getting the movie to eat up 15 lines on a sheet of paper

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Voxy

Senior Member
Deutschland, deutsch
Hello folks,

can someone shed some light on the bold part of the quote?
Putting it in different words would actually help a lot, I guess.

Thanks in advance.

Voxy

(...)
Either the first and third acts are wrong or the second act is wrong. How am I going to fix it? The structure is the whole thing — getting the movie to eat up 15 lines on a sheet of paper so you can write it.
 
  • mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Might be a sloppy 'metaphor' for the process of screenwriting in general?

    In order for movies--- as an audiovisual medium--- to be 'writable'--- able to be described (in advance) on paper using words--- you need a process whereby the movie can take those words, digest them, and (presumably) 'excrete' the audiovisual information they represent onto the silver screen.

    On the other hand it could just as well apply to some specific dilemma this particular writing project has encountered. To understand that would require more context.
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    Might be a sloppy 'metaphor' for the process of screenwriting in general?

    In order for movies--- as an audiovisual medium--- to be 'writable'--- able to be described (in advance) on paper using words--- you need a process whereby the movie can take those words, digest them, and (presumably) 'excrete' the audiovisual information they represent onto the silver screen.

    On the other hand it could just as well apply to some specific dilemma this particular writing project has encountered. To understand that would require more context.
    Hi there, thank you.
    I'm tossed between the two possibilities you've suggested either.
    The text essentially belongs to a lengthy interview between writer
    D. Mamet and a Journalist.
    Here you go, more context, question and answer.
    Q: How did you approach Spartan? A:
    ...
    You go along and say, “I know this has got to happen at the end of the second act,” until you realize you’ve spent two years, and it doesn’t work. So something’s wrong. Either the first and third acts are wrong or the second act is wrong. How am I going to fix it? The structure is the whole thing — getting the movie to eat up 15 lines on a sheet of paper so you can write it
    .
    I don't get the phrase in question, however I've got a hunch. Talking in
    "screenwriter language", I think Mamet means that he arguably have to
    jot down the entire structure of a given movie first, in order to actually
    start writing (the script). This particular efford (developing the structure)
    takes a mere 15 lines (of words), but these 15 lines are critical to the entire script.
    Did I get that correctly? (At least that would make the most sense out
    of it.;)

    Voxy
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    I don't think so. If I understand him he's using 'eat up' to mean 'lose,' 'get rid of.'

    Possibly influenced by the phrase "to eat one's words" meaning "to retract a statement one now recognizes as incorrect."

    Not sure why it's the movie 'eating' the 15 lines though.

    What I understand here is that the 15 lines represents the 'something wrong' which needs to be 'eaten' (gotten rid of) so the movie can be written.

    There's a common expression in screenwriting--- all writing probably--- about the need to 'kill one's children.' It can be very difficult to edit out text/scenes you love but which don't work, yet it needs to be done.

    I guess Mamet is feeling Chronos-like. He not only kills his children, he eats them too.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Maybe it's just Mamet being typically inscrutable. Even with the extended context, any interpretation of mine would be a wild guess. :rolleyes:

    Elisabetta
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    All right, thanks mgarizona for your insightful points and by developing some sense
    into that one.
    In that particular context I admittedly wasn't aware that 'eat up' means
    'lose,' 'get rid of.', too. So basically 15 lines is a set-phrase, somewhat,
    that refers to the part of your writing, that should be extinguished sooner or later.
    So Mamet roughly says, a bit transformed;):
    How am I going to fix it? The structure is the whole thing — getting the movie
    (in order to get the script done) (you have to get rid of) to eat up 15 lines (the mistakes)
    on a sheet of paper (why on a sheet of paper?) so you can write it (clear).

    Thanks for patience.

    By the way, in Germany we say: Kill your Darlings.;)

    Voxy
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    15 lines is not a set phrase as all. He is using "15 lines on a sheet of paper" as a metaphor for "whatever it is that isn't working in your script"

    So it ends up a truism: you have to get rid of what isn't working in your script in order to get the script to work.

    To continue with metaphors, what he's calling "the movie" then is "that which needs to be actualized, a storyline for the screen that works from beginning, middle and end."

    The writer has to surrender to the movie, he has to give the movie the power to eat up his children, those 15 lines on a piece of paper. Only then will the writer be free to actually write the movie.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    ;)
    Yes indeed. But there must be a meaningful interpretation after all.
    I'm just saying that I'm not confident we can determine what that interpretation is. For example, I'm not at all convinced by mgarizona's explanation, as elegant as it is. ;) "Eat up" can also mean to require/to use up, e.g., an application that eats up computer memory.

    Elisabetta
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    15 lines is not a set phrase as all. He is using "15 lines on a sheet of paper" as a metaphor for "whatever it is that isn't working in your script"

    So it ends up a truism: you have to get rid of what isn't working in your script in order to get the script to work.

