Monday, June 9, 2014

Only words on a page

For those out of the USA and Canada, there is a weekly Sunday show on CBS-TV that features several different stories about people and things. They usually include a celebrity and this past Sunday it was Minnie Driver, the actress.

When the inteviewer asked her how she works, Minnie refers to the screenplay as;

 "Words on a page".

And it's up to her to figure out how to play it.

Words on a page.

I wonder what she would do if there weren't words on a page.

And what if those "words on a page" tell the story, and that a writer like me could say "she's only the person who memorizes and reads those words?"

Okay, so I'm a little bit ticked off. When I read a book, they aren't just words on a page, instead they give me a feeling of what the author wrote and how to imagine it in my own mind. 

Same thing for a screenplay; those words are what make up part of the story; with the other part being the action. In short, those words tell her not only what to say but what to do.

Actors are funny people; they pretend to be other people in order to make a living. I even have actor friends, although they're almost always complaining about the roles they didn't get.

Actor joke: How many actors do you have to have to replace a lightbulb?

Answer: Two, one to replace it and another to say they could have done it better.

Okay, so I'm being a little hard on actors and this goes back to the Greeks, who invented drama or at least as far as we know, they wrote specific stories and plays about murder, greed, betrayal, love, hate and all that stuff.

And yes, with actors.

It's a love/hate thing with writers and actors, I've had my share of arguments but nothing really bad. My biggest problems were usually with producers and sometimes, directors.

Director joke; Why doesn't a director like to have a writer on the set?
Answer: Because the writer is the only one who know's they're faking it.

How about a joke about producers: "We love the screenplay, but who can we get to rewrite it?"

It goes on and on in the battles between actors and writers and directors and producers and mostly, it works out fine somehow.

And I'm sure Minnie didn't really mean that she was totally responsible for the words, that someone else wrote them and those same words were at least half of her portrayal in Good Will Hunting where she was nominated for an Academy Award.

And who is it that actors often thank the most, especially in TV?


So, as director Norman Jewison said after Cher won an Oscar on a movie he directed,  and thanked her hair dresser; "At least she didn't do it all by herself."


  1. Of course you're expecting me to say something here aren't you Jim? First of all people think because they can spell they can write and people think because they can pretend or even lie they can act and you and I know that isn't true. When you read a book you read the words and imagine, with the help of the writer (or the author) what everything looks like; you direct it in your head. It's the same with a movie - the writer writes, as you say, the words (the skeleton) the actor puts the skin and bones on the skeleton and the director put the clothes on to the character. We all have our little jobs it's a collaborative process . There is a school of thought that says the only acting and writing is on the stage in the theatre - I don't subscribe to that but I do say that the only truth is on the screen in the actor's eyes. David Mamet, of course, says actors should just learn the lines and do nothing. Jack Webb, on Dragnet, wouldn't let the actors learn their lines; they had to read them from a cue board to give the dialogue that special tone.

  2. Naturally, Chris... however saying "just words" isn't really a collaboration.