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10/07/2004 - THE USE OF THE MONTAGE
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I had a problem. In my screenplay, the two main characters needed to sleep together. It was vastly important due to the fact that this was a MAJOR turning point. But what was I to do? Even though one of the main characters is a beautiful adult film star, I couldn't just have them hop right into the sack. If I did, two things would happen: 1. The audience could lose sympathy with one, or both characters and 2. If I don't prep the scene right, then it won't fit, or seem disjointed or not make any sense at all.

What to do, what to do, what to do. Welcome to Mr. Montage.

Montages are great tools the screenwriter can use to relay information that, though happening over a great amount of time, can be condensed into a page or two. In my script I created a "date" montage between the two main characters. Dinner, dancing, drinking and discussing. What this does is allow the audience to PROJECT onto them the passion the audience feels, or believes, is there. In other words, the montage contains a scene where the two sit at a booth and talk. We, the audience and I, the screenwriter, don't have to write or hear dialogue. What ends up happening is that the audience makes up what the two are discussing: Deep emotional scars are being open, secrets are being told, dreams are discussed, passions are kindled, etc. Heck the two main characters could be talking about the mating habits of a Dung Beetle, but when you place them within the context of the montage in a dark corner booth - the audience will fill in the blanks. That way, when the moment of truth comes and they slide into satin sheets, the audience believes that they've really touched something deep down in each other.

Though the writer shouldn't rely on montages all the time, one or two sprinkled throughout a screenplay can be used as a useful tool.

To see a good example of where a Montage would have been better look at "Star Wars - Episode Two - Attack of the Clones." The relationship between Padme and Anakin seems forced because we end up with stilted and boring dialogue. George Lucas could have done MUCH more with less if he had included a long montage of them becoming closer and closer (it also would have trimmed a few needed minutes off the film). I'm not saying you should rely on montages or create "music video" sequences as a way tell your story. What I'm saying is - don't be afraid of them. And don't be afraid of your audience.

Montages can be a good thing.

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