I love old movies. Old live action movies. I collect 'em on video and watch TCM. I'm no expert on live action. I've had one day's experience in it - maybe I'll tell you about it one day.
But I've noticed how specialized so many jobs in L/A are and in particular - the writing. You sometimes see 4 or 5 credits for writing a movie. One for original novel, if it's based on something already written in another medium. One for "scenario", one for "treatment", one for "screenplay", even one for "dialogue".
I've always wondered about these specialists and who they were so I went to a local second-hand bookstore to see if there was a book on the process of writing classic movies (1920s-1950s).
I couldn't find a book written in that period or even by a writer from the period, so I settled for the one above - written in the 70s - when movies were no longer very cinematic. I didn't hold out much hope for it, until I read the forward while in the store.
A BOOK WRITTEN IN A CLEAR STYLE DOESN'T OFTEN HAPPEN
The first thing that impressed me was the writer's style. It was crisp and to the point. This alone is an extreme rarity among writers. I love to read, but hardly ever can find a book that flat out gives you what you buy the book for.
I have a modern book about Teddy Roosevelt that is sheer torture to read. It opens every new scene by describing the direction of the wind at that very moment, the atmospheric pressure, the shape of the moon and the feel of the grass between Teddy's toes - and how many bunions he has. It judges all decisions made at the turn of the century by modern ethics. The book is 3 times longer than a book about who Teddy was and what he did needs to be. It's not about him. It's about the writer trying to be fancy, trendy and modern.
There are also too many writers who hide vague thoughts behind florid pose, needless descriptions and all kinds of filler you have to sift through to get to the meat.
ALL COMMUNICATION BENEFITS FROM CLARITYTo me clarity is probably the number one talent that any creative person needs if he wants to set himself above the mass of other pretenders or even more talented people who just can't make a point.
It's the difference between musicians who can't play a melody without burying it under a muddy or meandering arrangement and say ...the Beatles. The difference between Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand. I'll get back to that in another post. The difference between Bob Jaques' crisp and precisely focused animation timing and Shamus Culhane's evenly spaced actions that make the characters look like they are underwater. The difference between a strong line of action and clear silhouette and a cluttered ambiguous pose. The difference between a Looney Tune and a Terrytoon.
Clarity gives you more control over what you want your audience to understand or feel. Mushiness leaves the message to the viewer or listener's interpretation - if he even bothers to finish paying attention to the mushy message.
A WRITER WHO WRITES CLEARLY TELLS US HOW LIVE ACTION IS WRITTENAnyway, this book is so clearly written that you know exactly what the writer wants to convey in every sentence and he doesn't waste time trying to impress you with fancy writing flourishes.
I might agree or disagree with something he believes, but his points are so clear that it doesn't even bother me when I do disagree.
What's really surprising to me though, beyond the clarity of his information is how similar live action thinking is to good cartoons when it comes to "writing".
CARTOON WRITERS SMELL FUNNY
Most modern cartoon writers - the ones that can't draw, believe - or at least pretend to - that they are following live action principles of script writing and this justifies them keeping the artists away from the process until a script is written and every visual element is crassly described by non-visual brains. This book demonstrates that cartoon writers absolutely aren't influenced by the live action process of creation.
Classic screenwriters - according to the book - evolved a common sense approach to writing for visual storytelling that is really similar to the way old cartoons were written - and to the way Spumco cartoons are written.
I will post more of his book paragraph by paragraph and give my comments.