Screenplay

The script (in film practice simply called a book, in the GDR a scenario) is the last and most detailed textual-literary fixation of a film before its collective production. It includes all the scenes of the film in sequential order, and again each scene includes the setting, the time, the acting characters and their actions, and the dialogues conducted between the characters.

The screenplay is not a literary genre in its own right.

The script – the basis for film and TV drama

The screenplay (in film practice simply called book, in the GDR called scenario, English screenplay or script) is the last and most detailed textual-literary fixation of a film before its collective production. It includes all the scenes of the film in sequential order, each scene in turn containing the setting, the time, the acting characters and their actions, and the dialogues conducted between the characters.

The screenplay is not an independent literary genre. It is an additional work, a preliminary stage – but the indispensably most important and decisive one before the realization of the film. (Rule: A good script is not a guarantee for a good movie, but without a good script you won’t get a good movie.) The producer will use it to calculate the costs, the actors will use it to work out their dialogues, the director and cameraman will use it to determine the images, outdoor locations and indoor decorations will be determined and produced, sound equipment, lighting, make-up, costumes will be based on it, etc. For all the artistic and technical members of the production team, the script is the basis of understanding. Only in this way can all the individual parts (scenes) of the later film be produced in an elaborate process in a short, precisely timed phase (the shoot or the shooting time), which are then assembled through the editing process and finally combined with the music, the script titles, etc. be mixed into the finished film.

Movies tell stories

Films tell stories of conflicts, inner or outer struggles. In the process, adversaries/heroes with very different, often opposing goals confront each other (e.g.B. perpetrator and criminalist, sheriff and bandit, or the two initially antipodean partners in a love story). We experience the increasingly intense confrontation up to the climax, the catastrophe and the resolution. The story is usually about an "unheard-of event" (Goethe) in people’s lives. Thus the film is very close to the drama and the novella in its structure.

plot of the film

The plot of the film, i.e. the structure of the screenplay, follows a three-stage model (3 acts) in the strict, classical version:

  1. Exposition – Introducing the heroes and their conflict
  2. increase – Intensification of the confrontation
  3. climax the confrontation, catastrophe and resolution of the story.

Depending on the type of story and on the artistic view of the author and director, other so-called epic elements can be added to this (relatively restrictive) basic structure:

  • static,
  • purely descriptive,
  • Sentiments describing the mood.

There have been and still are numerous examples, especially in European films, of breaking up and expanding the template-like nature of this basic model (preferred by Hollywood) (FEDERICO FELLINI, FRANCOIS. TRUFFAUT, INGMAR BERGMAN, ANDREJ TARKOWSKI u. a.)

In any case, opinions differ about the level of detail with which a story can be told without distorting the meaning. For this reason, the theatrical version of a film can be considerably shorter than the television version or the director’s cut.

Movies tell their stories in pictures – moving pictures in which talking characters act. In this way, the film can give itself the appearance of reality, it conveys the illusion of being there, and from this it draws its direct emotional impact.
D.h., the film pretends to be at every important situation in the development of its story, on the path of its heroes, as direct eyewitness thereby. Therefore, the structure of a screenplay in scenes (or. images), where each scene (each image) is structured according to the pattern

  • WHERE,
  • WHEN,
  • WHO,
  • HOW and
  • WHY

how a Witness report fails. The script therefore has the function of describing the images to be created by the director and camera with the actors in a textual way that is as stimulating and comprehensible as possible.

Example

The Country Road is Lonely and Winding. Rain whips down. A cyclist struggles wearily forward, braces himself against the fierce wind. The headlights of a car appear in the distance. It approaches with great speed. etc.

The actors’ dialogue text stands out clearly in the scene. For example:

X. SCENE KITCHEN OF THE MAYER FAMILY TAG/INNEN

Mr. and Mrs. Mayer have almost finished their breakfast. Mr. Mayer reaches for the newspaper. He opens it, reads in one place and suddenly slams the flat of his hand on the table.

LORD MAYER This can’t be true!

Mrs. Mayer winces. She was just about to pour herself some more coffee, something goes next to the cup. Mrs. Mayer moans.
Mrs. Mayer Every Sunday.

Film and television productions

Film and television productions are associated with immensely high costs. In order to avoid mistakes and to check the suitability of a film idea at an early stage, there are various development phases on the way to the finished screenplay .

At the beginning of the film is the idea or Idea sketch. Here, on one or two pages, the action of the film is described quasi in telegram style.
The expose (frz. = overview, representation; ca.15-20 pages) already contains characteristics of the main characters and tells the plot in more detail, but without structuring it scenically. This only happens in the treatment. This (50-60 pages, contains Plot, storyline and characters) includes a detailed description of each scene, but does not yet contain any dialogue.

plot contains the fable of a story, Storylines are the plot lines of a continuous story and characters means the persons of the plot.

But since visual narration and the dramaturgical suspense If the story’s plot can now be clearly read, film producers or television stations can decide for or against a production (or a production) on the basis of the treatment at the latest. the continuation to the screenplay) decide. Nevertheless, finished scripts are often enough "rewritten" several times or another author is commissioned to "rework" them. The fear of box-office or ratings failure is great for those responsible.

From Novel to Screenplay – Literary Adaptation as a Special Feature

More than half of all cinema and TV films are adaptations of literary works – stories, novellas, novels. With this, u. a. effectively reach a large number of non-readers (such as z. B. after the end of the Second World War with "Der Untertan" by WOLFGANG STAUDTE), the director and the author can attribute their particular interpretation of novels (VOLKER SCHLoNDORFF: "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum", "The Tin Drum") or commercial success is exploited ("Harry Potter", TV movies based on crime novels by HENNING MANKELL or DONNA LEON).

In terms of the film to be made, the screenplay in an adaptation must function like an original manuscript, and the screenwriter should relate to the literary original no differently than to raw material – that mixture of fantasy and research from which he usually draws. The special thing about this "raw material" is that it is a finished, already preformed artwork acts. Thus, on the one hand, the screenwriter needs the self-confidence to face the author of the original "as a partner", on the other hand, he assumes the responsibility to preserve the message and atmosphere of the existing work and to implement them as equally as possible. The screenplay here becomes a hinge between different art forms.

That the formal transfer of prose into the screenplay can hardly work is already clear from the quantitative comparison: a short story must be expanded, developed, while the extensive Novel ("War and Peace," "Trail of Stones") requires considerable tightening and shortening. Major structural interventions continue to result from the differing Reception Speed, that prose and film follow: While reading can be interrupted as often as desired, flipped back, repeated, the Film plot as a continuous, closed unit Be Presented. Therefore, the scriptwriter – using the peculiarities that characterize the respective characters (origin, dialect, gestures, etc.).) – above all, crystallize the conflict-driving scenes, intensify the conflict if necessary, and escalate it to the "worst possible turn" (the catastrophe).
What in the novel is described as

  • inner monologue,
  • Description of feelings,
  • mental decision making or
  • Author argumentation

(often very broad) must, as far as possible, be translated into action, in character plots are transferred. Ultimately, the scriptwriter thus always follows a generally valid requirement that LESSING (Hamburgische Dramaturgie, 9. piece) is directed at all dramatic art performed by actors:

"We want to see it on stage, who people are, and can only see it from their actions."

Despite the proximity of film to drama in principle, film adaptations of plays tend to be the exception. This is mainly due to the forced

  • consequent restriction of setting,
  • the stage space and
  • the strongly condensed, "elevated" dialogues.

Of course, film dialogues are also "elevated" dialogues. just may not be perceived as such – because of the supposed "witness reality" of the film.

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