenplay. In: 11th International Conference of the Screenwriting Research Network, 13th-15th September 2018, Milan. (Unpublished)

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It is generally recognised that the screenplay is a blueprint not a finished article. Robert McKee has stated that it is a multipurpose document that outlines the visual, aural, behavioural and linguistic elements required to tell a story. Both literary manuscript that conveys the dramatic story and a technical document that anticipates the logistics of the production.

The task is not easy. The novelist has complete freedom to explore any point of view, shift between conscious and subconscious, and describe scenes in exquisite detail. The screenwriter however can only use present tense and only describe what the audience can SEE and HEAR. The language, style and word selection must communicate the visual approach. It is perhaps closer to the haiku than anything in its ability to render image and emotion quickly with the minimum of words.

Over the decades of film production, as Bruce Isaacs has noted, a communicative, denotative, laconic prose has developed to fit the schematic register of the screenplay. This is writing infused with images. What I hope to show through an analysis of screenplays, from the classics of the thirties right up to screenplays that are selling today, are the steps in the development of this style.

I will demonstrate the major changes, some at the behest of fashion and some driven by new production techniques, that word choice, paragraph length and sentence construction have gone through. Additionally, how creative page design, insertion of graphic and pictorial elements, and playful formatting mean that the screenplay has elevated itself to writing that deserves attention as an art in its own right.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: screenplay
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
Depositing User: Simon Bovey
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2022 08:29
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2022 12:29

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