Writing the action first



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  • Writing the action first

    I was watching the documentary on the Once Upon A Time In America dvd, and Stewart Kaminski (spelling?) says that he was given a copy of the script, but his only job was to write the dialogue. It was an italian script, where the action is on the left side and the dialogue on the right. But the action was written before any of the dialogue.

    And that got me thinking...it's perhaps a good way to tell the story more with images rather than words. So has anybody done this? Write the action lines first and fill in the dialogue later?

    I was thinking about doing it myself as sort of an experiment, but I'd like to hear about any kind of potential problems that might come out of writing this way.

  • #2
    I think it will be a great exercise in visual story telling.


    • #3
      Never done this. When I write a scene, I'm basically transcribing what I "see" and "hear." I play the scene in my head over and over and over until I get all the wrinkles out and then once more AS I'm writing it (beat by beat; yes, it slows down). When I write it, it is, for the time being (i.e., until I rewrite/polish it), a complete entity.

      That's just me.


      • #4
        Sounds like an interesting exercise, though I think a treatment would serve much the same purpose. A treatment will allow for complete flexibility within the scenes, as Tony suggests.


        • #5
          This is also what a very detailed outline would achieve. Having no dialog in outlines you end up listing the character's actions and how they lead to the next actions. Trick is to make all this action visually stimulating and meaningful as well.


          • #6

            isn't that a beat sheet or outline?



            • #7
              This is also what a very detailed outline would achieve.
              Yes, very detailed. But I mean writing the action for each individual scene and the dialogue later, like it was done with the OUATIA script.


              • #8
                I don't write dialog until the scene is written. Nearly always have most the story nestled in the cut.

                I'm surprised that writing this way seems like a good 'exercise' to some. That it is viewed as an experiment. Sergei Eisenstein rolls in his grave. Juxtaposition dead?

                You tell the story one picture at a time? One uninflected shot plus another uninflected shot equals idea?

                Anywho, after I've got me a good shot-list, I mean, script, I go over and pencil in dialog. Er, Hitchcock had some clever ways of adding dialog but was, like many, perplexed as to how to deal with dialog. Cause, most of the time, the pictures are pushing the story at a healthy momentum more than what any character might verbally be capable of. So, I kind of look at dialog as, er, fashion/wardrobe or a character's simple means to an end. Yep.

                Ya'll should try to tell your stories usin' pictures. Try tellin' yer stories usin' the cut. Ya'll might like it.

                :eek <- he likes it

                >: <- he doesn't

                :x <- this little piggy got sick