Abnormality must be normal

October 24th, 2010 by Ron

The Script Blogger

When you look at the words on a page of your script, can you see the vision of the slightly odd character that hints at being larger than life?

The exaggerated movements, hear the sharp delivery of the dialogue, or see the bazaar dress sense of the protagonist.

Picture the unusual settings, the grandness of poverty of a location or the spectacular picturesque sunset that fills your mind with color.

Abnormality must be normal

Do your words create images that are indelibly driven into the mind or has the reader got to wait for the director’s interpretation and an actor’s skill at being a larger than life, off the page extraordinary character, for the image to materialize.

It is often the stunning performance of an actor that brings attention to the brilliance of a script.

Sometimes it is the visual impact created by the director and his team that creates a spectacular movie moment that lives in the mind forever, that was probably just a few words on the page.

Think of the first meeting between Lawrence and Sherif Ali (Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif) that hangs on the screen forever.

Which could be on the page simply as; “Lawrence sees a distant rider, SHERIF ALI, approaches.”

The dialogue exchange between Michael Clayton and Karen Crowder and the look on her face, at the end of the movie “Michael Clayton”. (George Clooney and Tilda Swinton).

Or the sidewalk hoping antics of Melvin Udall, (Jack Nicholson) in “As Good as it Gets”.

No forgetting the Henley sequence in “The Social Network”.

Some of the luminosity of these moments had to be on the page, but in reality on screen they are abnormal moments.

The late Heath Ledger’s finest screen moment as the Joker was captured by the bizarre dress and makeup in “The Dark Knight”, not forgetting his acting skill in bringing a comic book character to challenge the limits of the genre.

You might be asking, where am I going with this?

Well it is simple, make abnormality normal.

Remember on a large screen everything is larger than life, but that can have an adverse effect on the mundane, the normal, the average or the ordinary. It makes things more mundane, more normal, probably less than average and certainly plainer than was ever on the page.

What it means is, as a writer you have to make the impossible more improbable, the conflict more dramatic, the hero more heroic and the villain more grotesque.

For characters, event and situations to stand out on the large screen they have to be larger than life, abnormally so. Sunsets more colorful and spectacular than you have ever seen, the savagery of the beast more horrific and the sex of the lovers steamier than normal.

The funny thing is when you watch the abnormal on the large screen it appears normal and that is because abnormality is normal to a creative writer.

It all begins on the page.

Before an actor can create a memorable character or a director orchestra a visual spectacular they have to be inspired by the genius of a writer in the dimensional presentation of a screenplay.

3 responses to “Abnormality must be normal”

  1. Emery Nonaka says:

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  2. Joseph Sullivan says:

    The Henley Regatta sequence in The Social Network is totally irrelevant plot-wise and everything-else-wise to the rest of the movie. But your point is still well taken, and The Social Network is a perfect example. The obsessive behavior of many of the characters in the movie is both abnormal and larger than life, and the crackling back-and-forth lightning tennis-match dialogue is also kinda abnormal and larger than life. And any character who can’t keep up in terms of abnormal obsession or relentless verbal swordplay is ultimately dropped by the wayside, like the rowing twins and like Mark’s unfortunate friend Eduardo. Not a moral judgment but a dramatic judgment. An amazing movie in many ways, from Trent Reznor’s music to Fincher’s right-on direction to Jesse Eisenberg’s astounding performance.

  3. drnoblet says:

    Maybe these words of advice are exactly what my work needs! I’ve gotta try it…