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‘The Watergate Theory of Screenwriting’: A keynote presentation at SRN, Wisconsin, 2013

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One way to start to think about making information in a script interesting is to rephrase the question that was posed by the Watergate investigators about then President Richard Nixon’s knowledge of the criminal deeds of his subordinates. The question reiterated obsessively during the Senate Committee investigation, voiced initially by Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker, was … ‘What did the president know, and when did he know it?’. In order to get going, scriptwriters must ask: what do the characters know - about narrative context, about themselves, and about each other, and when do they know it? This essay will explore Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film, Ikiru (co-written with Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni), and how the film is masterfully structured in relation to “who knows what and when.”
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Keywords: Hitchcock; Ikiru; Kurosawa; Watergate; screenwriting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Screenwriter and Film Analyst

Publication date: September 1, 2014

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  • 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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