This Reading Review is based on the Lesson 06 reading from Robert McKee’s Story.
There are 10 questions. The Review is not graded.
According to McKee, which of the following should your dialog NOT do?
Be comprised of short, simply-constructed sentences
Be as close to real conversation as possible
Have the swing of everyday talk, but with content well above normal
Be created with compression and economy
Hint: “Dialog is not conversation.” (Page 388, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Screen dialog, therefore, must have the swing of everyday talk but content well above normal. …First, screen dialog requires compression and economy. …The playwright may spin elaborate and ornate dialog—but not the screenwriter. Screen dialog demands short, simply constructed sentences.” (Page 389, Robert McKee’s Story)
An early form of Greek theatre
A rapid exchange of short speeches.
A languid exchange of long, descriptive speeches
A column of dialog from the top to the bottom of the page
Hint: “Long speeches are antithetical with the aesthetics of cinema.” (Page 390, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “The essence of screen dialog is what was known in Classical Greek theatre as stikomythia—the rapid exchange of short speeches. Long speeches are antithetical with the aesthetics of cinema.” (Page 390, Robert McKee’s Story) (Page 233, Robert McKee’s Story)
Which of the following does McKee not say?
Image is our first choice, dialog a regretful second choice.
Never waste time on description when a few lines of dialog will suffice.
Never write a line of dialog when you can create a visual expression.
Hint: “Perfect, isn’t it? Erotic, purely visual, not a word said or necessary. That’s screenwriting.” (Page 394, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Dialog is the last layer we add to the screenplay. Make no mistake, we all love great dialog, but less is more. When a highly imagistic film shifts into dialog, it crackles with excitement and delights the ear.” (Page 394, Robert McKee’s Story)
According to McKee, only that which can be photographed should be included in your description. Which of these, then, would not properly be used?
“Just beyond the mist, a castle threatens the cottages in the valley below.”
“Elaine’s eyes narrow. She decides to kill Mitch’s girlfriend at next week’s party.”
“Cody sneaks his hand into the envelope. He stops when Ben smiles.”
“A crushed birthday present waits like an awkward guest on the welcome mat.”
Hint: “‘He’s been sitting there for a long time’ can’t be photographed. So we constantly discipline the imagination with this question: What do I see on screen?” (Page 396, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “Eliminate all metaphor and simile that cannot pass this test: ‘What do I see or hear onscreen?’ We can’t read future plans, such as Elaine’s decision to kill Mitch’s girlfriend at a specific future time, just by looking at her face onscreen.
“The metaphor, ‘A mansion guards…’ and the simile ‘The door slams like a gunshot…’ pass the test in that a mansion can be photographed from a foreground angle that gives the impression it shelters or guards a village below it; a door slam can crack the ear like a gunshot.”
(Page 396, Robert McKee’s Story)
In order to help the reader imagine how the film will be shot, it’s important for a screenwriter to be able to describe how the camera will move and how the film will be edited.
Hint: “‘We see’ injects an image of the crew looking through the lens and shatters the script reader’s vision of the film.” (Page 397, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct “Eliminate ‘we see’ and ‘we hear.’ ‘We’ doesn’t exist. …‘We see’ injects an image of the crew looking through the lens and shatters the script reader’s vision of the film.
“Eliminate all camera and editing notations. In the same way actors ignore behavioral description, directors laugh at RACK FOCUS TO, PAN TO, TIGHT TWO SHOT ON, and all other efforts to direct the film from the page.” (Page 397, Robert McKee’s Story)
Strategies by which to have action take place in an off-screen space
Ways to treat film stock in order to subliminally frighten or relax an audience member
Imagery or sound that repeats throughout a film as subliminal communication
Hint: “Like every work of art, a film is a unity in which every object relates to every other image or object.” (Page 401, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: An Image System repeats in sight and sound as a subliminal communication to increase the depth and complexity of aesthetic emotion.
“An Image System is created one of two ways, via External [say, the American flag or a crucifix] or Internal imagery.” Internal Imagery “may or may not have a symbolic meaning attached but brings it into the film to give it an entirely new meaning appropriate to this film and this film alone.” (Page 402, Robert McKee’s Story)
McKee cites LES DIABOLIQUE as a film using External Imagery. What is the motif used in this film?
Blood and the color red
Hint: “Now she heads toward the bathroom off the office, her heart raging. She creaks open the bathroom door, and there he is—still in his three-piece suit…”(Page 404, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “From this first image on, Image System ‘water’ is continually and subliminally repeated. It’s always drizzly and foggy. Condensation on the windows runs in little drops to the sills. …Swimming pool, bathtubs… it’s one of the dampest films ever made.”
Outside this film water is a universal symbol of all things positive: sanctification, purification, the feminine—archetype for life itself. But Clouzot reverses these values until water takes on the power of death, terror, and evil, and the sound of a dripping faucet brings the audience up out of its seats.” (Page 404, Robert McKee’s Story)
Which of the following is not an Image System used in CASABLANCA?
Hint: “Repeated images, including dialog in which characters speak to Rick as if he were a country, associate Rick to America until he comes to symbolize America itself.” (Page 405, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “CASABLANCA weaves three Image Systems. Its primary motifs create a sense of imprisonment as the city of Casablanca becomes a virtual penitentiary.” … “Casablanca starts s a refugee center, but becomes a mini-United Nations filled with not only Arab and European faces, but Asian and African ones as well.” … “The third system is linking and separating. A number of images and compositions within the frame are used to link Rick and Ilsa, making the subliminal point that although these two are apart, they belong together. (Page 405, Robert McKee’s Story)
McKee notes that in ALIENS, the sequel to ALIEN, not only does the genre switch from horror to action/adventure but the Image System switches from
A feminine Image System to a masculine Image System
A claustrophobic Image System to an agoraphobic Image System
A body organ Image System to a machinery Image System
An erotic Image System to a motherhood Image System
Hint: “When ALIEN was released Time magazine ran a ten-page article with stills and drawings asking the question: “Has Hollywood gone too far?” (Page 407, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “They reinvented the Image System to motherhood as Ripley becomes the surrogate mother of the child Newt (Carrie Henn), who in turn is the surrogate mother of her broken doll. The two are up against the most terrifying “mother” in the universe, the gigantic monster queen who lays her eggs in a womblike nest. In dialogue, Ripley remarks, ‘The monsters make you pregnant.’”(Page 406, Robert McKee’s Story)
McKee says, “Screenwriters… cannot indulge in literary, nontitle titles…” Which of these is an example of what McKee says not to do?
Kramer vs. Kramer
Moment by Moment
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Hint: “An effective title points to something solid that is actually in the story—character, setting, theme or genre.” (Page 409, Robert McKee’s Story)
Correct: “My favorite non-title title is MOMENT BY MOMENT. MOMENT BY MOMENT is the working title I always use until I figure out the title.
“…An effective title points to something solid that is actually in the story—character, setting, theme or genre. The best titles often name two or all elements at once.” (Pages 408-409, Robert McKee’s Story)