by Michael Chasin
Film is a visual medium.
Should you question that, simply remember the last time you muted your TV and were able to – quite easily – follow the story.
That is the power of visuals.
So…is dialog really necessary?
While visuals move the story forward, what we only see on screen – only goes so far.
Arnold’s bulging bicep aiming a smoking Uzi was enough to entertain in Brooklyn and Bangkok and Buenos Aires and Brussels. But did it move us…did we really care?
The key in both entertaining and emotionally engaging an audience is when the audience genuinely cares about the hero.
One of the best ways to help an audience care is to inform them of what’s inside the hero’s heart – something that cannot be easily seen on the screen.
Rocky was about the fight, but it was Rocky’s heart that made us root for him, such as his admission to Adrian, You know how I said that stuff on TV didn’t bother me none…it did.
This was an important part of Rocky’s heart could not be conveyed in visuals alone.
The Shawshank Redemption can certainly be followed visually, but unless Andy tells Red that hope is a good thing, we would not know this resides deep in his heart.
Understanding Andy in this way made us truly care about him, which then made his triumph so emotionally satisfying for us.
So dialog is necessary, and important, and should be used, in telling an emotionally engaging story.
Listen for it at a theater near you.
Michael Chasin is a Screenwriting Mentor at IAFT-Miami.