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each year.

is a more complex method of saying always existed. For one thing, it is a the same thing.

tough job. Writing a continuity is Today a smarter phraseology di- rather like crossing the British Chanvides the continuity into "the treat- nel, an experience no one would repeat ment"- a detailed synopsis in which did not a gracious nature erase the the original story is recast for screen horrific memories. The sustained efproduction with the episodes and busi- fort of carrying a photoplay, with all ness indicated—and “the breakdown”, its manifold problems of story, acting, which splits this recast version into exploitation, and technical production, 360 or more individual scenes with the complete in one small scenario writer's captions, camera angles, and locations brain all in a nutshell so to speak described and numbered in most tech- for weeks at a time softens even the nical language. You can see why we most leathery mentality. Your tale's continuity writers are indispensable, psychology may be simple as the Silver what with knowing the meaning of Prize Story in the "St. Nicholas" magsuch words and inventing new ones azine, but its structural problems are

those of higher mathematics. The larger studios buy a story from For another thing, the business is the original author and employ a treat really hard to learn.

really hard to learn. Anyone with six ment writer to shape it up as a whole, months' experience about a studio can The treatment writer develops the write the breakdown form. But facildramatic structure of the piece, ab- ity in dramatic construction, a knack solves it of censorable scenes, and tries at inventing picture business, a talent to translate words into picture business. for terse, witty title writing, those are Then the breakdown man rewrites it other matters. into closeups, long shots, and the like I know of no work requiring the

the sort of thing that you read about same resourcefulness. No one would in textbooks on scenario writing. The ask a novelist or playwright to face a total result is the continuity or scena- battery of hardboiled critics, knowing rio. Apparently this procedure is little of the problems of his work, and followed in an effort to secure the invent instantly upon request. Yet safety of numbers. You put three a continuity writer does much of his people on the job and get three times work before this sort of audience, “in as fine a product, maybe.

conference". He is regarded as a conThe majority of continuity writers venient mechanism which, once the still doubt the efficacy of community penny has been inserted in the slot, story writing. That the original au- delivers on the spot a suggestion. Acthor's ideas must be subjected to trans- tors and directors work to the strain of lation is bad enough. But to pass a studio orchestra, with a tonic of opsuch fragile stuff through two other timistic comment to keep their spirits hands, to inject three personalities into up, and frequently vacations to make the total -ah me! Results too often them fit. A continuity writer attends prove that three times one equals just to the purely creative side of producnothing at all. The best continuity tion under the hypercritical eye of the writers endeavor to handle all phases staff on the one hand, and the original of the adaptation, even to editing the author on the other, working as a rule completed picture.

for fourteen hour stretches every day A shortage of continuity writers has in the week just before the picture goes



into production. Continuity writing A continuity writer gets the same may not be an art, but it is certainly thrill out of punching holes in somea skilled and strenuous craft.

body else's story that the wrecking Finally, the opportunity to write crew gets out of breaking up a De Mille that initial continuity knocks seldom setting after the film is finished. For and softly, and then - no matter how real relaxation, give me a few hours of quickly the door may be flung open- wholesome, health giving, destructive is usually to be seen vanishing deri- criticism. sively around the corner like small boys Fault finding is easy, genuine dison Hallowe'en. No business man is tinctive criticism is difficult. Few going to trust a green hand with a func- stories ideal

material. tion which, within our little circle, is From a continuity writer's viewpoint, probably the most important phase of they're all the same - fine words and picture making.

false hearts, each one imposing as a Draw close while I answer the burn- glass eye and just as impracticable. ing question. Salaries for this work Anyone can spot foolish little errors range from $200 a week to $100,000 a like anachronisms, the things that fans year, depending on the standing of the call to the attention of movie magcompany and the writer. There are azines; but the fundamentals - instaff jobs with a weekly salary; and consistent characterization, counter there are free lancers who are paid plots that take us jaunting afar, censor piece work.

baiting scenes, morbid endings, and a Continuities take from three weeks thousand others — require considerto two months to write. Men and able critical analysis to perceive and women are equally successful, as other- remedy. wise, in this work. Should you then It is a curious fact that, although desire to sell yourself into bondage, construction in novels, in short stories, charge at first about $300 for your even in plays need not attain perfection, body with, say, $2.50 extra for your a movie plot requires the most modern soul — but plan to spend at least two plumbing. Words make clear the inor three years learning your job and ner purposes of a stage or literary auanother two years breaking into it. thor; and clarity covers a multitude You will not earn while you learn. of structural sins. But movies are Unless, of course, you have made a wordless. You cannot explain. And name as poet, baseball player, aviator, when your characters are actually seen, or something of the sort.

