Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chris Jones and Emma Darwin write about film and prose

There are some really good articles out there in the blogosphere this week. Two that particularly caught my eye come from the web pages of film maker Chris Jones and novelist Emma Darwin.

Emma's insightful article is about the head-talk that novelists put into their work. Too much introspection is sometimes presented as a novelist's vice. However, as she points out "...the depiction of consciousness is the only unique thing about prose fiction..."

When does this reporting of the inner workings of the minds of our characters become a problem? When is it a virtue? Emma's excellent analysis concludes that, just like any other aspect of prose, introspection can have a shape. It can be sculpted by the writer. To use it well we have to start from one inner state and move to another one.

I once heard the novelist Sara Maitland say that when she was working with Stanley Kubrick, they used to play a game in which she came up with lines of prose that she thought would be impossible to represent in film. He would then find ways in which it could be done. Her final offering was: "He perfectly concealed his anger." In this she concluded she had won by creating a definitively unfilmable line. The depiction of consciousness.

The second article that caught my eye was in Chris Jones's blog. The article includes a description by Mark Deerie of Chris's famous film making master class. The bit that I really latched onto was this: 'With each film you work on, you learn less, but the depth of what you learn is far greater...and that's the good stuff, you wanna get to that!'

This model of the learning curve of the film maker perfectly matches my experience of the learning curve of the prose writer. The two forms of story telling may be different, but it seems that the path of the artist is very similar.

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