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World Film News (1937) - Hitchcock on Stories



Hitchcock on Stories

We want to find a story. We meet and talk. We read the reviews — we have no time to read the whole books. We pore over notices of plays. We discuss every possible type of story — and that brings me to the first prime requisite for a film story.

It must blend two things which seem almost mutually exclusive: it must hang on one single central idea which must never get out of the minds of the audience for one single solitary minute, either consciously or subconsciously ; and it must offer scope for the introduction of a number of elements, which you have read about every single picture that has ever been produced : glamour, suspense, romance, charm, drama, emotion, and so forth.

The formula for making a picture is to find a single problem which is sufficiently enthralling to hold the attention of the people who are watching the play unfold, and yet not sufficiently difficult to demand uncomfortable concentration.

The reason murder mysteries are not often great successes on the screen is because they demand too much acute concentration: the audience is keyed up to watching for clues, listening for clues, trying to glean from every line of dialogue some light into the mystery.

The true motion picture formula is to state in the first reel your single central theme which must be a problem. It may be of the simplest: "Boy meets girl; boy falls for girl; boy quarrels with girl; boy and girl come together again."

There the problem is: Will they be reconciled? And the corollaries are: How long before they are reconciled? How will they be reconciled? . . .

The difficulty of writing a motion picture story is to make things not only logical but visual. You have got to be able to see why someone does this; see why someone goes there. It is no use telling people; they have got to see. We are making pictures, moving pictures, and though sound helps and is the most valuable advance the films have ever made they still remain primarily a visual art.

There are very few — astonishingly few — people who can write a screen story. There are no chapter-headings ; no intervals between the acts. The fading in and fading out are so quick that they do not give the audience time to discuss and work out and think over what they have seen and why they have seen it.

— Alfred Hitchcock, News Chronicle