Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Beatles and Screenwriting: A counter argument

This post (FROM THE AWESOME BLOG...COMPLICATIONS ENSUE...) argues that because the beatles were self taught, they fooled around on their guitars, and created very unorthodox chord variations, and that this proves that following formulaic advice will lead to distinctly un-beatles like writing. It argues that only by figuring things out for yourself, can you truly create a memorable piece of work.

Shirk the formula, and you will (can…maybe) be the Paul McCartney of screenwriting. Stick to the formula, and drown in mediocrity.

But I see it differently. To me, the beatles were masters of formula. The chord variations they stumbled upon only enriched songs that were already brilliantly formulaic in construction. Their songs are simple creations that are bolstered by creative chords – not defined by them.

So in screenwriting, I think that it is fine to follow proven formulas (at least loosely). Hit your beats! You become the beatles not by ignoring proven techniques (formulaic or not), but by creating beautiful dialogue flourishes, concise and effective action, and by tying images together with instinctive pacing and flow.

These elements are what define a great screenplay. Like the beatles, writers that master these techniques have a natural gift, at least to some extent. They can hear flat dialogue, they can spot missed jokes, and they can intuitively feel what works. These screenplays are texturally magnificent, formulaic or not, and this is what defines their greatness.

Hopefully this makes sense. It’s just been stewing in my head since reading this post, and I thought it might make an interesting counter argument.

Really though – the initial post is certainly thought provoking. Check it out.


Karel said...

Because I left a comment to the piece on Alex' blog, I was alerted when you posted your link.

I can't help and refer to a related discussion Mystery Man started today back at The Story Dept.

Just follow the link.

And join the Revolution!


Scripted Wit said...

Interesting stuff. Wasn't arguing that all good screenplays are formulaic, just that the Beatles analogy supports formula with instinctively superb texture (dialogue, pacing etc.)

Neither following formulas nor ignoring them will guarantee a great screenplay.

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