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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to write in a foreign language

Eat Drink Man Woman

As promised last time, another scriptwriting top tip from 'out there and doing it' hero James Schamus.

He co-wrote the film "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" which is, if you don't know, in Mandarin. So how do you write a film for an Eastern audience when you are a Westerner? The dialogue itself can be translated easily enough, but the words themselves are not the issue. Surely it is the cultural subtleties that would be harder to get right?

James' solution was to immerse himself in culture, to read about it, to study it. After that he felt confident to tackle the first draft. So, did this work? Apparently not. It was a complete waste of time.

Draft 2 was written instead with no consideration of the setting. He wrote it with the tone, pace and attitudes of his Jewish family. The result - once translated - was amazingly successful.

Which I think goes to prove that stories, especially films, really do transcend boundaries. And that perhaps we should less research and more writing from the heart.

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