Anyone who works unconventionally will usually use, I am guessing, a screenplay as a jumping off point.
^ At least it has lines on it. It’s more scary when it’s completely blank.
You might want to check out Scott MacDonald’s Screen Writings: Texts and Scripts from Independent Films. He covers a lot of well known artists/filmmakers like Yoko Ono, Yvonne Rainer, Hollis Frampton, James Benning, Michael Snow, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Su Friedrich etc.
Also there’s a really interesting interview with Carlos Reygadas where he goes into detail about the concept of a screenplay and his own writing process that you can read here: http://bombsite.com/issues/111/articles/3452
Reygadas writes an extremely technical script that resembles someone literally describing a film as it plays. He then hires someone to adapt his script into a “normal” script so investors and industry people can read it. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
“My screenplays are not literary in the way that most screenplays are literary. Mine are images and sounds, and because of that, they’re closer to film—they’re not merely translating literature into drawings for a storyboard. In my opinion most screenplays are, basically, literature, in a structural and finally even an ontological sense. As I said before, for my screenplays I enter this vision, a hypnotic, hallucinogenic, or dream-like one; I write it down, but the result is not literature. As I write I imagine I’m already seeing the film:
A black square appears, a cinemascope, or a 1:1.33 screen ratio, a text in a bright-blue Bauhaus font appears, it remains on screen for only two seconds. Cut. Then, it appears again on the background and then dissolves… The sound begins… The face of a dark 30-year-old man appears. The camera moves…
That’s how I go about writing; I’d be happy to lend you one of my screenplays so you can see how I go about numbering each take—that’s what films are, sequences of takes. And so what I write is images and sounds, basically. One of film’s burdens has been that usually someone writes a literary screenplay and then someone else illustrates it through the medium of cinema; sometimes it’s the same person. It’s a difficult idea to apprehend, because people think I’m just referring to the adaptation of novels, but I’m not at all: a novel can inspire a great translation into a sequence of images and sounds. In any case, my creative moment is registered in the script, because that’s when I have a total vision of the film."
I am really enjoying this conversation about exploiting the formatting of a screenplay to do something different. It is something I taught myself to do to some degree. One thing I like about script formatting is the way it forces you to write the description in the way that is visual. However, it is always frustrating to run headfirst into the, “But if I don’t explain what he is thinking, I cannot explain his tone of voice” problem.
Rather than thinking of it as a problem, it offers a really grand solution. You can write out what seems to be the traditional narrative and hidden in the cues (“Hussein places his hand in the empty fruit tray”) you can keep in mind what you’re actually doing (“Hussein reflects over the death of his wife and whether he can get back again to save her”). I sort of really enjoy script formatting for this reason. It makes people respond to your writing with, “Wow, it’s very visual!”
a graphic novel ;-)
For BLOW UP, I remember reading that Antonioni would just read a portion of the original story every day, and think about how to adapt a new scene around his ideas from reading.
But this seems like it has to be apocryphal since there’s so little correspondence between the action that unfolds in the movie and the musings of the very short story.
Herzog’s KASPAR HAUSER and AGUIRRE scripts are much more like short stories with scenes separated like they might be in a script (“Urubamba river bank. Night.”), followed by paragraphs of description of action, and maybe a little bit of dialogue. He took those original ideas and ran with them during filming, coming up with performance ideas and dialogue on the spot with the actors and crew.
I think Polaris really hit it on the head. You have to describe the visual in the script, and then remember (or even better, keep notes) what you are truly trying to convey. That is the challenge I was running into. I don’t want to use expository dialog. I want to use a visual style of filmmaking. In the script, a lot can be told by writing down the physical emotional reactions of the characters. In the right situation, a sigh or slight facial gesture can tell a lot more that a character rambling about an event.
The problem that you will likely run into, is that most filmmakers in this style write their own work. If you do not plan on directing what you are writing, you will have to keep very detailed notes (as mentioned above), and you will probably have to storyboard everything. I would really suggest trying to direct yourself. You may not be bad at it at all. I think your ideas will be much more successful this way than if you try and convey everything to a director.
Also, try and find resources like Localdjango suggested. Although, I must warn you, I have tried the same thing without much success. There is a book with Tarkovsky’s scripts, which I have yet to purchase, that I think could be helpful. Amazon
“Si os dan papel pautado escribid al otro lado”
@Local-Reygadas methods sound very intriguing. Thanks for that, I’ll give it a read. I find it kinda curious that he hires other people to fashion it into a ‘proper’ script. Surely he could do that himself?
