Study Kurosawa For Emotional Script Integrity

Screenwriting Creates Master Emotions

In essence, the screenwriter’s job is to create plot, emotions and characters on the page.   The directors job is to translate the script to the screen.  Note that I didn’t include dialogue.  In feature films, dialogue is useful when it is necessary.  Feature Films – and cinematic Television and Streaming media more and more – convey emotions and plot through imagery.   The reliance on dialogue has become more and more relegated to Sit-coms and soap operas.

According to this BBC article, all emotion emotions can be broken down into six basic human emotions. Happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

Why is this?

Audiences Rely on Sight More than Sound

First of all, I personally believe that I rely more upon sight than sound.  We process more information through our eyes than any other sense.  According to one source at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the ‘investigators calculate that the human retina can transmit data at roughly 10 million bits per second. By comparison, an Ethernet can transmit information between computers at speeds of 10 to 100 million bits per second.’ This sense dominates the next closest sense – touch – which receives 1 million bits of information per second.   This sensory ‘bandwidth’ means that Visuals dominate.


The Eyes Have It!

Furthermore, the only senses available to the audience our Sight and Sound.  We cannot reach out and touch the actors nor feel the wind.  Even the burgeoning technology of Virtual Reality is limited to Sight and Sound.


The First Thing that Directors and Actors Change

Dialogue.  Directors and actors change dialogue more than any other part of the script.  Familiarity breeds contempt.  Everybody talks so everybody thinks that they can make dialogue better.  Not until you read the dialogue of Neil Simon, Eugene O’Neill and other great writers do you realize that tampering with dialogue is dangerous.

When I hear people say that they can write a script because they’ve watched a lot of movies, then I ask them: “Do you listen to music?”  When they say ‘yes’, then I ask them ‘what instrument do you play?”

Viewing is not Doing.

The Producer who reads your script and wants to buy your script and – hopefully – finance the film must love your imagery.   Powerful images stay with us long after the lights have come on in the theater.

Study this video

Powerful Image Inspiration – Akira Kurosawa

Finally, we come to this conclusion:  if we want to write powerful imagery in our script, then we have to study powerful imagery.  Many directors come to mind – David Lean’s soaring panoramas, John Ford’s Western vista and Akira Kurosawa’s captivating cinematic movement.    A useful exercise for screenwriters is to watch a scene in a favorite film – and then write the script.   Usually, imagery driven scenes don’t take long to write.  Again, it’s the dialogue that churns out the pages.

First of all, when you watched the Kurosawa video on Composing Movement, did you watch it for only Composition?  Or did you watch it for Composition in relation to Emotion?  Remember in our first paragraph that the BBC article said that there were six basic human emotions. Happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.    Which emotions do you see in relation to the camera movement to create powerful images.

But if you watch a specific scene from a film and then translate it to the blank page, you will learn how to convey that imagery and preserve your script’s integrity by seducing the producer and director with your work.  Some films where I performed this exercise include “Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “The Great Escape” (during the escape scene and the railway station) as well as “Yojimbo” and “Seven Samurai”.


Additional Resources:

Focal Lengths Used by Akira Kurosawa


Akira Kurosawa – Wikipedia Page

Akira Kurosawa’s World War II Movies