Week ten study diary – Advanced Creative Writing
This week’s subject was film structure.
We learned how films are broken down into acts, which can be broken down into scenes, which can be further broken down into cuts and shots. Each scene can be thought of as an individual wave that is part of an incoming tide. Scenes ideally have a rise of action in their own right, which build up to create the forward momentum of the act and the film. In its simplest terms a wave includes rising action, climax and resolution.
Sub plots, voice overs, flashbacks and music can all play a part in film, but the forward momentum of the plot and the dramatic action should be supported and reinforced by these if they are used – they must earn their place.
Scenes can be connected by music, theme and leitmotifs. A leitmotif is a poetic image that creates a link or echo through numerous scenes but is not connected to the main plot, but can improve the dramatic unity of the scenes, e.g. different characters in various locations looking at flowers or eating.
Dramatic adaptations of novels and short stories can be very loose. The script writer can change the period or setting, extend the story, add or delete/combine characters or make causality more explicit. Hare (2002) claimed
“true fidelity can only be achieved through lavish promiscuity”.
Next week I shall be working exclusively on my next assignment. I am unable to share that until it has been submitted, marked and returned, so there will be no study diary blog post next week.
This week I completed two activities around structure that I’ll share below. The first (9.4) juxtaposes two scenes which are connected by a leitmotif – in this case food and wine. The second (9.6) is a flashback sandwiched between two dramatic present scenes. I have used Basement Beauty (9.4) and The Venus Virus (9.6) for these activities. I know they are far from perfect but hopefully they do illustrate some of what we learned this week.
Basement Beauty Leitmotif connecting scenes (food and wine)
Daniel and Emily. Emily is nearly naked and has an iron shackle around her throat with a chain attached to it and the floor. Her head rests on Daniel’s lap and he strokes her hair. She faces away from his body towards camera. There is a plate of fine food and a glass of wine on the stone ledge where Daniel sits and Emily lays. It is from this plate that he feeds his prisoner. Emily is beautiful but emaciated and exhausted. She isn’t filthy but she has tangled hair and no make-up.
Remember when I met you, Emily? You were a magnificent dancer.
Graceful. Where are those qualities now?
(Daniel strokes Emily’s hair. Looking sadly at her.)
Maybe Taya’s the one. (beat) Would you like a new playmate, Emily?
I want to go home. Please, let me go home.
You know I can’t do that.
(Daniel puts food in Emily’s hand.)
Then kill me. Drain me.
Emily stuffs food into her mouth and chews. Her dulled expression doesn’t change.
That isn’t what I want. (beat) I will never hurt you. I promise. I love you.
Daniel draws Emily up to sitting position and holds glass so she can drink. Her eyes shutter as if she is exhausted or the wine is drugged. He lowers her again and she rests on his lap for a moment before he gently moves her so she lays out on the ledge and covers her with a blanket. He kisses her forehead and picks up what remains of the meal and wine.
Daniel leaves cell and locks barred door. We see other cells around and hear gentle sobs and moans of women. Looks at Emily through the bars as he speaks.
Perhaps Amalthea will be different. She might be the one person in the whole
filthy world able to heal me.
EXT. PARK. MIDDAY
Amalthea sits on her jacket on the grass. There’s a picnic rug and shopping bags of food, snacks and drink. Two others sit with her. Wendy and Michael. They all look like students enjoying life. In the distance are kids on swings. Amalthea picks up a samosa and takes a bite. She closes her eyes and enjoys the sun on her face. Wendy finishes reading a note and passes it to Michael.
Who’s it from?
I don’t know. It was left at work.
Did you go?
Of course not. I was working anyway.
A secret admirer, Tay. I could do with one of those. Some
tall, dark and handsome man to sweep me off my feet.
Or murder you.
Michael passes the note back to Amalthea and she puts it into her bag. We can see it’s been torn in half then mended with sellotape.
I thought I was being followed home the other night. Do you think?
If you get another note we could go with you. Confront him.
I don’t know -
It’s got to be better to face him than keep looking over
your shoulder. Better the devil you -
Pass me the wine, Tay.
Amalthea grabs a bottle of red from a carrier bag and passes it to Wendy, who unscrews the top and takes a gulp.
(to Wendy) What do you think?
Wendy shrugs and takes another gulp. Looks at both friends’ faces.
Hey, why the hell not? It’s an adventure. What doesn’t kill
you, gives you something to write about.
two scenes of dramatic action with flashback between them. Adaptation of The Venus Virus.
INT. SUPERMARKET. DAY
Metal trolleys with noisy wheels. Women shoppers, some with female children either on trolley seat or beside mother holding onto skirts. The women with children have tattoos on their left cheeks to show married status. There is no plastic packaging. All fruits and veg are loose. Shoppers bring their own regulation size tubs and jars to fill with loose vegetable proteins and soya milk. There are no brands. Above are signs that state -
Food for all.
Waste not, want not.
Society before family, family before individual.
Cerys pushes a trolley. She keeps checking the door nervously as if afraid of being followed. Her breathing is quick and shallow. Some women chat to each other but no one speaks to Cerys.
CERYS (voice over)
A special dinner for my sister and her husband.
Cerys has potatoes and root vegetables in her trolley. Plus empty containers waiting to be filled with meat substitute, milk substitute and loose tea. Approaches protein counter and picks up what looks a little like a beef joint. She places it in one of the containers. Fills jar with soya milk from a tap then spoons loose tea leaves into another jar. Pays at counter by having her palm scanned and puts the shopping in her back pack then studies the street. She doesn’t see any guards outside.
INT. SMALL UTILITARIAN APARTMENT. DAY. FOUR YEARS AGO.
The living room is full of women. One is teasing Cerys hair. Cerys screws up her face and tries not to complain about the rough handling. She stares at the high heels on her feet and the long, brightly coloured dress. Mother is staring at her, also dressed for a wedding. The bride (Mary) must be getting ready in another room.
You look beautiful
I look like a hazard sign. I can’t do this.
Yes you bloody well can. It’s your sister’s big day and I’ll be damned before I let you ruin it.
Mary enters room dressed in white. Mother sighs with pride. Mary speaks to the woman doing Cerys’s hair. Mary is beautiful. It should be obvious that this is the mother’s favourite daughter and Cerys should look awkward beside her and slightly resentful.
Maiden Aunt around 60 years old, has no tattoo on cheek, approaches Cerys as the hair dresser follows Mary.
Mary definitely inherited all the beauty. I bet your brains seem like a poor consolation prize right now, Cerys.
INT. SMALL UTILITARIAN APARTMENT. DAY. PRESENT
Cerys takes the food into the kitchen where her mother is washing dishes with a bar of soap. Cerys unzips the bag and removes containers.
Did you get everything?
Cerys nods. Mother looks hard at Cerys’s face.
You took a while. Are you okay?
Mother lays her palm on Cerys’s forehead.
You feel cool. Have a quick rest before you help me get this ready. Dinner at six.
As I said, next week is writing week and then uni closes for Christmas. Unless I race ahead (and with all the family stuff that's unlikely), my next study diary entry is most likely to be in the New Year. Happy Holidays everyone.