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Money for Film Stories, 1937 p1

READERSVOICE.COM aims to give some samples from out of print books. Often they are forgotten books. This issue features Money for Film Stories published 1937, by Norman Lee, a film director.

Norman Lee writes that before scriptwriters start writing, they should come up with a good theme. He says that from a sound theme, the rest of the story will grow. 

Theme can be divided into the thematic concept, which is the broad topic of the story eg. war, love, family, revenge, the coming of age. And then there’s the thematic statement which is what the book tries to say about the topic: the wastefulness of war; love is better than gold (or as Charles Bukowski once wrote: Love is a dog from hell). 

Norman Lee writes: Let me tell you that directors adore themes. Tell a director you have a story with a Big Theme and he becomes a willing audience. All directors, first, second, or third rate, want to produce Pictures that Matter. And only a fine, binding motive can bestow the dignity and value which Pictures that Matter must always possess…

Think out a simple theme and write up a story round it in half a dozen different ways. From the suggestion You Can’t Beat the Law I could straight away evolve a dozen. But don’t be alarmed – I won’t!

I merely wanted to illustrate how easily story can arise out of theme, even a third rate one. On the other hand, theme does not easily arise out of story. As a producer I would pay 500 pounds for a theme and only 20 for a story, because my staff writers would have no worry in getting a good story out of the right theme.

He said: A story may attain great dignity by its theme, without it there is left only a series of plot incidents. A theme, if it be a deep one, may be the factor that causes the audience to think. A themeless story is merely a story; theme adds wisdom, observation, quality, education, enlightenment, condemnation, according to its purpose. A story with a fine theme becomes a work of art as well as entertainment.

[Not to be confused with propaganda or advertising.]

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