Monday, September 22, 2008

Show Not Tell: In Living Horror

If you watched The Bad and the Beautiful, there is a scene with Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) and writer Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) which is very instructional not only for screenplaywrights but writers generally:

Shields: Put five men dressed like cats on the screen—what do they look like?
Amiel: Like five men dressed like cats.
Shields: When an audience pays to see a picture like this, what do they pay for?
Amiel: To get the pants scared off ’em.
Shields: And what scares the human race more than any other single thing?
Amiel: The dark.
Shields: Of course, and why? Because the dark has a life of its own. In the dark, all sorts of things come alive.
Amiel: Yeah. Suppose we never do show the cat men. Is that what you’re thinking?
Shields: Exactly. . . . Now, what’ll we put on the screen that’ll make the backs of their necks crawl?
Amiel: Two eyes shining in the dark.
Shields: A dog frightened, growling, showing its fangs.
Amiel: A bird, its neck broken, feathers torn from its throat.
Shields: A little girl screaming, claw marks down her cheeks.

Which is what they did


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