Friday, November 17, 2006

Tears In Your Eyes?

So what's my problem. Am I cold-hearted bastard? Or just a even-tempered realist? I ask only because have received big-time thumbs up for my latest script for this TV series. Very nice. And encouraging to hear because I also thought it was pretty good, if I don't say so myself (still have to wait to hear from the network though - all could change).

But have had a couple of readers say things like: "I got tears in my eyes when I read the scene where X's family learns mom is going to recover from her illness." Tears in their eyes? Whaaaa? I can't ever remember reading a screenplay and choking up. I'll do it the movie theatre or while watching the tv episode (I am human, contrary to the opinion of some), but reading it? Sorry. Nada.

I might chuckle at some clever dialogue, but that's about it. Even reading a scene that plays funny, I don't find myself laughing outloud while reading it. But I have been in the presence of people putting down a script of mine they were reading because they were howling at a funny situation in the story(and it was supposed to be smartass comments). Whaaaaa?

Watching it play out on screen and getting an emotional response, that I understand. Reading it? Don't understand. Or at least, can't relate.

Are we talking about different kinds of personalities here? Or just different types of readers?

I've always been of the mind if it reads really sad or emotional or comical, it's going to play too big on screen. That probably was born out of Film Directing 101 when I was taught if a scene is being performed and everyone behind the camera is cracking up or holding back the tears, it's probably playing too big...and will read as over the top when it gets to the finished program.

But part of the job of a script is to 'sell' the story to the reader. Presumably, a producer, director, network exec, actor, studio head, etc. will be more interested in a screenplay that evoked some feelings or emotions in them over a screenplay that didn't. But how much of that is in the writing, and how much of that is out of your control because its going on in a specific type of readers head? I'm thinking it's the latter because I didn't write it any different than I usually do.

Reading a script vs. watching a show, and the emotional responses that can occur. That's the topic.

SONG & ARTIST? - "4 the tears in your eyes
And the tears of sorrow
4 cents may be all that they're worth (All they're worth)
For the rising sun each day assures us
The meek shall inherit the earth..."


Emily Blake said...

I've cried reading a book for sure, but a script is so dependent on the actor's interpretation and the director's choices, I don't see how you could get the full picture in written form. I've cried writing a script because I'd become the characters in my head, but yeah, I agree, I don't think a script has ever made me cry. And I'm an easy weeper.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I consider myself to be a rather emotionally sensitive individual, psychically intuitive, even. I've read novels and a few screenplays that have scared me shitless and/or made me burst into tears.

But if you're talking specifically about material I, personally, have written, Wil, I can say without an ounce of shame that I have been deeply, deeply moved by some of the stuff I've written. Especially death scenes. A major character in my TV series will bite the dust in a sudden and gruesome way, and every time I go oven the scene, I start sobbing. I think that's partly because I use my abilities as an actress and play out -- sometimes physically, sometimes only in my mind -- the scene in question, as if it were actually happening, with actors/people I know. When I'm reading a script I generally don't analyze it from a technical aspect but from an emotional one.

Perhaps in time, when I become more experienced, I'll be able to see things in a more objective/technical light, as you, Alex, Denis and others have learned to do. But emotional restraint and calculating objectivity have never been my strong points.


wcdixon said...

Alex maybe (pretty serious that dude), but Denis is Mr. Sensitive...I'm sure he 'blubbers like a leetle girrrl'(performed as Dieter from SNL)

Optimistic_Reader said...

Nope, I've not cried at a script I've read but I've cried when writing my own. And not always due to the pain of banging my head against the keyboard repeatedly. But if you can make someone cry with your script, you're onto a good thing. I cried last night at a something on TV and I'd love to know if I would have had the same reaction to the scene if I'd read it, instead of seeing it dramatised.

DMc said...

I haven't cried since that time I killed that clown.

And even then, they were tears of joy.

Clown had it coming.

wcdixon said...


DMc said...

I'd do it again, clownlover.

wcdixon said...

Can I watch?

I like to watch.

Caroline said...

I have shed a tear over other's writing, but not my own. I think you are almost too close to your own stuff so you are almost desensitized to it, if that makes any sense at all. It lives in you too long and you know every inch of it.

Movies, I cry all the time. TV shows, too. Even a particularly sappy commercial will get me depending on my mood. But don't tell anybody. It ruins the bitchy facade I've got going.

BTW, I hate clowns so kill them all. They are creepy creepy. Mimes too.

Diane Kristine said...

Am I cold-hearted bastard?


But seriously ... I get as emotionally invested in what I read as what I watch. If it's going to make me cry on screen, it will probably make me cry in the script.

Alex Epstein said...

When it's good, I cry. Or laugh. (When it's bad I snarl and growl.)

I cry at my own stuff, when it feels right. And I laugh at my own jokes.

I've laughed at comedy scripts. That's how I know the writer is good. I've also not laughed at comedy scripts. If I don't laugh, my feeling is, it's not funny.

Oh, sure, I'll look at stuff analytically. But when I pick up something I haven't looked at in a while -- mine or someone else's -- I read it emotionally.

wcdixon said...

Mr. Epstein makes a stop by Uninflected...very cool - long time no see.

Well maybe Diane is correct, I am a cold-hearted bastard...since I can't even remember crying tears over anything 'I've' written, much less someone else stuff...

DMc said...

Okay, clowns aside...

Evil..worthless...greasepaint sucking...

No. Okay. Breathe. Um.

I don't cry at things. I get sad and come close but I think I've cried exactly twice at a movie. One, bizarrely, was at Bill Murray in the Razor's Edge when he discovered his freespirited wife dead.

And one was when Alex took the last Flaky bar from Boni the candy lady in South Africa.

No. Um. I don't remember the second one.

I'm with you Will. I can perceive emotion and the hopeful intent, but I can't really *see* the emotion from a screen/teleplay, because it is just a template.

Strangely though, I love plays and playscripts, and if I've come close to tearing up, it's not been from a screenplay's been from the words, pure and simple, in a playscript. Because I can't turn off the analytical part of me that reads a script and sees the camera and imagines the shot and the coverage, and how this could be underplayed or filmed or covered for maximum advantage. And impact.

Because a TV or a movie script is never meant to be final. It's a blueprint for something else.

Where a play is text that just needs the interpretation of a superior actor and director. And whether I'm in row one or the nosebleeds, I'm going to see that moment. I don't have to imagine as much, so I can turn off the inner craftsman and let my girly man get all freaky.

Does that make sense?

Crashdummie said...

No, it doesn't make you a cold-hearted bastard Will.

There are many ways to feel, and what truly touches us varys.

Ok, lets experiment - try reading the post "Miss you" ( and see if you feel anything... at all.

And hey, don't worry abt passing the test, just update me regarding the outcome.. getting kinda curious...

wcdixon said...

Makes perfect sense, me anyway.

I've often found myself getting envious of those who are able to just 'get into the moment' of reading script/book/play or even watching movie/tv show and let it move them in whatever way they will be moved. Seems like they enjoy stuff more than I do. Unfortunately, that analytical switch of which you speak is generally set to 'On' in me also. Just turning it off doesn't seem to be an option.

Excellent answer a little teary reading it actually - whaaaa? wait a sec!

Production meeting beckons.

TV Minion said...

Dude, that Petro-Canada 'He says you're like a brother because you wear the maple leaf' commercial that comes on around the Olympics makes -me- cry. So I'm a bad person to ask.

Bill Cunningham said...

Welcome to the club, ya' Bastard!

Leave your dues at the bar...

wcdixon said...

"4 The Tears In Your Eyes"