Monday, February 18, 2013

Impending Doom

 


I’m really enjoying the heck out of FX’s new espionage drama The Americans. Set in the 80s, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star as Russian spies posing as an all-American married couple. The pilot had a great cinematic quality and pacing that grabbed me from the start. The third episode ("Gregory") had a terrific scene last week, where a character thinks they’re going to have a happy ending, but there’s this (figuratively) black cloud looming above. While everyone is saying all the right things, you just know this person is doomed. It was fascinating to watch it play out. Instead of punctuating the scene with garrotte around the neck, a muffed scream, or a gunshot, the character cheerfully gets into a van. The camera lingers on the two stars as they wrestle with what they've just done. It takes a lot of trust on the part of the writers to let the actors emote and not force a few words out of their mouths. One of the pitfalls of some newbie writers is an overdependence on dialogue. Characters say exactly what’s on their minds, or respond verbally to everything going on around them. It might be a good exercise to try out one of those elephant-in-the-room scenes...


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