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‘To make you see’: Screenwriting, description and the ‘lens-based’tradition

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In this article I look at the descriptive writing in the screenplay, and link this to a tradition of ‘lens-based writing’, the precise visual description of phenomena observed through a lens for an audience unable to see what was described, which can be traced from the writing of Galileo and van Leeuwenhoek, through scientific and travel writing, to early fiction (with particular emphasis on Robinson Crusoe). I identify the most significant features of lens-based writing – the use of simple language and the separation of observation and deduction to communicate what has been seen through a simultaneous act of looking and framing, and show the similarities between this and screenwriting practice. I also make some observations about what this model can offer screenwriting research.
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Keywords: lens; lens-based writing; observation; optics; prosthetics; screenplay; telescope

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Royal Holloway University of London

Publication date: August 29, 2012

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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