September, 29

Don’t Call Us

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Reach out and touch someone.Imagine if Grace Kelley slid her pinky over her iPhone screen instead of answering the landline tethered to her would-be assassination in Dial M for Murder; or if E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, used his rollover minutes instead of hotwiring a Speak ?N? Spell to phone home. Contemporary communication tools have made us reachable 24/7, consequently, screenwriters are engineering new, if contrived, ways of making their characters (dramatically) unreachable. Writer Zachary Pincus-Roth penned an interesting piece for last week?s Los Angeles Times that explores this phenomenon.

While cellphones appear to help storytellers, since they allow anyone to talk to anyone at any time, ?that seeming freedom only makes it all the more difficult,? says Robert McKee, the screenwriting guru and author of Story. ?It takes away a possible source of conflict ? the difficulty of communicating, the difficulty of calling for help.?

?Still, he doesn?t see the development as negative. ?All it means is that the writer has to be even more ingenious in building the conflicts and the tensions in a credible way,? he says.

Thanks, Bob. I suppose the Web 2.0 version would have a character dangling from a precipice, who Twitters for help, only to have comic hijinks ensue when 2,000 ?followers? arrive to save the day as Clay Shirky sighs, ?Here comes everybody.?

Pincus-Roth discusses his article with On The Media?s Brooke Gladstone.

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