Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms- Alfred Hitchcock.

I bet when the TV set was invented, many who were used to the radio, were shocked at this new and strange phenomenon; I can imagine the excitement in the air as many wondered what to expect. Suddenly it was not just voices but pictures as well that told stories, it must have been epic.

Now to present day and there is nothing strange about a TV at least to most people, and today we are used to that visual medium…but are we using it effectively?

As a script writer, one has to understand the role that dialogue and action play in a script; script writing 101 is how to balance the two …and today’s productions all use scripts , I would like to believe so as after all we are building a world class media.

I think that the screen is an under used tool in many of the African stories, why? Well when you watch a scene where someone’s mother has died and instead of connecting with the loss, the only thing you feel is the irritation and sometimes anger that is sparked by the poor and obvious acting, I think we have a problem.

Dialogue is one of the most overused tools in most productions; almost everything is said through words…little wonder why actors often feel the need to dramatize instead of act.

Where in lies the problem? Is it with the writers, the directors or the actors?

 I have hardly connected with a character in most productions, not because the story is lacking, but because the delivery is just wanting.

I remember titanic, the last scene where Jack is dying as Rose holds on to the floating piece of the ship… that is the scene that gets most people and it has mostly no words, but the actors move you to the point that you empathize with them and you are drawn into their world so powerfully you have to recover after wards…that is what delivery entails.

Sarafina was also another production that got the audience to actually relate and empathize with the characters.

The screen exists so that the audience can visualize what they can’t through listening; that means it should be less talking and more action… in fact most professional script writers emphasize on showing rather than telling.

As a continent, despite all the problems facing the broadcast and film industries let us invest in maximizing the use of the screen… let’s show and not tell

 Compiled by Christine Mwai

4 thoughts on “THE ROLE OF THE SCREEN

  1. I think the problem lies with both sides of that coin..1 we rarely have natural actors and actresses gracing our screens…our film culture (the kenyan one at least) insists on using theatre actors for film. Whereas we have good thespians, the two are worlds apart and that is why most of the time we have a disconnect between the film/movie and the actors. 2. The scripts are a bit wanting in my opinion. Again, while a lot of this is changing (as witnessed in our local soaps like mali and lies that bind) we are yet to mature in the art of script writing and i think this shows in our work. ‘The Loo’ as a movie a few years back for example was excellent in the plot and the production but you could get lapses in conversation, transition and creativity in content, and this needs to develop bit more. My recommendation, more forums and workshops for script writers need to com up and the veteran script writers should mentor these young upcoming script writers and then maybe we could see a change in the above..what do you think?

  2. Very true! I am also a screenwriter and one of the most helpful tips I came across was something along the lines of “gag your characters for as long as possible so that when they finally speak, they will say what is crucial to the script.” Some of the most memorable movie scenes of all time were those where nothing was said 🙂 For example, I think the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” would have been quite watered down (no pun intended!) if there was dialogue: “No! Please! Don’t kill me!” 🙂

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