Writing - The Photoplay Stage
( Originally Published 1922 )
Its Scope.—The scope, or view, encompassed by a photo-play camera is commonly called the "photoplay stage," no matter whether in a studio or out-of-doors. The photoplay stage, then, may seem to the beginner to be quite a large area; but, in reality, it is not so large as it at first seems.
The fact of the matter is, when an actor is standing within fifteen o twenty feet of the camera, he must be cautious in his movements or he will get out of the picture; that is, he will step outside the range of the camera, and will not appear on the screen. In writing your synopsis, therefore, you must not try to make any of the action envelop a great area. If an interior, it is impossible to show all of a room. Only part of it, perhaps half, can be used.
Lighting in the Studio.—An up-to-date studio is thoroughly equipped with high-powered lights, which make it possible to take a picture at any time of the day or night, without respect to the sun. These lights throw a peculiar blue-green color over everybody, but make the taking of a picture at any time a simple matter.
But, in developing a plot, the beginner must be careful how he introduces candles, lanterns, lamps, and the like, into his manuscript. Do not try to use scenes that depend for their success upon difficult lighting effects, unless you thoroughly understand studio lighting. The best way to be sure not to attempt impossible lighting effects is to study carefully the different photoplays you see on the screen and notice the diverse styles of lighting. Follow other writers' methods.
Limitations and Restrictions of the Photoplay.—Do not attempt the impracticable in your photoplay. Nearly, everything is possible in photoplay producing, but many things are impracticable. It would be possible to have the villain in your story abduct the heroine and carry her away in a dirigible, but we do not believe your manuscript would be accepted if you wrote such impracticable situations.
Do not make it necessary for any of the actors in your drama, or any of the studio people, to risk their lives in order to produce your work. Of course, many "risky" scenes have been, and always will be, photographed ; but, if this is to be done, the writer had better leave it to the producer himself, and not try to write it into his own manuscript of his own initiative. If the editor finds your work justifies such a risk, he will see that it is taken.
Also avoid writing about action requiring extraordinary climatic effects and unusual out-of-door settings. Don't insist that the sun shine in a certain scene, or that it rain in another, or that there be a snowstorm in a third. Leave all this to the producer. Only write plays dealing with special settings of this character when you actually know that a certain company is in the market for them.
Remember, too, that the photoplay camera is very heavy and must be set upon an extremely strong tripod. Therefore, it is not easy for the cameraman to climb around in trees and get in the uncomfortable positions a tourist does with a kodak. Of course, such things are done but generally of the director's own free will. It is better for the beginner not to write about strange, difficult action and settings, leaving this work to more experienced writers.
When writing your play, constantly aim to spare the producer all unnecessary expense. If, however, your play really deserves a big scene, introduce it, but be impartial in your judgment, and don't let the fact that the script is yours carry you away, while you locate action in such impossible places that your work is doomed to failure.