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Posts Tagged ‘Taxi Driver’

Why is it easier to write straight screen stories about straightforward guys? Well, for one a movie is a story told in pictures. The main ingredient in a screenplay is character (s). And you have to tell a story about this character, as much as possible, through pictures.

Dialogue is just to supplement your character and should be kept at a minimum. In any case your character is what (s)he does, not says. If a man verbally professes to respect women yet, when no one is looking, he slyly pinches a woman’s bottom, what kind of a man is he? What he does or what he says?

If you rely too much on dialogue your screenplay will be slow and plodding. That’s what the problem was with ‘Cheeni Kum’ (Amitabh Bachchan and Tabu go on and on and on…yawn) and U Me Aur Hum ( remember the unending scene on the deck with the camera panning back and forth endlessly from Ajay Devgan to Kajol?)

There are other ways to build chemistry – A look, a sudden tensing of posture when another character enters the room etc. Wherever possible you have to find a way to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’. Don’t tell me that a character loves/hates another. Let me figure that out for myself.

Actually this holds true even for novels. For example there are two ways to write the following:
“I don’t have time for this,” John said. And then John turned and started walking away.
“I don’t have time for this,” John said, turning and walking away.

Isn’t the second one more evocative, not to mention economical?

And that is why it is so difficult to adapt complex novels. Or, for that matter, write original screenplays about such characters.

In complex novels characters often have multiple and conflicting motives. They are morally ambiguous and wonderfully unpredictable. And just when the audience is staring to get a handle on the character, the character goes and does something diametrically opposite.

It’s easy to write about her motivation in a novel because it’s all happening in her head. But how the devil do you show it on screen without resorting to too much dialogue or a voice over?
A good writer can find ways of doing that, even for screen. But she usually needs the support of a deft director and a sublime cast. Just think, would Taxi Driver have been half as effective without Martin Scorcese and Robert de Niro?

And before I’m accused me of contradicting myself, let me point out that in Taxi Driver the voice over tool is not used as a convenient tool to progress the story but to show the Travis Bickle’s dissonance with the rest of the world.

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