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Screen & Stage
Scriptwriting & The Fontana Dei Quattro
By J.R. Kambak
November, 2006, 12:50

Do you have enough stamina to create a work of art and be held accountable?
Tired of the script hustlers picking off your last fruits of inspiration, you sought me out, searching for the yellow-brick road to screenplay writing success. You’ve known of me as the solitary master concealed by word-of-mouth esteem – the gold standard of achievement. My pride of authorship is purposely hidden under the sole pseudonym of Alan Smithee, because I cherish my privacy. I write, direct, produce, therefore, I am.

In a Faustian thrust of determined human will, you got a tip to my whereabouts and jetted off in hopes of a rendezvous. By fate, you found me at a crowded sidewalk café in Rome, Italy, gazing at the Fontana Dei Quattro in the Piazza Navona. You watch me from another table – as I sip coffee from a demitasse – mustering the nerve to approach me.
"Remarkable," you utter from behind my back, forgetting to introduce yourself in the excitement of seeing me in the flesh.

Taking a seat next to me, you pontificate in tour guide style, "Bernini achieved such tour-de-force because he gives such weightlessness – the four anthropomorphic main rivers and four continents with a bronze hen pigeon holding an olive branch in lavish Baroque style.

"If I could write like that . . ." you offer up. The fountain’s towering Egyptian obelisk overwhelms your senses. Especially the one sense we delight in the most, sight.

"If you could write like that," I quip, acknowledging your presence, "Rome would have to raise the bread tax… again."

Bernini, the sculptor, had a lot to account for in the material he created, and you only need to understand how it took shape to recognize its magnificence. Isn’t that what a screenplay writer seeks as well? But are you ready to be held accountable among the ubiquitous acres of supermarket screenplays submitted each year by mediocre, forever horizontal, adult-child, ditty-bops?

We all live with the desire to know and to have our knowledge known. That is the delight we take in our senses – the knowledge of things that come straightforward into our lives. Such is the writer’s persona.

"There is this creative power that can become the kingdom of our social conscience, acting and reacting to the events of the external world. Isn’t that what you see in Bernini’s work?" I speak conversely. The fountain gush rainbow colours into our world, squeezed into the Piazza Navona, populated by shadows of life’s rootless fugitives waiting to be reborn in written words.

Chance is not the operative principle in the universe, so why is it the opposite in selling a script, a book, a play, anything written with the desire to be published? How is one writer qualified over another as being more substantial, more realistic, more true to form? Sellable? I continue my teleological explanation, attempting to unravel the riddle.

"I can only reawaken what you have forgotten as a storyteller, or previously discarded as insufficient, and that which must be impeccable intention now," I say as the late afternoon turns to a neon lit dusk all around Rome.

Common sense tells us that if we’ve got both feet on the ground, then our critics can’t be so dismissive of our writings, because anything has purpose in the natural world – that is the right to exist in the mélange of world reasoning.

"How do you know he knew where to hit first?" I ask leaning forward, looking at you square in the eyes, as if I was psychoanalyzing now with a hard example. "It’s in the symbolic details, the subtlety of life all around you. Can you take the time to give it your attention?" I lean back in my chair, contemplating.

We do not possess organs of deception, because if we did we’d never be able to get from one side of that fountain to the other. A variable vindication of this is our inherent perspective of the starting point of a journey. Where does it begin? Where do you strike first to achieve the end in mind?

The single attribute that elevates humankind from animal is the degree of our rationality, the desire to know, the joy of experience in gaining knowledge. Can you accept that writers hold the fundamental powers as the entity of entertainment? All other’s read your script to see if the story has profitable merit for packaged commodities in a homogenous world. Regardless of this banality, what you create won’t be manifest unless you and they cooperate with your psyche’s architecture. Now, can you sense the importance of the impression at the start of creating the landscape for others to follow?

"If so, the script realizes itself," I say. "The ultimate understanding is intelligent design formed from the first consideration in its conception. You cannot understand fully unless you comprehend the form, what is known centrally in relation to other things, all aspects of life. That is what you have to accept in the beginning, to be tough enough, to have enough stamina to shed your collection of preconceived notions."

Imagine that the script is an organism. First is the power of the soul; then, those processes that are life sustaining emerge in a more complex organism; then arises the power of problem solving; then, the power of cognitive ability; and then, the capacity to traffic universal subtext, which fits uniquely into the plot modality of script writing. This is the collective precept to an individual instance. Everything in life is subject to a beginning, middle, and end – the writer’s framework specifications.

You shake your head in disbelief.

"The art of scriptwriting is not in the words. Words are the material cause. What are scripts for?" I ask, growing impatient for your answer.

You utter, distracted by the nearby sound of the beautiful game being broadcast over a tiny shortwave radio, "But if words are not the script, then what is?"

"Happy is the man who knows the causes of things," I say. "Isn’t that the reason you sought me out?"

You nod yes.

"The ultimate question is how do words fit into the script. The ultimate answer is the writer must know the function they will serve," I reply in the vein of Marlon the Brando out in the electric patina of the fountain’s illuminated night.
Nothing comes by accident, without pattern or design, even the Fountain of Rivers had to be designed with one hammer blow at a time in painstaking, passionate labour. But unless you already have the discipline in your mind for what you are trying to bring about, you cannot operate to the right effect.

"The logos," you say. I nod in agreement, giving you a broad smile of warm appreciation.

I conclude with, "That which is the point of origin for your script is what will determine the outcome, the plan realized by intelligent design. If you can grasp this quintessence, your work will open up a new note in the world."
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J.R. Kambak is a regular IN contributor and award-nominated screen-playwright, award-winning videographer, and former corporate communications/media relations executive. Contact J.R. Kambak for more information and resources:

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