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Too Much Dialogue?

lisa gornick new script 
Yes, I’m still working on my novella. And envious of Lisa Gornick, if this image is a self-portrait. It's so much less pleasurable to open Word than it is to open Final Draft. And once Word is open, it's so much easier to get distracted and into another Word file (or two). And I’m much much slower with a novella than a script. Not surprising.

And I'm distracted by a surprising amount of email feedback about the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) statistical update I did for WIFTNZ and also added to the Development Facebook notes, where some overseas correspondents picked it up. The feedback came from women who feel they’ve experienced a (negative) change in attitude towards women’s projects at the NZFC. From women concerned that their feedback from the NZFC (and elsewhere) names “too much dialogue” as a problem. From women all over, who decide to write screenplays about men, not because they feel they should be able to write about anything (of course) but because they’ve learned that those projects are more likely to move forward.

This week, I’m especially interested in “too much dialogue”, because I saw Social Network. And had a useful conversation with the Kid in the Front Row about our different perceptions of the film; always enjoy a chat with him because our responses to movies and other stuff are often very different.

I’d expected to be irritated by Social Network's portrayal of women, but wasn’t really, partly because so much else drew my attention. Including LOTS of dialogue. And I also thought it was more of a television drama, not because of all the dialogue (which might persuade others that it's more television than film) or because most of the (male) secondary characters were very strongly written (and I thought that even the characters played by Rooney Mara and Rashida Jones were very sharp), but because I found Social Network so dull visually, geared to a small screen but not to cinema for the small screen (unlike Sally Potter's RAGE, for example). The Kid doesn’t agree that Social Network is visually dull, and that made me think (again) about about what’s cinematic and what isn’t. But what really really got to me was how Social Network combined what I perceived as television characteristics with extraordinary brand exposure, for beer, for various computers and one notebook particularly, and for GAP. I wished I’d timed Mark Zuckerberg’s long GAP hoodie run  and have asked on Twitter if anyone knows about GAP's relationship with the movie; no response. Interestingly, the Kid in the Front Row didn’t notice the brand exposure because he was so caught up in the story.

So I’m thinking today, as these emails come in about the stats, that Social Network is a fantastic example of media convergence: television, film, advertising (and because it’s about Facebook there’s that element, too). And reflecting on the relationships between media convergence and transmedia. And I’m hoping that people at the NZFC will think about Social Network and explore whether “too much” dialogue in a film is a real issue any more. I'd love to know what others think about all this.

Meanwhile, mother nature does her summer thing outside and I join in when I can. Baby basils growing fast. Beans and courgettes maturing for festive barbie. Roses, daisies, cornflowers, carnations & poppies going for it. When I saw Lisa Gornick's latest drawing, I wanted to gather everything beautiful into a large basket and deliver it to her, far far away. The drawing reminds me to ENJOY.

lisa gornick mother nature does her thing


  1. I didn't notice the GAP - because I've never seen a GAP store and wouldn't know GAP clothing if I fell over it.

    And I didn't think much about product placement because, you know, college students are going to drink beer (and it didn't seem like just one brand), computer nerds are going to use computers (likewise).

    I was just concentrating really hard because I didn't want to miss any of Sorkin's dialogue. If you were worried about product placement I'm going to guess you weren't that engaged in the story.

    I agree that it didn't often seem terribly cinematic. The tilt-shift boat race sequence seemed like a self-conscious attempt by Fincher to assert himself against Sorkin's virtuoso performance. And it jarred.

  2. Thanks, Dan. Really nice to have another view.

    I wasn't so much 'worried' by the product placement as slapped in the face by the huge GAP across the front of the hoodie when there wasn't much else visually interesting in the frame. & that alerted me to the branding issues, which seemed especially obvious in the throwing-beer-bottles scene. I too think that there may have been more than one beer brand, & more than one brand of computer, with the notebook being a standout. If there's more than one brand of a product, what does that mean for the brands themselves? Am curious.

