Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Clarity - Screenwriting 2 - Obligatory Cave Origins

Just about every book on popular arts feels the need to justify itself by tracing its roots back to the Lascaux caves.
Thankfully this book keeps the section short and actually makes a good point: that communication is more naturally a visual art, and that written communication is artificial, using arbitrary symbols to represent images and actions.

Film, and cartoons even more so can and should use the much more natural visual form of getting their ideas across. Words - or writing is just a supplemental tool (one of many) to aid the visual process. Pictures are first - and those who can make pictures directly are the masters of the medium - not those who can describe pictures third hand through clumsy symbols called words.


essenmitsosse said...

A little Off-Topic, but you might be interested in this:

Camari Xela said...

Hey John, sorry to comment off topic here, but I was wondering when these fine shirt designs will be available online for purchase.

Thank for the feedback. -AC

Alvaro said...

Let`s remember that French animated film: “The Triplets of Belleville”: The main characters barely speak in the movie, but every part of the story was clear and easy to understand.
And still, some people criticized it, for reasons as “What is the point of it?” or the lack of a “message”. (Because, you know, all the animated films SHOULD have a message to justify its existence. Right?)

Anonymous said...

I love that, not only symbolic drawings, but SEQUENTIAL images have existed since humans could scratch a cave wall.

Ancient greek vase paintings, the Elgin marble frieze, etc...all story-telling devices. & What about Heiroglyphics!? Even Kanji & Kanbun, while not strictly pictograms, are ideograms - symbolizing the idea of things without indicating its phonetics.

I definitely think of animation in many ways as an ancient art.

David R said...

As further proof of this point, there are entire societies that have no written language.

Whit said...

The very visual director Michael Curtiz once said "Who cares about character? I make it go so fast nobody notices". He knew the power of images.

Ardy said...

I remember once though, you said that "Words are a primitive medium." I only remember because I liked the statement so much. I guess in light of this it should be amended to "words are a...." Actually I can't think of a good word. Incomplete? Contrived?

I was wondering if you ever heard of or read the works of Alfred Korzybski. He was a scientist who argued that human language was inherently flawed because of our limitations in understanding the world around us and the limitations of the literal language itself. He stressed that words are simply representations of what we observe, and to confuse words with real things was one of the great hindrances in thinking and communicating, and therefore all scientific progress. He also said the best way to experience the world was "nonverbally." I would take this a step further and say that the most nonverbal experience is definitely the visual medium, making it the most effective means of communication (although I don't know if Korzybski would agree, he never talks about art in his theories).

Anyway, I never liked to think of myself as a writer, but I've gotten a lot of work writing and so this blog has always been an inspiration to me, despite that you tear writers to bits on a regular basis (or maybe because of that). Modern writers do all the same retarded things modern cartoonists do, especially throwing out basic principles in favor of "style."

Sorry for the long damn comment.

John A said...

Mr paal:" I definitely think of animation in many ways as an ancient art"

I wholeheartedly agree. Flipbooks and zoetropes existed long before the invention of the motion picture projector.

The literal meaning of the word animate is "to give life to" and for centuries artists have been using their tools at hand to make an image or a story "come to life" while there were many attempts along the way to try to crack "the motion problem" it's only in the past hundred years we've been able to take it and make art that is truly alive. The first half of that hundred years anyway, the second half seemed to only be interested in throwing all that new knowlege away- or handing it over to a machine.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised to find that people had been making flickbooks for thousands of years...maybe in egypt or china :)

& I'm certain there are loads of artefacts like this:

ancient iranian sequential imagery

btw, love yr example images, John, especially the first one...where's it from?

Anonymous said...

Sorry - bad link, try again:

iranien sequential imagery

Geneva said...

You've made posts with the "howgreen" images, before. Who is that director? I'd like to rent some of his movies, because I've really liked what you've posted in the past (present material included). They're so controlled. I love control freak directors.

thomas said...

How Green Was My Valley is by John Ford.

David R said...

Hi John,

I took what you said to heart and overlayed my copies over the originals. I thought they looked pretty good, but boy was I off. I'm going to recopy them to try to fix the problems. A good example of what not to do, and what you miss out on if you skip this step.

Preston Blair 3

thomas said...

There are different theories about visual communication. Some of them on whether the visual is to be considered communication at all.

Basically with communication, a message is sent, and that message is received, unambiguously.
People often get frustrated with film or art that they feel is sending a message. There's a corny anecdote of a painter complaining about another painter's work, saying if he wants to send messages, he should use Western Union.

There's content in the "visual' but messages are another "story".

Robert said...

I wonder what makes them so sure early-painting-man was "in fact" verbally primitive?

They really don't know a damn thing about what early man could say.

Guy said...

Very true, John. Words are treated as something sacred when in reality language is a very crude thing. For example, the way you read this comment is likely totally different from the way I intended it. (This is a big problem with animation/comics arguments, where to them I'm basically the other guy in "I am so calm and smart, you are so crazy and dumb" comics.)

Of course, words are still good for some things, they're just not the holy supreme medium that when added to anything automatically improves it. We have to learn when less words are a good thing, such as in real life (people spending all their time communicating with text, which is having big negative societal effects) and in cartoons and comics.

Kaiser Fate said...

This is actually why I have such a fondness for the Illustration medium. The point is to get an entire story across with one single snapshot of time.
It's a worthy consideration as a starting point; what if an entire animation were that rich with meaning?

Rubén said...

I have to disagree with you ( with all of you actually)

If you read poetry, it will "SAY" things that cannot be showed in visual communication. That's the power of metaphor. Creating new "worlds". If you get that in visual, you'll probably destroy the metaphor, giving it a literal form. Of course, I'm not saying that's not possible to create metaphors in the visual communication, that would be stupid. But Words can bring other worlds that images can't, and images can bring worlds that words can't (and the same for music, or even FOOD).
The fact that you say that audiovisual communication it's more powerful or truthful that writing it's because the sight (or vision, or whatever you call to that sense, i'm an spanish speaker) it's the most "important" sense. Aristoteles said in his "Metaphysics" that it's the sense that provides us more information about the world (being the objective of the man know all things).
And in these days, specially, sight it's considered the most important of the senses.

The "lie" of words it's really well known. Words, unmotivated symbols that represent other things, are insufficient to express ourselves. We can't say what we want to, and the other one can't understand us completely.

But sight it's also restricted, and also drawing. We can't draw all what we want to, and other's may not see or understand what we want them to see.
And we can't see EVERYTHING. The sight it's not "pure", it's not raw reality. Raw reality would be too much. Our brain process the information, and gives us what we see: Visual world it's also made with symbols.
Thanks to that, we can see a cartoon and understand what's going on on the screen, we understand that it's a representation, an abstraction.
If there would be no system of signs at all, we wouldn't understand it.

For example, someone who knows about wood can SEE and distinguish different kinds of woods. Someone who doesn´t, will just see wood.

I'll stop here 'cause this is getting too long.


(sorry for grammatic/orthographic errors)

inspiration publishing said...

you got some really wicked pictures, i really like the aborigony one and the ones of the mill in black & white.

flspectro said...

The photographer of the Hitchcock one is Jeanloup Sieff. ¡He rules!

Amos Yee said...

Hi John K. But may I ask, whatabout filmmakers like Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, where they have made films that are so dialogue driven, even more than it's visuals yet are still considered one of the cinematic greats?