I read a beginner’s short script some days ago that stuck me as a great example of how not to use the visual media of a movie.
Simplified it was a dishevelled, bear-drinking man telling his life’s misery to his mother on the phone and then he hung himself.
As I see it, two major mistakes were made in this setup: one, the story began too late; two we are told the story, not shown.
Think about what we see. We see a miserable man talking on the phone and then committing suicide. Just look at the images now; do you understand the story? The visual media is not used. This is a story told, not shown.
Then we look at what is said. Alright, he had had a tough time, lost his work, wife leaving, refused to see his daughter, nasty stuff able to break any man.
But if an unknown man started talking to you about all his bad luck in life, would you feel for him? Would you believe him? Would you give him some cheery advice? Would you help him, find him a job, pull a lawyer out of the sleeve and give him a new life? Would you think he’s just whiny?
That is the situation we are facing here. An unknown man comes up and talks about all his bad luck in life.
For us to care we need to feel for him. If you are like me, who think most things can be solved with a positive attitude, you need to see him as a strong character first and then follow his breakdown to understand that this is not just something you cure with a smile.
We also need to feel some attachment on a personal level. We need to recognize ourselves in his story. Few of us are on the bottom level where this story started. If you start with a “normal, healthy fellow” more people can see themselves in the character. That he then breaks down – this the normal, healthy fellow, just like me – is just a part of our recognization because we feel he could be me, anybody, falling out of luck in life.
That the main character tells us what he has been through, works just as likely that you would take a complete stranger complaining about life’s unfairness under your wing, trusting him completely and solve all his financial- and domestic problems in life.