That David O. Russell-y energy in dialog

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  • That David O. Russell-y energy in dialog

    Dear all,

    I'm amazed by the energy the last Russell-movies had when it comes to the motivation of the characters for every scene. Where other writers would have chosen a 'depressed stare into nothing' or generally a passive moment, his characters are always active. It sometimes reminds me of that energy the Cassavetes stuff had.

    I am trying to explain to myself how he might do it.
    The only answer I have is this:

    Every character decided today, that he will be in control of his life, that this day will be his best. No matter how bad everything looks.
    Edit: The other thing is that through unexpectad reactions to conflict, he creates a longer history between two characters. It always seems like a lot of those conflicts have been fought out a couple of times, whiches makes the scene a bit more fresh.

    What do you think about that and do you have some kind of advice?

    It would be great if I understood how to put this active touch into my stuff.

  • #2
    Re: That David O. Russell-y energy in dialog

    Originally posted by oskar View Post
    Every character decided today, that he will be in control of his life, that this day will be his best. No matter how bad everything looks.
    Think you've pretty much got it there.

    Read Shane Black, particularly Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (AKA You'll Never Die in This Town Again).

    Read Aaron Sorkin, specifically: The Social Network and everything from The West Wing you can get your hands on.

    Read Guy Ritchie's early work, particularly Snatch.

    Read Scorsese, Tarantino, Mamet. Goodfellas has a lot of energy, so does The Wolf of Wall Street (the latter has more adrenaline packed in it than the lines snorted by its lead). Scorsese's dramatic work (Gangs, Departed, etc.) doesn't have this same kind of energy. Tarantino's kind of a dangerous read because a lot of newbie writers fall into the trap of trying to imitate him on a surface level, and you wind up with scripts that spend more time discussing the price of tea in china than they do setting up real conflict.

    A lot of what you're reacting to is the combination of writing, directing, and acting present in O'Russel's last few films. Bradley Cooper in particular is an actor who infuses energy into his line delivery. Amy Adams does the same. Give Eric Singer's script (originally called "American Bulls--t") to a more dramatic director and you'd have a completely different film. Part of the energy from the dialogue comes from the energy in the pacing of the movie, and that's as much a directorial/editorial influence as it is the writing.

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