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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writing with no words

In the recent podcast I talked about visual language, in relation to The Artist. I really liked this new silent film for two reasons. Firstly, because of the boldness of attempting such a thing. Secondly, because they do it so well. It isn't a gimmick, it has some wonderful shots and ideas in it. So I'm pleased it is doing well - at least with film fans!

I'm drawn to the era too and it has inspired my own work, such as 10 Seconds which is at the bottom of this post, or Mr Vista. Both of these projects have sound, but they are very much based on a Buster Keaton character and have the simple visual shots.

I was directing an advert this week, and like a lot of adverts and music videos, this also had no dialogue. So we need to get all the story and characters communicated to the audience via visual techniques alone.

So all of these things brought one thought to the front of my mind - I think that it is an art / skill that writers aren't trained in or practise enough - the art of visual writing. Soaps / standard TV drama is dialogue based because people watch them while they are eating their dinner or ironing. Therefore there has been maybe too much emphasis on training people to tell story through the spoken word.

We got an email from one podcast listener who agrees. Cheryl White has set herself a challenge to make 7 visual short films, called The Loss Series. Each has no dialogue and she is making one a year. The first one is featured above.

All writers should have a go at the 'no dialogue' challenge. You don't need to go as far as Cheryl has of course. But having a visual spec script in your file is a good idea. And the learning experience too will help with ALL your projects.

You can find my visual script effort from a few years ago here. It is one of my free scripts that has been released under a creative commons license.

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