František „Frank“ Daniel about some major mistakes in scripts

The major mistakes that I see in scripts very often are at the beginning of films. Too long introductions, too detailed expositions that drag before the story starts. – And there are unsatisfying endings.

These two things are connected. There is sagging of the story after the middle. Somehow the energy is not there. The engine does not work. Long, long speeches, explanations instead of showing things, heavy philosophizing, psychologizing, that sort of things.

This is especially the problem in Europe. The inability and unwillingness to take the audience into consideration. It is difficult to convince European film makers that you must take the audience into consideration. But otherwise, you cannot structure the film. You don’t know where to start, what to tell, when to tell it, what to hide, what to reveal – because all this is a question of story TELLING.

What I am talking about is the art and craft of scriptwriting. This is what a scriptwriter must learn. And it is one of the most difficult things to learn.

European film makers write a lot of confessions or memoires, but you as people must write about people – a script is not a lyrical poem. It is shown in a theatre where people pay to see something that gives them excitement for two hours.

The mistake is that people believe that you must adapt to the taste of the audience. That is wrong. You can be as sophisticated as you can – as long as you are understood. You can talk for hours and if you are not understood you haven’t said anything. The same thing is true with films. There were images on the screen, but they were not a movie. THE MOVIE is only happening WITH THE AUDIENCE.

This partly explains why European audiences almost always understand American films, while on the other hand Americans have much more problems with the understanding of European films. – In other words, American film makers want to be understood, Europeans don’t care… or care less. Very often they are not understood in Germany or France either. They are artists who make art, so why should they care to be understood.

Films can be national, local, exotic whatever is in the material they present, but the EMOTION of the characters had better be universal – which means humane. Every human being on this earth should be able to identify with the emotions when you want to reach audiences anywhere in the world. Material can be local, can be alien, or whatever. You can make a film about Inuits but their emotions must be universal. THEY ARE NOT SPOKEN. They are reactions caused by physiological and psychological reasons that happen to every human being. That’s what makes them universal.

Film storytelling, the craft and art of it, depends mainly on the ability to help the viewers to perceive – i.e. to see, to hear, to feel and understand – what’s happening on the screen, and to enjoy it with growing interest and involvement.

Sure, an artist cannot give all his/her attention to the audience. He/she has the characters, events, story, theme to explore first.

Sure, in Hollywood this constant concern for the audience changes very often into an empty, soulless, calculated arrangement of effects – which is deadly for the art.

But it doesn’t change the fact that it is in the hands of the film-story-teller to make people laugh, cry or feel suspense. He/She can either involve the viewers – or bore them.