When I watched television shows and movies, I frequently slip into a behavior I call watching the writing. I try to imagine what the script looked like. I picture with the dialogue is like without the delivery, separate the line from the performance, the plot from the staging. I attempt to figure out what the writing looks like, independent of the actors’ performances and the directing.
I’m often amazed to discover some good writing in bad films, mangled beyond recognition by terrible actors and criminal editing. It’s one of the reasons, as a writer, that I love bad movies. Aside from giving me hope that if this garbage gets made there’s hope for my work to be published, I feel as if I’m vindicating the writers. It’s not their fault! They wrote something a lot better than the final product! I’ve often looked up the screenwriter and sought out their other works, to discover that they went on to write critically praised films. Or, sadly, that this was the only work they could get following some brilliant work in their past.
Conversely, I have also watched awesome movies with terrible scripts. It’s a credit to the actors that they can deliver abysmal lines and make them work, or that directors can salvage ridiculous stories and trick you into thinking they have depth and artistic merit. It’s like the old jokes about how you’d pay to watch a great actor read a phone book aloud, or how a truly great director could make a fast food commercial into a work of art.
My goal in this is to try to appreciate the people behind the work. It’s not enough, for me, to say “wow, that’s a good show” or “that was a really good episode’. I want to give credit where it’s due. It’s not just about what worked, it’s about who made it work. I want entertainment to be recognized as art, and I want my art to be personal.
Obligatory Tabletop Roleplaying Content
Think of it this way: a great game is easy to run, makes it easy to think up suitable character concepts, and offers up plenty of story ideas. System and setting together are the “script” for a roleplaying game. A bad gamemaster and bad players can do very little to screw up it, and it’s very difficult to not have a good time. The creativity is supplied to you, with instructions on how to use it. On the other hand, a great gamemaster and great players can take the most kludgy mechanics and the stupidest setting and add their own creativity to it to generate pure gold. That’s the people taking a bad script and with their talent transcending the limits of the material. Script/system/setting matter, but so do the players/actors and gamemaster/director.