C'est Pas du Tout La Même ChoseComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Q. I realized that, if I wanna work in american movie industry, trying to break in as a writer, for a foreigner may be very very difficult. Hence, now I'm thinking about trying to work in Hollywood as a reader, with the intention to work lately, after a practice that can also consent me to improve my english, in any company development department.
I think it's extremely difficult to write screenplays in a language that isn't your mother tongue. If you speak so fluently that you can pass as a native, sure. I'm not talking fluent. I'm talking, people are surprised when you say you're not from around here.

It is hard enough to write great dialog. Your characters not only have to sound convincing, they have to have voices. They have to come across as the people you want them to be.

Moreover, dialog is not talk. What you put on the page can't be just a replica of how people actually speak. Actual talk on screen is usually banal. Dialog is a heightened form of talking, more distinctive, crisper, with rhythm and syncopation. Working on dialog is like writing free verse. Take this word out, how does it sound? Turn the "want to" into a "wanna"? Nah, it doesn't scan. Let's try it this way.

You have to be able to hear how it sounds in your head.

It is very hard for a non-native speaker to hear the difference between what he's writing and how the people around him are talking. If he could hear it, he would speak like a native speaker, wouldn't he?

There's lots of room in showbiz for foreigners. Hollywood loves to adopt people from all over the world. I'm about to head off to a breakfast with a director who hails originally from Malta. But I think screenwriting is about the hardest thing that a foreigner can set out to do. I wouldn't dream of trying to write a screenplay in French, and I've lived in French lands for almost a decade.

On the other hand, if you are brilliant at story and visual action, you could conceivably partner up with a US writer who's great at dialog. That could work.


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