The screenplay for the film Lost in Translation (2003) was only 75 pages.
Lost in Translation is one of my favorite films. Typically, feature length screenplays are 90 to 120 pages.
Many of my favorite directors use few words in their films: R. Bresson, A. Tarkovsky, E. Rohmer, T. Malick.
I love great dialogue, but sometimes I prefer films with little or no talking. Many of my favorite scenes are ones that are purely visual, relying on the moving image to tell the story. Relying on dialogue to tell the story is sometimes just laziness.
The screenplay I’m currently working on is 92 pages and will probably increase to around 95 pages. I was worried I didn’t write enough, but now I think it’s fine, even a bit long.
Once again I am diving into the struggle to write screenplays. In the past I got all snobby and looked down on the typical Hollywood story structure. I saw it as too conventional and I wanted to be artsy. Well, that got me a long ways.
In the mean time I have learned a thing or two, and have come to understand the conventions that drive Hollywood storytelling are, in fact, ancient paradigms that fit with human nature. In other words, the basic three-act structure (and it variations) was built into the human design by God. Sure, many have exploited it, have misused it, have done bad things with it – including making just plain schlock – but that does not nullify the fundamental character of the structure and how it engages with our minds.
With that I am trying to teach myself the structure, and how to use it to my advantage. Here are some examples:
I know that none of us work in a vacuum. We do not create ex nihilo. We work with what is given, and it is in our manipulations of forms that we discover new nuances. Structure is one of the great givens. I have decoded to use the three-act paradigm as strictly as I can and see what happens.
A couple vids on the topic:
Click on the “Watch full program” to see the entire 65 minute interview.
…and one Letterman, 22 years apart.
Francis Ford Coppola promoting One from the Heart:
Sofia Coppola promoting Lost in Translation:
As a father of three kids, two daughters and a son, I am curious, maybe a little frightened by the realities of my influence, intended and unintended, upon them. I am fascinated by the relationship of Francis and Sofia Coppola. There is something really great there. I realize that their relationship is mostly unknown by me and everyone else. But the public image, and what we can infer, suggests that they have a good relationship, that Francis has been a good father, and that Sofia has been willing to be influenced and guided by her father while also forging her own, unique life.
Finally, I love this image:
“…the arrival of perfect realism coincided with perfect decadence.”
“…whether man’s gift for beauty isn’t in spite of himself.”
“I don’t believe we create our lives. Our lives create us.”
Jean-Luc Godard in 1988 at a press conference in Cannes after the first screening of the first two episodes of his very personal documentary, Histoire(s) du Cinema.
This video clip from Godard, which is not altogether clear, but which nonetheless resonates for me, reminded me of Neil Postman’s 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death in which he states:
[W]hat I am claiming here is not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience. Our television set keeps us in constant communion with the world, but it does so with a face whose smiling countenance is unalterable. The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which is another issue altogether.
To say it still another way: Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television. No matter what is depicted or from what point of view, the overarching presumption is that it is there for our amusement and pleasure. That is why even on news shows which provide us daily fragments of tragedy and barbarism, we are urged by the newscasters to “join them tomorrow. What for? One would think that several minutes of murder and mayhem would suffice as material for a month of sleepless nights. We accept the newscaster’ invitation because we know that the “news” is not to be taken seriously, that it is all in fun, so to say. Everything about a news show tells us this—the good looks and amiability of the cast, their pleasant banter, the exciting music that opens and closes the show, the vivid footage, the attractive commercials—all these and more suggest that what we have just seen is no cause for weeping. (p 87)
>I used to be so non-plussed whenever I heard Godard speak. Now he makes more sense to me. In fact, he’s one of the few voices that seem to cut through much of the blather so typically understood as “talking about film.”
I like Dick Cavett, but I find his questions here to be only okay. Still, it is interesting to hear Godard talk about his work, etc.
This video is a bit more pedagogical and Godard is a bit more commanding. Still, it is quite interesting. Godard typically makes statements that are clearly designed to be slightly shocking, and he does that here, but I find his statements to ring truer now than I once did. Not sure why.
This interview with Robert Bresson is both fascinating and disconcerting. It it set up (mise-en-scène) and conducted more like an interrogation than an interview. I love to hear Bresson talk about his work. I am also annoyed by some of the questions, or at least the way they are delivered. I feel as though I want to jump in as a friend and say to Bresson, “Come, forget about them. Let’s go get a drink.”
I imagine the producers of this show thought it would be more interesting if they umped on the “Pickpocket” theme and did the interview as though Bresson was being questioned by the police. What we get, though, is a couple of nobodies (let me know if you know otherwise) coldly demanding answers from a kind and thoughtful Bresson. I like the answers given by Bresson, but he could have been asked better questions.