Friday, April 29, 2011

Short story to screenplay

I ran across an interview with Larry McMurtry a couple of weeks ago that started me on a reading journey that I want to share.

He is, of course, the author of many novels, including my favorite Lonesome Dove, as well as Terms of Endearment, The Last Picture Show, and many others. He is also a noted essayist, bookseller and screenwriter.

In the interview he said that a particular work by Annie Proulx was a masterpiece, the short story Brokeback Mountain. I assume you are familiar with the Academy Award winning film (best director and best screenplay) of the same name by Ang Lee which came out in 2005. It is about a pair of unlikely lovers in Wyoming in 1963. It was a very powerful piece of cinema. Perhaps you are, like I was, unaware that the film screenplay originated from a short story.

So I ordered the book of short stories by Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories and read them all. This is a terrific collection of short stories. In writing this article I learned that there are two more volumes of Wyoming stories, so I just ordered them from my library too!

Which brings me to my point. I then found a book called Brokeback Mountain, Story to Screenplay. It contained the short story, and the screenplay, as well as essays by all three authors about their experiences with the story, the screenplay, and the making of the movie. It is a fascinating book.

I read it cover to cover, then after a few days, I watched the film Brokeback Mountain while re-reading the screenplay.

(Remember, I am a big fan of Larry McMurtrys’ work: I once watched Lonesome Dove, all eight hours of it, while simultaneously re-reading the novel for about the fourth time, and that was ten years ago.)

Admittedly, this is a sad story, and maybe not the best vehicle for this kind of study of a screenplay, but what a fascinating journey this has been.

I saw the film a year after it came out, about five years ago, so I knew the story. But to re-read it, learning the characters this time from a short story, and then to read the screenplay and see that take on the characters, the dialogue, and the scenes and how they are broken down, and finally to re-read the screenplay while watching the film: Wow!

I have learned so much about the mechanics of film, about screenplays, and how a story can be a masterpiece; well, so much that it prompted me to write this blog entry and link it to facebook.

So, if you have ever wondered what a screenplay looks like, here is a fantastic opportunity to learn more.

1 comment:

  1. I am headed out to the library to pick up both books. Thanks for the suggestion and ain't retired life just grand!