A Conversation for So You Want to Write a Play!

An Impressive Demonstration

Post 1

Steve K.

Good entry. I've taken a few courses on play/screenplay writing, generally the advice was similar.

One lecture was especially impressive. The head of the drama dept. at my alma mater gave a demo for alums using a scene from a Pinter play. He had a student director and several actors perform the scene several different ways (different "blocking" I think?) Exactly the same dialogue each time, but different actor positions, mannerisms, tone of voice, etc. The difference in overall effect was ... dramatic.

His point was that the "play" is not contained completely - or even primarily? - in the text, especially with some authors who provide few if any stage directions. So maybe this is why Hollywood gives all the credit to the directors ... "A Movie By Don Director" with the screenplay writer in small print ...

I realize I'm mixing movies and plays, but I think there are some overlaps.

An Impressive Demonstration

Post 2


Good point. Even writers don't always know how the scene will look on film/stage until they see it. This is the skill of the director and even actors are only small parts in the director's artistic vision. Actors do bring the words to life, but the director is responsible for what you see and when.

An Impressive Demonstration

Post 3

Steve K.

I agree. Last summer, I was on a "48 Hour Film" team, a contest for making a 4 to 7 minute film in a weekend. On the first night, each team draws a genre, and all teams have to use a given character (name & occupation), a prop, and a line of dialogue. I was the screenwriter, using a story worked up by the core team members, and banging out a script in several hours.

We actually did two short movies, a practice before the contest to get the kinks out, then the real contest. In both cases, the movies came out somewhat differently than I envisioned. It was closer in the practice movie, since we had lots of time and I prepared a storyboard using 3D character animation software. Very nice for communicating the concept, sort of like blocking I think.

No storyboard for the contest, no time. We were pretty much improvising on the set for the one day of shooting, with some scenes not in the script at all. I felt a little like the Henslowe charcter in "Shakespeare in Love" (Geoffrey Rush as the theater owner). A gang invades the rehearsal and a huge fight breaks out. Henslowe is paging confusedly through the script, looking for that scene.

Here is the practice film:


Here is a "Making Of" video for our contest entry (just for fun):


An Impressive Demonstration

Post 4


Well, I have to admit to being a little surprised and a lot disappointed. All the above folks appear to be of the opinion that the writer just dashes off a few ideas and the genius director takes those half-formed ideas and brings the whole thing to life. It's this kind of crass ignorance that has given rise to the Hollywood version of Auteur Theory, meaning if a film is successful it's thanks to the Director, and if it's bad it's the fault of the script. The only known exception to this rule is "Transformers 2".

Any playwright who knows his trade writes with a vision in his head of how the play will look on stage. If you can't see the play being performed when you're writing it, then you're writing a novel or a radio play. Yes, a director will add things, they'll interpret your text in a way that you may not have intended. They will NOT NECESSARILY make it better. A birlliant director will still struggle with a lousy script, but a bad director will have a hard time ruining a good script (Though I have no doubt it could be done). I've written plays for the last decade, and I've directed some of them too. I've never seen any of my plays produced where I've been stunned at the genius of a director pulling some remarkable aspect out of the text that I had not already intended.

Key: Complain about this post

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more