@Polaris and Nick- When I first started writing short scripts I often wrote in dense blocks describing the action/atmosphere/minor details, almost like prose, and was kind of steered away from that towards a more streamlined, purely visual practice.
I think i have now struck a good balance between evoking a feeling/atmosphere and fashioning something clear and accessible. I guess I do harbour secret plans to eventually direct them myself, or else I wouldn’t put so many ‘notes’ in.
I seem to recall the Persona script being rather oblique and all prose.
“Real filmmakers don’t want to write ‘art-scripts’, they just write down what’s in their mind. Then it becames art sometimes. Or just rubbish. If you want to write an art-screenplay you’re just another artistic opportunist.
In my experience, they look much like an art student sketchbook in the run up to an end of year show.
Along the lines of a Moleskine covered in scrawl, vomit and polaroids, with a ton of disjointed mood boards as support.
(Or maybe that’s just my social circle and everyone else is far more organised and modernist about the process).
“In my experience, they look much like an art student sketchbook in the run up to an end of year show.
Along the lines of a Moleskine covered in scrawl, vomit and polaroids, with a ton of disjointed mood boards as support.”
my nostalgia mode is active
vomit and polaroids
“my nostalgia mode is active”
Technically, it’s nostalgia for me too, but I have friends who are still trapped in the throws of art school and I relive my past vicariously through them.
As for the vomit, it’s rarely intentional, but all that doodling under the influence carries with it a price.
Unless the “ew” was in reference to the Polaroids. In which case, tut tut.
No, Polaroids covered in vomit.
I guess though you could pretend you are doing a Cindy Sherman or worse yet, Tracey Emin thing.
Ewwwwwwwwwww (“My Bed”).
Ah, of course. The two don’t make for the best mix I agree, especially not when your portfolio is being reviewed.
I fear I may have derailed the topic though, so I’ll take my absence.
Just a word of caution to those who seek out some of the published versions of screenplays. Many of these are NOT actually the scripts written before shooting; instead, they are often transcriptions of the finished film, put in screenplay format.
I first realized this when reading a collection of Woody Allen scripts. The dialogue was filled with “ers,” “umms,” and other such hesitations — things that performers (mostly Woody) said on the set but that probably were not written into a script.
Monochronistic’s comment reminded me of one cliched part of art direction: the artist’s/sociopath’s journal. Both of which basically look exactly the same, except the artist’s is colorful and shot under 55K light and the sociopath’s is muted colors and shot under 36K.
Apparently cutting the eyes out of a celebrity centerfold magazine is beautiful quirky internalized passion when the lights are on, but under an investigator’s flashlight is a severe psychological symptom.
I have an extract from Philippe Grandrieux’s “UN LAC” if you guys would like to check out what his scripts look like. You can get it here
It’s only a sample, but interesting to check out. It’s only two or three pages (.pdf) and 40k.
Why are you writing a screenplay? You can use the answer to determine the amount of details it would have.
If you are trying to get financing (or want to sell it to someone else to direct it), you should write it in the manner expected by those who would be willing to finance it or buy it.
If not, you are writing it for yourself and the crew.
You can even write multiple versions with multiple levels of details.
Do you have the rest? I would love to read it.
@Low Bear Eyes
Unfortunately no, that’s all I’ve got. Interesting though right?
I found it one late evening after an exhaustive search (using every combination of keywords I could think of) looking for the scripts from filmmakers I love (Ceylan, Kaplanoglu, Grandrieux, Reygadas etc..). I even started searching google using foreign languages!
I did find a free issue of an Academic Journal called The Journal of Screenwriting which had some interesting bits and pieces. I particularly enjoyed an article by J.J. Murphy entitled “No room for the fun stuff: the question of the screenplay in American indie cinema” which you can find here (the 12th link near the bottom of the page).
Here’s a quote I found in that text:
“For it also follows that if one attempts to emulate commercial production procedures, one will come out with
a commercial ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼product as surely as it will always be a Ford and not suddenly an Austin which emerges on the
belt of the Ford factory.” – Maya Deren
Very interesting, I loved the way he wrote his screenplay. You can see how he was being guided only through images, emotions and sounds. I found the script of “The Turin Horse” once but sadly it was in hungarian, but from what I saw it looked very much like a novel.
The Journal of Screenwriting looks very interesting, thanks for the tips!
Hey all. I just found another excerpt from an art film! I thought I’d put the link here for anyone else who wants to see some examples too!
The excerpt is from the film HADEWIJCH by Bruno Dumont. Check it out here.
Let’s keep it going and create a repository of non-standard, non-Hollywood, art film scripts! If you find one, please share your link!