Imply Don't Show


I took the script of the project from a spare 25 notecard second draft up to 37 notecards yesterday, bringing in additional notecards from my first draft, filling in between existing scenes, and trying to create a more dramatic story arc: one of the characters searching for a girlfriend to no avail and the other couple easing into a physical relationship gradually and the things they argue about. In the process I realized that I’ve been writing these moments in a representational style once again, a criticism leveled against the pictures I’ve made thus far that I agree with strongly; I’ve been saying since the holidays that I need to make pictures that are more expressive of the moment between two characters, what it is to feel and be in that moment, than the representational approach of: here this is exactly what happened. And I know the approach I use, asking myself what the next story beat is and then showing that moment happening, is the cause.

As I was going through iTunes yesterday adding music back onto my laptop I came across bluegrass mandolin player Chris Thile’s instrumental song ‘Club G.R.O.S.S.’ (a mandolin/saxophone duet no less!). Thile said that when he was writing the song he would hear in his head the next note of the melody and then intentionally chose instead the note to either side of what sounded in his head like the “correct” note. It’s a completely unsingable melody as a result, but really compelling for it as well. And I was thinking about some of the shots I did in December of one of the characters lying in bed with a girl late at night while she sleeps (or he; we did it both ways) and realized that the way I’m writing my notecard bullet points for the story is to show the story beat that seemed like it need to be communicated: the characters meeting for the first time, the characters falling in love over dinner, the characters trying to pickup someone at a bar, the characters drunkenly hooking up. Those moments as written would make images we would look at and know instantly what’s going on in them and that’s because I’m showing exactly what happened in the scene (this is what I mean by representational rather than expressive). I need to take a cue from Club G.R.O.S.S. and write out the moments in the story that are currently offscreen, that happen on either side of the moments I’ve already chosen and shoot those instead, because the moments to either side imply what happens without showing it like all the offstage action in Shakespeare’s plays that’s more graphic because we have to visualize it for ourselves. So forget the storyteller’s dictum, show don’t tell, I need to imply don’t show.