Thursday, March 23, 2006

On screenwriting

So I've been juggling three balls these past few weeks. The big one is the feature film for the summer, Captain Abu Raed. I've done a million rewrites since the first draft last summer, and I'm sure there's more to come as I get feedback from industry pros I've given it to. My instructor Gil Dennis (who wrote Walk the Line) is giving it a read in the next couple of weeks along with a couple of other people. I'll tell you what, screenwriting is an ongoing process and you have to be completely willing to take stuff out, change things, shuffle them, and just wen you think that's it, it's done... guess again, there's more work you need to do to make the script better.

As a writer/director, it is very gratifying to find yourself writing moments that you know will become magic on the screen with the right performance. And the key to all this is scrapping out unnecessary dialogue. Never should you have the dialogue state what can be communicated to the audience visually. The easy way out is to have the characters talk about what they're feeling or say what they're thinking. But the problem with that is that when you take it to the screen, it becomes on the nose and hokey, and gives the actors nothing to play with, thus creating a one-dimensional performance. There's tons of this coming out of Hollywood by the way. As a simple example, let's say you have a character who's having a terrible day. How boring is it when a their dialogue says "I'm having a bad day" to the other person, and how much more interesting is it when you have them say "Everything's great!" The dialogue should attempt to mask what's really going on. That's the idea of creating subtext. Giving the scene an extra layer of complexity that will engage the audience. And you know what? Sometimes, a smile to mask the sadness is much more powerful than the face of sadness.

So that's what I've been doing to my movie, rewriting any cliches or surfacey scenes into more unpredictable or dramatically powerful moments and emotional shifts. I want to take the audience on an engaging ride through a simple story.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff!!!!! interesting read. you are right. when i am watching tv i find myself sometimes waiting for something unsaid to happen. so you are right about that!

11:35 AM  
Anonymous jameed said...

"industry pros i've given it to"
يا بااااااي شو راسي كبر

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought James Mangold wrote Walk The Line so I went and checked and wow, good going Gil, he wrote the major beef of it and Mangold slapped his name on the credits I guess

5:13 AM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

Yeah it's sad that Mangold got all the accolades, but it was Gil who went and lived with Johnny Cash, learned what all the shame in his life was, all the pain, etc. Mangold was Gil's student back in the day. In al fairness though, he did some of the co-writing in the end. But I think of Gil as the writer of the movie because he was working on it years before Jim.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

Industry pros meant Omar Naim, Gil Dennis, Abby Singer, and some names I'm not to mention at school. You belong in the category of Jordanian school-dropouts who've read the script. In fact, I believe you may be the only dropoout who's read out script. Mabrook!

7:21 AM  
Anonymous jameed said...


11:07 PM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

Bas ba3raf ab3as willa la'?

12:11 AM  
Anonymous jameed said...

مش طايقك

خلص، إعتبر كل شي بيناتنا ذكريات

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Rana- Jordan said...

Thanx Amin for your article it had a lot of great ideas like objective and obstacle! i love acting and movie making but i'm sad about movie industry in our arab world because its meaningless! same stories, trying to make ppl laugh in silly ways! i love Abbas Al Aqqad (allah yer7amoh) he was a real director , even he wasn't very (motadien) i mean a strict moslim (not i say that's a good thing) but he gave a very big stuff to islam and his nation that will keep his name for a very long time! I hope u would have some goal or purpose in ur work not only entertainment (and i'm sure about that) good luck amin

2:57 PM  
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11:54 PM  

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