Skip to main content

Theatrical Tuesday - The Godfather

Tuesday

In preparing for school this fall, I've undertaken self-directed film study. One of the films I've been studying is The Godfather. If you haven't seen it, you should stop reading this post and go watch it. There is a basic breakdown of the plot in this post, so you've been warned.

One of my theories about screenwriting is that films have roles outside of the actors. The director has his part to play, the camera people, the other crew members, etc. And I've seen this in theatre. One of the suggestions people have said to me is to read scripts to learn about writing them, but I think you only get a part of the picture that way and here's why:

1. You might forget things that would be helpful to the actors and director. Example, the cat in the opening scene never leaves the scene in the screenplay.

2. You might not account for things like an actor who likes to misbehave. Example, Marlon Brando hated following rules or even reading screenplays.

3. You might put things in that are impossible. Imagine if someone wrote the screenplays for Lord of the Rings 30 years ago and how the battle scenes would've looked had a studio even been able to be convinced that the money out was worth taking a chance on. If you're starting out, this really matters. You're a long way from being Peter Jackson in skill and reputation.

One of the things I'm preoccupied with in terms of learning to write screenplays is knowing what I should and shouldn't put in them. To help figure this out and to learn a little before school starts, I'm watching movies, reading their screenplays, and reading what others have written about them.

In the opening scene of The Godfather, there is a man in a room that is mostly dark. He's wearing dark clothes. His face is what we see and it's a close up. As he talks, the camera slowly zooms out. This camera change isn't in the screenplay, but the effect on the scene and the story set up is dramatic. We get a little closer and see a little more of the story as it zooms out. It's awhile before we see Vito "Don" Corleone aka The Godfather. I don't yet know what the technical term would be, but I think it's reasonable to assume people include this style of zoom out in screenplays now because of this film.

We move from that dark scene to a bright one as Vito's daughter is celebrating her wedding outside. The movie moves between light and dark many times throughout and this has great impact on how the audience responds to the film. When it's a dark scene, we become conditioned to know some heavy, bloody stuff is going to happen.

It's outside in the light that we meet the main character Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) during his sister's wedding. He is different than his family and keeps his distance, preferring to stay in the light and be “good”. And his father seems to want Michael to stay out of the family business too. It's not that Michael hasn't killed anyone. He's a soldier. But killing for your country is good while killing for your mob family is not.

The family comes under attack as other families want to dethrone them because Vito has declared drug dealing to be a dirty business and they should stick to gambling and sex-related ventures. The others see how much money there is in drugs and begin killing off members of the Corleone family. Michael is sent away for safety and his wife is blown up in a car bomb that was meant for him. Eventually, Vito dies while playing with his grandson and Michael is the only one strong enough to become head of the family. He swears vengeance and has his men take retribution all over the city at the same time, so there's no possible way for the others to strike back. He's at a baptism while this is happening so he can deny knowledge of what was happening.

So much can be learned from this film in terms of story, film making, acting, simplicity in special effects, and more.

This movie truly is a masterpiece that ages well.

And it's because of Marlon Brando that Al Pacino was cast as Michael. Early on, he wasn't cutting it. It wasn't until the restaurant scene, when Michael truly becomes part of the family that Al showed he had what it took to be Michael Corleone. It's fascinating to me to think about this. Like he needed the character's transformation in order to make his own transformation as an actor.

As a budding screenwriter, what I've learned from the Godfather is to make use of things like Day and Night deliberately in my horror script. Maybe my creatures sleep during the day, so everything seems safe in the daylight. Maybe once they've eaten, they get sleepy and find a place to rest. Maybe really emotional scenes also only happen at night, like the deep honesty that comes out at 3AM when people feel extra vulnerable.

I feel like you have to be a lot more open to changes as a screenwriter. It's much harder to go and produce a movie yourself than it is to self-publish a novel. Movies require a lot of teamwork.

And I wonder how much direction of the scene is reasonable to include as directors like their artistic freedom. Perhaps it's a case of how much something matters to the overall story. Maybe you need a closeup of an eyeball for instilling a creepy feeling, but the rest of the directions really don't matter.

I'm looking forward to learning more in the fall. In the meantime, I'm reading books, specs, and plugging away at my first screenplay. Oh, a spec is the screenplay that gets bought, but usually is changed quite a bit for production. Not all screenplays that get purchased get produced.

Anyway, back to my screenplay.

Salut,
R~

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Gauntlet That Was October

I had a lot of things happen in October. I watched Frankenstein in the cemetery with friends. I had tea with a friend. I started a new sport: curling. This is really fun and I'm enjoying the level of activity it provides and all the strategic elements. I'll do a separate post on it soon. Unfortunately, soon after my first game, I came down with Covid and so did the friend who I had tea with, so I think we both caught it at the place we went to. That wasn't fun. I already posted about that. I was fortunate to be free of it in time to attend Can-Con where I took in lots of panels, saw some of the wonderful writer community, bought many new books, and volunteered to help out in the rooms. The following weekend, I went to the livestream for Danielle Allard's new album release, followed by the in person release. As part of this, she has a 6 video series that releases every Sunday on her YouTube at 1:15 PM EDT. Video number 2, Falling Into Place, is one that I feel fortunate

2023 - Week 40

I felt a touch rough on Monday. After exchanging some shoes, I needed electrolytes. The heat with the egg thing made me a bit nauseus. I had lots of fluids before having noodles for dinner. That made me feel better. When Tuesday came about, I was looking forward to what I might be learning at GSL curling in the evening. I was also excited to being on the ice as a break from the unseasonal heat. It's spooky season! It's supposed to be a cool and cuddly time. We should be wearing hoodies (or bunny hugs if you prefer). Instead, I was sweating in jeans as I simply walked from my condo building to my car. Wednesday's plan was streaming, but I also hoped to fit an exchange at Home Depot in as I got the wrong shelf size for a project. Really, my original plan for something didn't work, so I was choosing to go a different way. I did stream, but I didn't get to Home Depot. Thursday featured work followed by packing for my spooky weekend away with friends. I got my oil and my

Change is in the Air

I've been making a lot of changes lately around my home and some of them might seem a little odd, but they're making me happy. One thing I've done is taken apart my dining table. I never eat in there or have people over to eat. It was just another horizontal surface that would collect things like receipts, odd screws from various projects, and countless piles of paper. I had been frustrated because of the clutter it encouraged, but also because I didn't have a space for my Yamaha keyboard. I had been trying to use my keyboard in the living room, but it felt too cluttered and it wasn't sitting at the right height. With it now in my dining room, I was able to relocate my storage bench, which happens to be the perfect height to sit at while playing my keyboard. I now have much more breathing room. There is still a lot of mess to handle here yet, but I'm making solid progress. A lot of people suggest the bedroom is the place to start when decluttering, but I haven&#