    & I sort of liked the challenge of paying attention to all the elements while enjoying the story: structure (a whole other conversation) dialogue, character, visual images AND the advertising subtext.

    Didn't notice the try-hard boat race sequence, so thanks for that. Tempted to see the whole thing again, to check out what else I missed!

  3. I'm fascinated (and agree!) that you feel The Social Network is an example of media convergence. It's also just a part of the increasing corporatization of the artistic world. Of course, films bring together two competing agendas: the artistic and the commercial, but they have to work together, otherwise, who will watch them and how will their creators make a living? I'm sure there are many more big-budget pics from Hollywood that will integrate product placement and social media within its stories and production. Interesting that this might be the first good example of how it can be done.

    While I still haven't seen the film (though I plan to!) I sort of chuckled to myself when you mentioned the dialogue. The writer, Aaron Sorkin, is (I feel) one of the masters of rapid and copious dialogue. He's made his bones in television and might just be wordier than Kevin Smith, who I feel is one of the wordiest screenwriters around. All of Sorkin's TV projects maintain a very fast pace for dialogue, bordering on sounding contrived (again, like Smith!) I think that's just who Sorkin is as a writer.

    But in terms of a trend? If there is more dialogue now in films (Hollywood and indies), is it because we're becoming more preoccupied with our own personal experiences? Do we want to be more active in terms of controlling the story through dialogue? Is the old rule of screenwriting: show don't tell, disappearing? Are we less concerned about the aesthetic of filmmaking and more interested in dialogic aggrandizement? I don't know, but it fascinates me, and I hadn't thought to take a look at it (and put an ear to it!) until I read this post of yours.

    BLACK SWAN is an excellent example (IMHO!) of how a film really goes for a serious connection to, and engagement with, its audience, through showing, not telling. Maybe that's the Aronofsky auteurist tendency, though, who knows...

  4. I saw a discussion about The Social Network's accuracy, in which Mark Zuckerberg said that the only thing they got right was the wardrobe... So, product placement? Or well researched wardrobe department? (Or both?!)

    Also, did you see Aaron Sorkin popped up on Ken Levine's blog to address criticism that he failed the female characters in the film? Really interesting read.

  5. Tx, Kyna. Could it be that there are some dialogue-rich stories that will be best viewed at home with a remote, to rewind when miss a line or two? Or that come with a readily-available script, like plays?

    Black Swan hasn't reached here yet, though I've got a script someone kindly sent, and I'm v interested to see that it has some visual things capitalised in the description on the first pages (which is as far as I've got) e.g. EYES, LIGHT, BARE FEET, not used to that, & maybe that's an indication of its orientation towards 'showing'.

    @toomuchpersonality Tx for this link. Both? Would love to know for sure.

    And I LOVED that whole blog thread, not just the Sorkin contribution, & now I've seen the movie will go back. As a tangent, I watched a panel with Mark Zuckerberg the other day where he sat in front of a map of the internet. And was so intrigued when he pointed to the map and said it missed the huge uncharted territory out there: His excitement about the unknown, the potential, really endeared him to me.

  6. And here's a Manohla Dargis article "The Revolution is Being Shot on Digital Video" where she writes about Social Network (I know there should be a 'The' there, but somehow prefer without), Black Swan and Tiny Furniture (can't wait to see it) as using "digital cinematography [as] a constituent, expressive part of the whole". And she goes into wonderful detail, including (this is for you as well as for me, Dan Slevin, if you haven't already seen the article: so many ways to think about this film that I wish I'd enjoyed it more).

    "Like all of Mr Fincher's features "The Social Network" is beautiful, its subdued, dark palette punctuated by a dazzlingly bright rowing race that puts the differences between the main adversaries into symbolic and chromatic relief"

    Then she goes into detail about cameras, before listing her films of the year.

    Always, always, enjoy reading Manohla Dargis, regardless of whether I agree with her. And, because I didn't think that Social Network was beautiful AT ALL, maybe she's given me yet another reason to watch it again. With a remote.


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