The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon

The award-winning short film, The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon tells the story of Walaa, a seventeen-year old woman refugee. Walaa, who is originally from Daraa in south Syria, took refuge in Jordan along with her family of 10 in 2012. She “needed to express what had happened to her and to tell her story.” 

According to The Jordan Times, Walaa “…participated in a training course on filmmaking for girls organized by the International Rescue Committee. The course armed her with the tools to tell her story through her short film.” 

The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon won an award in 2015 from PLURAL +, a youth-produced video festival. PLURAL+  encourages young people to explore migration, diversity and social inclusion, and to share their creative vision with the world.

The group supports dialogue between young people from different cultures.

Walaa’s message: “I wish to become something.”

Here’s her film:

Good dialogue can do many things

I’m reading Norman Mailer‘s Tough Guys Don’t Dance. About 25% of the way in, and I’m finding it a very slow read. My go-to book has always been a thriller, a mystery, a detective story. Action, something needing resolution. And dialogue.

Credit: Mary Richmond
Credit: Mary Richmond

Mailer’s novel is light on dialogue. Pages and pages of first-person POV. The protagonist drives to a patch of earth on Cape Cod, on a bleak November day. “I liked the dull green of the dune grass and the pale gold of the weeds, and in that late autumn panorama when the beef’s blood and burnt orange are out of the leaves, the colors came down to gray and green and brown, but with what a play between! My eye used to find a dance of hues…”

Elmore Leonard
Elmore Leonard

Contrast that with Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for good writing. Rule #9: Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Leonard relied on the strength of dialogue to carry his stories.  To paraphrase: Dialogue is showing. It’s not telling. Readers are in a scene and this is one reason it can be so effective and engaging. Good dialogue can do many things. Move a story forward. Reveal character.

Both men are renowned writers. I lean towards the lean.

 

 

Keep your film dialogue short

For filmmakers and script writers, here’s practical dialogue advice from screenplay expert Michael Ferris:

Keep your film dialogue short.

computer keyboard“A script is not a play – your goal is NOT to have dialogue that looks like a bunch of monologues. Try to keep 95% of your dialogue to 3 lines or less on the page. Clever dialogue is found in quick back and forth exchanges, not prose-y speeches. Think about one of the best screenwriters known for his dialogue – Aaron Sorkin. Have you ever watched a scene from The West Wing? It’s not a perfect example, but it illustrates the point that if you keep it snappy, it keeps it moving. And a fast moving script, like a fast moving story, is entertaining and – sometimes – it can move so fast that you don’t have time to realize whether it’s great quality or not. You just know you’re entertained. So, use it to your advantage. Keep the dialogue short, quick back and forths, and you’ll reveal plot and character just as quickly.”

The quote is from my ebook, Filmmaking Basics: Finding Your Creative Voice.

The Pacing of Dialogue

Here’s advice on the pacing of dialogue from screenplay expert Michael Ferris. It originally appeared in my book Filmmaking Basics: Finding Your Creative Voice.

The West Wing
The West Wing
Credit: NBCTV

A script is not a play – your goal is NOT to have dialogue that looks like a bunch of monologues. Try to keep 95% of your dialogue to 3 lines or less on the page. Clever dialogue is found in quick back and forth exchanges, not prose-y speeches. Think about one of the best screenwriters known for his dialogue – Aaron Sorkin. Have you ever watched a scene from The West Wing? It’s not a perfect example, but it illustrates the point that if you keep it snappy, it keeps it moving. And a fast moving script, like a fast moving story, is entertaining and – sometimes – it can move so fast that you don’t have time to realize whether it’s great quality or not. You just know you’re entertained. So, use it to your advantage. Keep the dialogue short, quick back and forths, and you’ll reveal plot and character just as quickly.

Screenplay expert Michael Ferris began his career working for Oscar-winning producer Arnold Kopelson (Platoon, The Fugitive, Seven) and then worked for manager/producer John Jacobs (Blades of Glory, Beverly Hills Chihuahua).