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Time, space and movement: screenplay as oral narrative

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Paul Schrader contends that the screenplay is an oral medium. This article explores the validity of this contention by analysing the ballad Janet or Lady Maisry (Child 65) and its use of what are generally thought of as screenwriting techniques to tell its story, in particular looking at the way it makes use of montage, multiple narratives and different timescales to create suspense and involve the audience. It looks at the role of visualization in oral narrative and suggests that screenwriters and analyses have much to gain by looking at films as oral narratives, which like ballads are told rhythmically in real time in front of an audience. It suggests that screenwriters and academics studying the screenplay could benefit from looking at song and music as a helpful paradigm for understanding screenplay techniques and developing screenplay notation.
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Keywords: ballads; epic; narrative; orality; screenwriting; storytelling

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Royal Holloway University of London.

Publication date: May 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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