Writing Exercise of the Week: A Visual Exercise

This week’s posts have been about the craft of screenwriting.  Screenwriting is primarily a visual medium; its main goal is to translate the text into visuals for the screen.  This means that technically, a person should be able to watch a film without sound and have a general idea about what’s taking place.

The Exercise – Part One

Find a movie you’ve never seen – thousands are on all the streaming services, and YouTube has movies free with ads – and watch the first 30 minutes of the movie WITHOUT SOUND.  That’s right.  Mute that TV or device.  You’re just watching the visuals presented on the screen.

Write down what you see and what you think the story is.

Who are the characters?  Can you tell what their relationships are based on their body language and performances?  

What’s the location of the story (if you’re given a graphic that tells you where the setting is, what visual cues make it clear that that’s where the film is set?)?

Can you figure out what the basic premise of the story is after the first 30 minutes?  What’s happened in that time?  What has changed for the main character or characters?  Was it clear based on the visuals?

Based on what you’ve seen in silence, do the visuals make you want to keep watching?

Part Two

Now, watch again with the sound on.  How accurate were your notes?  Were the film’s visuals effective and strong enough to convey the story, setting, and characters without the audio elements?

Part Three

Watch the rest of the movie – hopefully you picked a shorter film and not an epic – muted, taking notes and working to see if you can discern how the rest of the story unfolds through the visuals only.

Then, watch the film with the sound and see how accurate your notes were.

Final Thoughts

We watch movies for the visual experience, so it’s important as a screenwriter to understand the impact that quality visual description can have on the final produced product.  By writing and crafting a strong visual narrative, you can then use dialogue to enhance the story rather than carry it completely.  

Remember: You want to show the audience the story, not tell them about it.

Happy viewing, and I’ll see you next time!   

Wings Wednesday – The Value of Comfort Entertainment

We’ve been through a lot this past year. Some, sadly, more than others.  Between lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, closed businesses, and quarantines, it can be a challenge to find any sense of normalcy in our world’s current state. 

But when things get stressful, when things don’t make as much sense as they once did, I often reach to sitcoms as a quick remedy.  Sure, the problems outside still exist, but for that half-hour – or a full season of episodes – you can escape to a happier time when things didn’t seem so grim.

As humans, we all tend to gravitate toward the familiar: familiar sights, sounds, voices, people, objects. We find comfort and peace in them. That’s why many people put up their Christmas decorations early in 2020 and started listening to Christmas music in November; it reminded them of better times that these we’re currently in.

For me, Wings is one of those shows. A sitcom that delivers laughs, entertaining characters, and leaves me happier when the credits roll than I was before. Call it Happiness Therapy.  Call it Escapism. Or just call it Entertainment. Either way, sometimes watching a show you know can be a nice respite from the disorganized chaos of our current world.

We all have a favorite TV show, movie, book, or podcast that we use to escape.  My favorite sitcom list is too vast to mention here, but Wings has always been one of them, ever since I saw my first episode at the gym in 1998.  When a show almost makes you fall off the treadmill from laughing too much, you know you have a keeper!

And each time I moved for college or work to a new place, it was the shows that I knew that helped get me through the rough patches and challenging days.  Sometimes getting a laugh from a show I’ve seen dozens of times can be the best medicine.

So, as we soldier on into January 2021, take a moment to think about that show, movie, or book you enjoyed in the past. Maybe it’s a comedy like I Love Lucy or The Office, or even a drama like Lost or Firefly.  And in those moments this year when you’re feeling down, check out your favorite episode or season and give your mind and your emotions a much-needed break.

This is the final Wings Wednesday post.  I truly enjoyed interviewing Dave Hackel and talking about the series.  I hope you enjoyed these posts as well.  

Oh, and if you’re curious, here’s a shortlist of my favorite escapist shows: I Love LucyWingsFrasierTwo and a Half MenPerfect StrangersFull HouseThe Munsters227Married…with ChildrenCurb Your EnthusiasmSeinfeld, and the list goes on and on.

What are some of your escapism shows, movies, books, or podcasts?  Leave a comment and share below.