silently moving through improbabiliLet us suppose that you have suc- ties, each illogical act, each unconvincceeded in persuading someone to trust ing change of mood and character, you with a continuity - probably one stands forth conspicuous as a coal which will not be filmed this season and heaver's nails. You must make a good, which you are attempting on a double serviceable, heavy duty plot that won't or nothing basis. First, you will read break down anywhere along the six the play, novel, or short story under thousand foot stretch ahead. the most favorable conditions, trying Moreover, your continuity will to absorb the maximum voltage, to see doubtless be written for a star on whose its best points and get the author's favor your bare thread of existence deangle. Then go into reverse and, for a pends — since any sensible producer day or so, try to discoverits weaknesses. will settle long drawn disputes by firing the writer rather than a million dollar thony Paul Kelly, Jeanie MacPherson, box office asset. And if the home office Francis Marion, Lloyd Sheldon, and has bought “Uncle Tom's Cabin" with others developed, in those happy hectic a view to sta ng Childe Harold - hours, the complicated and highly efperhaps with a slight change of locale fectual scenario form of today. To to Death Valley in order to profit by explain what it is all about, we must the success of “The Covered Wagon' leave this idle chatter to become pon

or perhaps wishes to build up Ophe- derously definite. A few sketchy comlia's part in “Hamlet” in order to give ments on the technique will not teach the ingénue star a chance, again you you to write continuities, but may permust take thought. For Hamlet must haps induce you to appreciate them. not run away with the story if the star There are two schools of continuity is to play Ophelia. And Uncle Tom writing, the narrative method and the must not steal sympathy from any dramatic method. The narrative priceless infants. My advice is to cut writer marches straight ahead from the him out entirely. The southern ter- start of his story, without great regard ritories don't like black face parts to form or final destination, always, anyway.

however, making sure that the road is May I suggest in passing that diplo- interesting. This division is discernimacy is a first requisite? You must ble in other fields. Most novelists and please from two to six persons, to con- short story writers use the narrative vince each that your script is in accord- technique. It is a much more flexible ance with what he wanted. Inasmuch - and less difficult medium than as each will champion radically dif- dramatic writing. Consequently, there ferent ideas, the ideal continuity writer is an ever present temptation to progress should possess the combined talents of easily from situation to situation Machiavelli, Lord Chesterfield, Zada “shot to shot” in studio terminology the Hypnotist, the late Mr. Tweed, and after the manner of a pulp paper the man who studied salesmanship by magazine melodrama, and to depend correspondence. Perhaps it were best upon purely physical action rather to take up the concert stage after all. than to develop the characters logically

Let us presume that you have studied and convincingly. The narrative form the story, have hunted down each of is highly effective for loosely knit the other fellow's mistakes and joy- stories of the epic type ("The Covered ously crucified it. Now you must plot Wagon" or "The Birth of a Nation"), out a treatment.

for action melodramas, and of course During the war, when picture pro- for action comedies. duction ceased in Europe, American The dramatic form of treatment restudios enjoyed an unprecedented quires the structural foundation of a boom which kept the few experienced play - to give tone to our little gatherscenario writers very busy. Since al- ing, let us say an Ibsen play. It is most any sort of picture made money, much more compact than the narraunusual latitudes in script writing were tive

style. Its

parts interlock. permitted. With new millions pour- “Plants" in earlier scenes blossom in ing in and new scripts to be written the later episodes. The story mounts, each month, experimentation became as a rule, to a single big scene, with the possible. Such writers as John Emer- typical stage dénouement, followed by son and Anita Loos, June Mathis, An- a quick finish or “tag”, as it is called in pictures. The dramatic script lends But for emotional character stories or a greater polish, a higher emotional con- delicate comedy, long sequences of untent, a more vital characterization, and broken action are better. a stronger climatic scene, as a rule, than Your first problem will be one of the narrative. But there is always the exposition and characterization. As danger of forcing the story into un- stated in a previous article, most effecnatural lines to conform with a formula. tive scenarios start like a novel, charac

Motion pictures break up naturally terizing the plot people in from one to into sequences - episodes occurring at three short episodes, and then build the one time in one general locality — just body of the story with the structure of as a play falls naturally into acts. The a play. It is sometimes possible to curtain of these sequences, or acts, is open the story proper that is, the the fade. You fade in and fade out. first incident where some such major

