Careers in Film for Storytellers
As is often said, film is a visual medium. With giant screens and the ability to present dazzling special effects, audiences want to be wowed by what they see on the screen. But all the visual razzmatazz in the world will leave audiences cold if there’s not a good, solid story to take them on a journey. While there are many professionals in charge of creating the look of the film, there are also those whose focus is on the plot. If you’re looking into a career in film and are most interested in the storytelling, here are some positions you may want to explore:
- Screenwriter. Most obviously, the screenwriter is tasked with developing an engaging script for the director to shoot. Although it may be a story of his or her own creation, remember that many of the films made today are based on novels, short stories, or other sources. (Hence the Oscar category “Best Adapted Screenplay.”) Although a screenplay may begin as the sole creation of one writer, often in Hollywood it winds up being “written by committee.” If a studio is nervous that a script isn’t up to par, one or more additional writers may be brought in to “pump up the material”–or to change it completely. This may be done with or without the original screenwriter’s collaboration. Once the director gets his or her hands on it, be prepared for it go through some more changes. Oh, and the lead actor doesn’t like this or that line? Gone! Except for the very most successful screenwriters, you can expect your material to be altered. Some screenwriters–such as Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantion–avoid this by directing their films themselves.
- Script Supervisor. Did the soup in a character’s bowl go from empty to full to empty again? Is a cigarette barely smoked in one take and then down to the filter three seconds later? These are both problems with continuity. When the images in a movie change radically in an unrealistic (and clearly unintentional) way, it takes the viewer out of the story. One of the main duties of the Script Supervisor is to maintain the continuity of the film. He or she also updates the shooting script to reflect any changes that have been made.
- Editor. The editor is the professional who assembles the film together after it’s been shot. A movie that runs two hours in the theater may have been whittled down from hours and hours of footage. The editor works with the director to select the best shots, and put the scenes together in a way that tells the most compelling story. (Remember, films are often shot out of sequence–the scene shot on the first day may actually take place towards the end of the film.) The editor creates the pace of the movie–fast-paced with quick cuts, long, tension-filled scenes, or anywhere in between.