Last week I had a notes meeting with the producer of the movie version of Dirty Sweet. It was a strange feeling to talk about the material – the characters and situations I’d created – as if it was something we’d found.
It was sort of like talking about myself in the third person.
But the notes were all good, which was a relief. The producer was one of the producers of Chicago so I was worried he’d want to turn it into a musical. Well, he also produced movies like Exit Wounds and Knights of the South Bronx so that’s good.
The notes all had to do with finding ways to show the characters develop, ways that in the books I would just put in the narration. Some things can be turned into dialogue but some things just don’t sound right.
The process is interesting and maybe it even helps to imagine how a scene would play out as a movie. On the one hand you’d get an actual person with facial expressions, subtle little clues to their feelings, you’d get music to help the mood along, you’d get close ups and wide shots with lots of characters. But on the other hand you wouldn’t really get inside anyone’s head.
There are a few flashbacks in the book, sometimes one character tells another about something that happened years ago and sometimes a character just thinks about something that happened years ago. In some cases the dialogue can be translated into the screenplay, but for the scenes in which a character is thinking about the past, the question of flashbacks came up. Some how-to books about screenplay writing say never use flashbacks. But a lot of my favourite movies have flashbacks. The same with a narrator. The books say never, but some of my favourite movies have narration.
What do you think? Flashbacks? Narration? Yes or no? Which movies have used flashbacks or narration really well and which ones are the examples for why those things shouldn't be used?