Friday, March 13, 2009

Pulp Painting...

I like first drafts...I really do.

There's nothing like the excitement and tension you feel after typing FADE IN and realize you are going to fill approximately 95+/- pages until you reach FADE TO BLACK (but in this case it's more like CUT TO BLACK since this is an action movie).

But there's a whole other level of excitement at work in the process beyond writing something like:

"Our heroine races headlong at the oncoming tram, bullets striking all around her as she..."

No, the real excitement is knowing that after you get through with the first draft - you can get to the real work of layering everything. Because the script isn't the final product - the movie is - and after you write that first draft, then you can begin to write the movie.

"Writing the movie" is that point (for me) when you have the canvas in front of you. It's the right size and shape and you've spent all this time thinking about what you're going to paint. The first draft is that coat of white gesso paint you apply to the canvas so that everything else sticks to it:

Your background, your foreground, your mid-ground, your highlights, your shadows and then your detail.

That's how paintings are built and that's how screenplays are built - in layers. This is especially true for screenplays for low budget films because those layers have to work together to "paint the picture" effectively without you running out of paint.

But what are the analogues of story to painting?

Your background is the world your story takes place within.
Your foreground is your main character(s) - the subject of your focus.
Your midground is your supporting characters - spaced between your focus and your world.
Your highlights refer to your main characters' best qualities.
Your shadows refer to their worst qualities - their weaknesses or flaws.

  • Your heroes or villains can't be all highlight or all shadow or else they don't work with (or against) the background.
  • You can't put too many characters in (your mid-ground) or else you lose focus on your foreground (your hero).
  • And your background can't be all one color (emotion) because you lose all the wonderful, interesting detail.
Have a good weekend. I'll be slapping paint.

1 comment:

Andrew Bellware said...

That is the most awesome image. For a moment I thought that BOTH the guys were evil. Then I thought that the bald guy was the good guy!
Mars needs women!