LECTURE #1a - Dramatic Storytelling in the Industrial Age

LECTURE #1a - Dramatic Storytelling in the Industrial Age -...

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Dana Coen COMM 546 History of American Screenwriting Lecture #1 DRAMATIC STORYTELLING IN THE INDUSTRIAL AGE Feel free to ask questions during the lectures. The best times are when am setting up images for display on the screen. Being an experienced screenwriter, I bring a storyteller’s sensibility to the subject of American screenwriting. I’m looking for the connections between the events… The cause and effect. The forward movement. I want to understand the characters of this story. Who are they? How did they influence each other and those beyond their time? I want to know the why of it all. Why did things happen the way they did? What is the thematic overview of this story? And I want to know…or at least have the ability to speculate…as to how it will conclude?
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I would like for you to develop a similar sensibility. Get a sense of this story, follow the events, enjoy the drama. As you take notes, don’t worry about every single name and detail. If you see on it the screen it’s important. But even more important is how the events fit together…. …how they generate the ideas that will influence further events. In other words the history of screenwriting can be looked at as a dramatically constructed story. And to that end, I’m going to tell you the story of telling stories for the screen . I’m going to tell it in the present tense The time-honored-convention used in writing screenplays. Let’s start by taking the word screenplay …. Two components…. Screen Play Plays come first. 2
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If we end with the three-act, plot-point driven, Hollywood film of today… We must start with the roots of western dramaturgy…. …which stem from ancient Greece and the philosopher ARISTOTLE. Show photo of Aristotle bust. Aristotle’s most lasting contribution is the idea of unity of action . A play should have one main action that it follows, with few or no subplots. Anything that doesn’t fit the forward movement of the story should be disregarded. As the play form makes its way through Shakespeare and others…. …it begins to slowly standardize . The seeds are sown in France in the 19 th century by ALEXANDRE DUMAS…. …a prolific writer of literature and plays. Show drawing of Dumas. Dumas employs 12 writers to help him get all his ideas down on paper…. He, therefore, becomes party to the first "writing 3
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factory.” His son, ALEXANDRE DUMAS (the younger), continues the concept. He begins a wave of "Boulevard Comedies" in Paris… …which attempt to establish a universal structural direction . French dramatists SCRIBE and SARDOU follow. They influence Norwegian playwright HENRIK IBSEN, who develops the concept of the well-made play. Show photograph of Henrik Ibsen. But Ibsen’s characters are more complex and dimensional.
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LECTURE #1a - Dramatic Storytelling in the Industrial Age -...

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