I am participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thanks to the co-authors of Two Writing Teachers for creating this supportive community.
Last night Allan and I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. That one, along with Rear Window, are two of my favorites from Hitchcock. (Of course, it probably has something to do with Jimmy Stewart, too.) As I watched, I thought about how much movie making and book-making, especially picture books, have in common.
There is a classic scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much that takes place during a concert in London’s Albert Hall. Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart are frantically trying to find their son, but in the process realize that something else very sinister is about to happen. Jimmy Stewart rushes in and realizes Doris has figured something out. They talk, he runs up to the balcony, argues with the guards, runs to each door. The scenes cut quickly back and forth from character to character, and all the while the only thing heard is the beautiful music in the concert hall. There is dialogue, but we don’t need to hear it to know what is happening. Everything is in the visuals and the music. That is what makes us feel anxious (no matter how many times we have seen it). That is what carries the story forward. Just like in picture books, the illustrations enhance the text and are so often used to evoke emotion and advance the story.
After the movie we watched the “behind the scenes” to learn more, much like the back-matter in a book. To me, it was like reading an author’s note that explains the process. There is so much we can learn about story and writing from watching movies, especially the classics. Sometimes we just have to approach it through a different lens.