MA Writing for Script & Screen – Reflective Blog Week 8

This week was tutorials with the module leader. During my tutorial I insisted on doing a table read of my screenplay, for 2 reasons.

Firstly, I had written the language of one opponent in Chinese, with the transcription in English phonetics, so I was eager to see how the script sounded as if it were on screen, with the Chinese language spoken, rather than hearing it in English (which is akin to watching a foreign movie dubbed).

I was pleasantly surprised and thought it worked well. Why did I change the language of this opponent to Chinese? Firstly, as it’s set in the future (2080) I thought it would be fun to suggest that by 2080 Chinese will have overtaken English as the international language. Secondly, China are huge investors in film and China’s cinemas are a lucrative market.

Secondly, I decided to change the protagonist’s first language from Tigrinya (Eritrean) to Italian. I did this as Eritrea is an Italian colony and Italian is spoken there. Furthermore, I thought it might be a nod to Scorsese. Why nod to Scorsese? An old friend once told me I should learn Italian, so I moved to Italy. I lived there for 18 months and still enjoy learning Italian today. Recently I’ve been learning by listening to podcasts related to classic Italian cinema on the Babbel app. This led me to discover Scorsese’s beautiful 4 hour documentary about the Italian films which inspired him as he was growing up – My Voyage to Italy – available on BFI player. As a result of watching this documentary, wonderfully narrated by the legendary director, Scorsese’s love of Fellini led me to watch La Strada which instantly became one of my favorite classic Italian films.

So, back to my screenplay. My protagonist now attempts to communicate with his traffickers / captors in Italian. But it’s no use. They speak Chinese. It might as well have been Tigrinya. Perhaps he’ll switch between Tigrinya, Italian and Mandarin. But that might all be a bit much for a short film. Not that they are saying anything important. What’s important is demonstrated by the action. The scenes can be understood without understanding the dialogue. There is no exposition. The story is told visually. No important information is conveyed through dialogue. Just as well. As when the film is screened I want to insist on no subtitles, to give the audience the same experience as the characters in not being able to understand what the hell is being said. Which leads me to empathy and John Yorke.

But that’s my 250 words done for now, and I’ve got an essay to write.

Oh, I almost forgot. After studying the craft of screenwriting for 10 of the last 15 years, I only this week discovered the term ‘easter egg’ from my module leader. I explained to him that the football video game commentary in my short film signposts the act breaks and turning points – which will only be understandable to industry insiders, e.g. ‘He’s a great midfielder,’ midpoint) and ‘Time to act. Penalty no. 3’ – Act 3 etc etc. On asking if this was a bit pretentious my module leader said no, it was an ‘easter egg.’ When I googled easter egg I discovered these are secret messages put in films by writers and directors – inside jokes.

I love this MA. You learn something new every week.


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