After a week’s worth of romance courtesy of Teddy Pasternak’s suggested theme of marriage proposal, this week we go stentorian with a new theme: Voice-over Narration [courtesy of Lloyd Morgan].
There is a conventional wisdom that Hollywood types don’t like voice-over narration. Witness this scene from Adaptation:
Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I am pathetic, I am a loser…
Robert McKee: So what is the substance of writing?
Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I have failed, I am panicked. I’ve sold out, I am worthless, I… What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck am I doing here? Fuck. It is my weakness, my ultimate lack of conviction that brings me here. Easy answers used to shortcut yourself to success. And here I am because my jump into the abysmal well – isn’t that just a risk one takes when attempting something new? I should leave here right now. I’ll start over. I need to face this project head on and…
Robert McKee: …and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.
But the list of top movies that use it is huge including The Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club, Goodfellas, Forrest Gump, Sunset Blvd., American Beauty, Double Indemnity, A Clockwork Orange, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Apartment… you get the picture.
My theory: If your story absolutely benefits from using VN and/or you absolutely need to use it, go ahead. Just make sure you do it well.
That should be part of our task with this week’s exercise: What are examples of great VN? And perhaps some instances of not-so=good VN.
The usual drill:
* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDB Quotes or some other transcript source.
* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from MovieClips or YouTube.
There were several other good suggestions for dialogue themes, so here is our upcoming schedule for the next several weeks:
April 30-May 6: Revelations [Alexander Gorelik]
May 7-May 13: First Dates [churnage]
May 14-May 20: Non-verbal ‘dialogue’ [Liz Swan]
But this week, let’s focus on voice-over narration.