The earlier movies used many of interest as the meeting of the lovers or these sequences, sometimes fifty and the threat of the villain is shown sixty. Today there is a distinct tend- with the exposition, just as in a stage ency toward condensation in this re- play. But not often, unless the writer spect. Just as the Elizabethan play possesses unusual skill. And a comof many scenes and acts has been aban- paratively slow opening, devoted to doned for the compact modern drama characterization in short, genre epiof three or four acts, so the motion pic- sodes, is always preferable to a finale ture is gradually diminishing the num- slowed down by insufficient characber of its sequences. The record is terization. Nazimova's admirable screen version of Parallel action, the movies' greatest “Salome" made in just one sequence. advantage over the stage, was first disNumerous short episodes make the ef- covered by D. W. Griffith, along with fect too choppy. There is no time to the closeup and most of the other funbuild an emotional interest in any one damentals of the picture play. Par

Before the audience has thor- allel action requires the development of oughly digested the matter in hand and two simultaneous, related events. The definitely thrown its sympathy to one Negroes are attacking the shanty where character or another, the act is over and the beleaguered whites have barricaded weare"Twenty Years Later in Madrid”, themselves; and in some distant Kavor what not.

ern the Klansmen are starting to the A superfluity of sequences is usually

These two lines are then inthe hall mark of a badly written pic- tercut a flash of the fight at the ture but there is no rule. Griffith, shanty, a flash of the galloping Klansnotably, makes splendid pictures in men, back to the shanty, and so forth. multisequence form. Top notch con- When Griffith first exhibited this extinuity writers like Paul Sloans, For- traordinary novelty, a great cry went rest Halsey, or John Russell often use up from certain wiseacres

the same this method. If the action is easily people who opposed his introduction of understood “The Iron Horse" for the closeup on the ground that a example, where the interest lies in his- photograph cut off at the bust was untory and in melodrama rather than in natural — and it was predicted that character - the audience

may be audiences would never be able to foljumped about at will, and an enormous low the story. On the contrary, this amount of ground covered in this way. method of speeding the melodrama



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nearly knocked the picturegoers out of individual. A movie author cannot do their seats, and is today the most effec- this. He can only hope to sound one tive trick in the scenario writer's kit. strong note. Highly developed, inNotwithstanding, it is most unwise to volved characters confuse the screen intercut parallel action in emotional audience; there is not a multiplicity of scenes - love scenes, for example interests in such characters; there is except occasionally for purposes of con- just no interest at all. trast. Intercutting for contrast often Let us get back to particulars. In heightens an emotional or comedy ef- developing your treatment, it is well to fect. For example, just after the hand- eschew attempts at detailed writing and some city chap has sworn to our little to keep your material in a few pages of milkmaid that he never loved another notes for the first week or so. For woman, one might disclose a short flash

some singular reason, the moment a of Lady Montressa in her magnificent treatment is written at length upon boudoir, reading a love letter in which fifty odd pages of good white paper, he has said exactly the same thing. it becomes, to the author thereof, gosAn effect of this sort sometimes is good; pel. Each change thereafter is like reand sometimes it wrecks the whole setting a broken leg; and moreover, scene by breaking the emotional thread. such changes usually necessitate other So there you are.

changes in many parts of the story, A properly handled audience sym- alterations far more easily accomplished pathy is the very first requisite of a in notes than in scripts. While your good script. No audience will be in treatment is still fluid in note form, the least interested in the adventures your mind will be open to new sugof characters for whom it has no gestions; once it is written, you are sympathy; nor will it be disturbed the champion of that particular treatby a villain, smiling or otherwise, un- ment against all comers. So delay less it has cause to hate and fear writing as long as possible. And then, him. No matter how subtly these if you can secure the services of a stequantities are handled, the fundamen- nographer, dictate it. When dictating, tal fact remains that the hero and a screen writer can concentrate upon a heroine must be likable from the mental picture, a visualization of the standpoint of the audience -- a movie scene as it unreels itself. When he himaudience, mind you -- and the villain self writes, his visualizing powers are despicable. You must plant these sym- busy with typewriter keys or moving pathies or dislikes by showing your plot pen points; he has only his reason, people performing good or bad deeds, which is not altogether sufficient for respectively, at the opening of your movies. picture. And they must remain con- As to reason, or rather logic, let it be sistently in character throughout the said that lack of it is hurtful and that story. Always make your point in too much of it is ruinous. Your event pictures. A novelist or playwright can must seem logical. But if you go furjuggle with psychological values. His ther to insist that, upon analysis, it be manysided personalities arouse definite logical, your story may dry up comsympathies or dislikes in the reader or pletely. It is not life that you are tryspectator because the author is able to ing to present. Were that the case, explain, in words, the presence of un- you could easily film without more ado characteristic qualities in this or that the “Banker Has Love Nest, Says

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