Focusing the story - Between the screenplay and the audience - The Director as clarifier of the film's story

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This paper investigates the role of the film director as a clarifier of the film’s story, between the story’s existence in the screenplay and the story as it appears in the finished film. Using selected scenes from the screenplay and film of Trumbo (2015, director Jay Roach, writers John McNamara and Bruce Cook), this paper examines the director’s transformation of the screenplay into a film through the creative choices they make in visualising and staging the presentation of the story. Much has been written about screenplays being blueprints or production manuals for films (Böhm & Batty 2022, Maras 2009, Nelmes 2007,Price 2010a) as well as the creative tensions during script development and re-writes (Taylor & Batty 2016, Bloore 2012, Macdonald 2010). Yet after all this creative activity, which is centred on getting the screenplay exactly ‘right’, a screenplay is again subject to the creative interpretation of the director who will ultimately stage and visualise its contents. It is at this mediating point, that the director, as the final creative interpreter of the story, must transcend the written words on the page to maximise the clarity by which the writer’s story is presented to the audience in a visual form. This paper seeks to demonstrate that consciously being the clarifier of the film’s story is a key function of the director’s role. Thus, rather than slavishly reproducing the exact dialogue and big print as they appear in the screenplay, the director’s function is to take the essence and intent of the film’s story as it exists in written form in the screenplay and present it as simply and clearly as practical to maximise the possibility that the audience correctly interprets the story.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusUnpublished - 28 Jun 2023
EventAustralian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA) Conference - Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 28 Jun 202329 Jun 2023 (2023 ASPERA Conference)


ConferenceAustralian Screen Production Education & Research Association (ASPERA) Conference
Abbreviated titleASPERA
Otherhe ASPERA Annual Conference is hosted each year by one of our member institutions. It is an opportunity for member delegates, academics and practitioners working in the field of screen production education and research to share insights on a range of pertinent issues and develop networks for ongoing and future collaborations.
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