COMM 546 Lecture 1 - Storytelling in the Industrial Age

COMM 546 Lecture 1 - Storytelling in the Industrial Age -...

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Dana Coen COMM 546 History of American Screenwriting Lecture #1 STORYTELLING IN THE INDUSTRIAL AGE I don’t consider myself a scholar in the sense that I know every single detail about the events and films we’ll be discussing. Rather, being an experienced screenwriter, I bring a storyteller’s sensibility to the subject. 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 and why? 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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2 So, I’m going to tell you the story of telling stories for the screen . And I’m going to tell it in the present tense , the time- convention used in writing screenplays. Let’s start by taking the word screenplay …. Two components…. Screen…. Play Plays came first…. . 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 ARISTOTLE. His most lasting contribution is the idea of unity of action . The notion that a play should have one main action that it follows, with few or no subplots. Anything that doesn’ty fit the forward movement of the story should be disgarded. As the play form makes its way through Shakespeare and others…. …it begins to slowly standardize into a form that’s recognizable in today’s popular dramatic fare.
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3 The seeds to this form are sown in France by ALEXANDRE DUMAS,1802-1870, a prolific writer of literature and plays. Dumas employs 12 writers to help him get all his ideas down on paper…. And, therefore, becomes party to the first "writing factory.” His son, ALEXANDRE DUMAS (the younger), continues the concept…. And begins a wave of "Boulevard Comedies" in Paris, which attempt to establish a universal structural direction . It’s now the mid-to-late 19 th century and in Norway, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), develops the Dumas formula further…. He embraces the theory of the well-made-play put forth by EUGENE SCRIBE and VICTOREAN SARDOU. But Ibsen uses the construction in the creation of dramas, not comedies. The characters now become more complex and dimensional. In order to proceed they have to fight through their own weaknesses and delusions. Sometimes they fail and the results are tragic. Essentially, most of the story in the classic, well-made play, takes place before the action begins.
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4 Previous action is revealed through exposition. Following that is a series of tight, causally-related plot
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COMM 546 Lecture 1 - Storytelling in the Industrial Age -...

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