Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Writers Should Turn "On" the Film's Commentary and Learn
If you're a writer interested in writing screenplays, a great exercise to really learn the medium of film is to invest in the DVD of Blu-Ray discs and listen to the commentary. I've learned a lot about film and specifically the intent of the writing by doing this on a regular basis. The directors, writers and producers (and sometimes actors) will lend their insight into the scene-by-scene action. I recently purchased Generation Kill, an HBO series I really enjoyed, and watched it with the commentary on. The screenwriter was on discussing working with the book's author and how he wrote the series; how they filmed it; where they filmed it. It's also fun because the commentary often answers nagging questions you might have that you weren't clear about. For example, I kept wondering, "Where the heck did they film this series -- it looks just like Iraq but it couldn't be filmed in such an unstable country." I found out by listening to the commentary it was filmed in Namibia in Africa. The producers even commented how much that area of the continent looked so much like the Iraqi desert and later on the lush green areas resembled Bagdad. Any film-o-file will find this completely fascinating. And for a writer, it gives you a chance to analyze how scenes are written and constructed. No better way to improve your craft then by watching something that you consider great film, pull it apart, and figure out how you could do it better. Or at least do a great job with your own talents.