I’m going to be incommunicado for most of this week: it’s half term and the kids are at home, meaning I have to write coverage in-between calls of “Get me a drink!”, “Stop the baby from climbing up on the window ledge!” and “What do you mean, “we need to talk”?” as well as a variety of other deadlines that have descended all at the same time. Obviously. A woman’s work is never done and all that. But here’s something juicy for you tp get your teeth into while I’m gone, I’ll check in when I can.
I get a “run” on scripts from time to time with similar themes, premises, issues and so on. A while back I found myself writing about dialogue a lot in feedback; just recently it has been characterisation. Whilst structure and what goes into it seems ever-present, sometimes I’m addressing the issue of prologues a lot; other times where flashbacks “should” go – or not. Sometimes I’ll end up going on about audience suspension of disbelief and narrative logic, or particular conventions in particular genres more. Whatever it is I find myself writing about, it is funny how so many scripts with the same focuses come together.
In the last two weeks for example I have read six “true life” stories (I normally only get two or three in the whole year and had already had four before this present six). Why this year should be different in that I get over three times as many as usual I have no idea; what’s more, they have not all been autobiographical (as they are normally), but biographical too (I’ve only ever had about 4 of those ever). All the latter have been obscure figures, usually in British history, though one was incredibly famous which lead to me to wonder why we had never seen a film about him before. The writer could be on to something there.
But anyway. The drafts of these true-life stories by and large shared various things in common. They all had heart; the writers really cared about their subject matter and that was great to see. Equally, they often had very realistic and sometimes funny dialogue. But they had one other trait in common too, as have many other “true” scripts that I have read in the past…
…Nothing very much happens for a long time, with most of the action reserved for the second half or even the last third, of the script.
This is an interesting problem to have: if nothing really happens in the real life event for a while, why should it in the film version? After all, isn’t that an entirely false representation of that real life event, if you stick stuff in towards the beginning just to keep people turning the pages? Where does the writer who writes auto/biography. Where do you draw the line between truth, fiction and actual lying? In effect, how true is a true life story?
Your thoughts please.