Tell Your Story by Mary O’Hara

Mary O'Hara
Mary O’Hara

More on writing for the movies.

Los Angeles July 1922. As scenario writer to Rex Ingram, noted director, and adapter of  his two latest photoplays, “The Prisoner of  Zenda” and “Toilers of the Sea,” Mary O’Hara has climbed to a high place in the screen world. The secret of her success, she states, is contained in the words: “Tell your Story.”

Probably very continuity writer has some simple little recipe which helps him or her to get ready, set, go! A blank sheet of paper staring at one from the typewriter can be rather appalling when one realizes that it is only the first of a hundred or two blank sheets waiting to be filled up with good picture material.

My recipe is just this: Tell your story.

I have been asked so often how it is that I have mastered the trick of continuity writing in so short a time (for my first continuity, “The Last Card,” directed by Bayard Veiller, was made only a little over a year ago) that I have searched for the reason myself and have found it in my recipe, Tell your story.

I have always loved to tell stories. When I was ten I was telling stories to my nine year old sister. Many of them were serials that took six months or more to reach the end. Needless to say, it was always a happy end with the bride and groom at the altar, and the bride’s hair flowing in a cascade down the back of her satin gown. I usually, for good measure, threw in a pair of twins, born to them during their dignified walk back from the altar to the church door; twins because, if only one were bron, into which pair of arms, his or hers, should the infant drop on high? In fact, my sister and I had such heated discussions on this point that we finally settled upon twins as fairer – one for each.

In all this story telling, my greatest interest and my inspiration was my sister’s face; in scenario language, my “audience reaction.” If too many minutes passed without her eyes popping or her breath catching I would pile on the melodrama. When I thought she had giggled long enough I would try for tears.

I have never outgrown this habit of telling stories. Now I am telling them to the public with one eye on my typewriter as I compose ans the other eye, figuratively, on the face of the public, looking for its tears and laughter, its eyes popping, its breath catching.

To be a little more definite in describing my system – when I start a continuity, with the material well in mind, in imagination I place a listener in a chair opposite me. If my story is an adventuresome tale my listerner is a child. If it is a psychological drama my listener is an older person of average intelligence, for we all know that we would tell a story one way to an intellectual person and quite differently to one more simple minded.

Then I proceed to tell them the story. Introductions of characters, descriptions of time and place logically come first; then out of the characters and their relation to each other, the threads of the plot, and before I know it I am in full swing. The eye of my imaginary listener leads me on, I sense his interest or ennui, and above all, I am held to the neccessity of making the story clear – clear – clear.

Mary O’Hara (Photodramatist, July 1922)

Asquith Chaplin Valentino e Brownlow

A conversation with Guenter A. Buchwald about the score of Charles Chaplin of the silent movie “The Circus” US 1928, Charles Chaplin. The score was composed by Chaplin 40 years after the shooting of the movie. Dal canale YouTube delle Giornate del Cinema Muto.

Plenty of Pictures

There are about 57.000 feet of new Photoplay material placed on the market every week, and of these fifty-seven reels many are duplicated fifty or seventy-five times. It is safe to say that each week there are placed on exhibition a million and three-quarters feet of film in the United States and Canada alone, to take no account of those copies sent abroad.

Where all passed thru a single machine, running every minute of the day and night, it would take more than eighteen days to pass the reels thru, and this is but a small proportion of the film run in the Phopoplay theaters, since there are all the “second” and “third runs” the “dated” reels and the “commercials”. It is pretty safe to say that there are 40.000 or 50.000 feet of film used every day in the Photoplay theaters, perhaps a trifle more. The little picture one inch by three-quarters does not seem to be very large, but the films that are run in the course of a year could be wound several times around the earth at the equator and then tied into several very fancy bow knots in addition.

Lascio il testo originale in inglese, non è difficile da tradurre. Era il mese di ottobre 1911, giusto un secolo fa. Quanti metri di pellicola vengono proiettati ogni settimana negli Stati Uniti e in Canada nel 2011? E nel corso di un anno? La risposta a quelli che amano le sfide.

Volevo arrivare, partendo dal discorso sui metri di pellicola nel 1911, ai metri di pellicola “muta”  proiettati nel 2011. In questa nostra era digitale-cinematografica c’è ancora spazio per il cinema d’altri tempi. Anzi, il numero di proiezioni “cinema muto e musica dal vivo” è aumentato al punto che ci troviamo davanti all’imbarazzo della scelta.

Tre esempi tre di oggi, 5 ottobre 2011, nella vecchia Europa.

Al Barbican di Londra: Underground diretto da Anthony Asquith nel 1928, musica, nuova di zecca, di Neil Brand, diretta da Neil Brand e interpretata dalla BBC Symphony Orchestra. Se volete sapere di più, Silent London vi racconta tutto. Intervista con Neil Brand dove si parla, fra le altre cose, di Morricone.

Festival Lumière di Lyon: Omaggio al premio Oscar Kevin Brownlow e proiezione di Les Quatre cavaliers de l’Apocalypse, regia di Rex Ingram 1921, interprete Rodolfo Valentino, cine-concerto, Orchestre national de Lyon diretta da Ernst van Tiel. Vi ho già raccontato di questo evento in un post qualche giorno fa, adesso vi lascio il link all’evento.

Giornate del Cinema Muto di Pordenone – Teatro Verdi: The Circus di e con Charlie Chaplin, musica di Chaplin, diretta da Guenter A. Buchwald, orchestra San Marco di Pordenone. Guardate (e sentite) il video. E’ in inglese, ma ormai dovete arrendervi, hanno vinto loro.

Nota: fra tutti i personaggi che popolano il pianeta del cinema muto ritrovato, sono un grande fan dei musicisti (uomini e donne).