    To continue with metaphors, what he's calling "the movie" then is "that which needs to be actualized, a storyline for the screen that works from beginning, middle and end."

    The writer has to surrender to the movie, he has to give the movie the power to eat up his children, those 15 lines on a piece of paper. Only then will the writer be free to actually write the movie.
    All what you are suggesting makes a lot of sense to me.

    Thanks.
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    I'm just saying that I'm not confident we can determine what that interpretation is. For example, I'm not at all convinced by mgarizona's explanation, as elegant as it is. ;) "Eat up" can also mean to require/to use up, e.g., an application that eats up computer memory.

    Elisabetta
    All right Elisabetta. :) Confused Again. ;) I just was pretty confident that I've got it,
    now you're throwing the monkey-wrench into the works. Hm...

    It is really difficult for me to grasp Mamets words.

    Voxy
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I wonder if it has to do with the process of developing a script. As I understand it, the first step is a brief outline or synopsis. This can be a short paragraph or a few paragraphs in length.
    It sounds like he's having trouble with the big picture and that he can't proceed to write the script until the primary points are in place. The next step is usually a "treatment", then a detailed outline or a full script. (I've only learned this through osmosis from exposure to industry people here in L.A. I'm not in the film industry.)

    The only thing that troubles me about that interpretation is the reference to "first act" and "third act". As far as I know, outlines and synopses are not divided into acts, although someone with an eye for such things may see the distinctions simply by reading the synopsis.

    I'm not sure of any of this, but I thought I'd offer it up for consideration.
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    To 'eat up' can also mean ... if you want to go there ... "to believe," as in:

    "I told him lie after lie after lie and he ate it all up."

    But 'eat up' doesn't really mean 'believe' any more than it means 'require.'

    This is all figuative language in which whatever is being discussed is being associated with eating, with swallowing, with ingesting. That's all.

    The text still needs to be understood in context. Which, while hardly eloquently expressed, is clear enough.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    In the context provided by this article, I think Mamet means "how to write the structure of the movie in just 15 lines (i.e., succinctly) so that I can then proceed to write the script itself." It's all about form and simplication.

    Elisabetta
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In the context provided by this article, I think Mamet means "how to write the structure of the movie in just 15 lines (i.e., succinctly) so that I can then proceed to write the script itself." It's all about form and simplication.

    Elisabetta
    Naturally I'm just guessing, but I like my guess. :)

    Looking at the quote Voxy provided, I would agree with Elisabetta and Voxy's original guess that the author needs a short (15 line) overview/summary of the movie first before he can write the longer detailed version of the movie. He has described the consequences of not having this big picture view when you write, you have act 1 & 3 that work together and act 2 that is inconsistent with the other acts. Now, something must change. If you had had an outline of the whole when you started, then everything would work together.

    As for the description of eat up 15 lines on a sheet, I think that is another way of saying use. If I write on paper, I consume the blank space.
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    Thank you all of you who contributed their view, I appreciate it
    very much. I have to mull over a bit but esentially the bottom
    line is, (my conclusion with the help of you all), that you can't
    paint the big picture, if you are unable to put it in 15 lines on a
    sheet of paper. In order to start the script you have to hammer out the
    structure before. The structure have to be sound, and if the structure
    is nailed you can write any story within 15 lines.

    Voxy
     

    AWordLover

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Thank you all of you who contributed their view, I appreciate it
    very much. I have to mull over a bit but esentially the bottom
    line is, (my conclusion with the help of you all), that you can't
    paint the big picture, if you are unable to put it in 15 lines on a
    sheet of paper. In order to start the script you have to hammer out the
    structure before. The structure have to be sound, and if the structure
    is nailed you can write any story within 15 lines.

    Voxy
    I was with you up until the end of your post, I think the implication is that you can write the structure in 15 lines, the script will take more.
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    In the context provided by this article, I think Mamet means "how to write the structure of the movie in just 15 lines (i.e., succinctly) so that I can then proceed to write the script itself." It's all about form and simplication.

    Elisabetta
    Hi Elisabetta,

    thanks for the gorgeous article. Good read. Actually, it's quite an
    endorsement of all you've suggested previously. Somewhat.

    Voxy
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    I don't get it.

    If I understand you (all) correctly, you are (trying to) equate "eat up" with something like "fit into."

    If the point here is that the film story has to be stateable in 15 lines in order to be written, then Mamet's focus is on 15 lines as a maxium (say) amount of space; if you need more space then your story is too complex and needs simplification to be tellable.

    By what possible logic does 'eat up' fit that bill? He's not talking about 'using up' 15 lines, he's talking (if you're correct) about 'not exceeding.' Surely he'd be discussing 'boiling down to' 15 lines, not 'eating up.'

    The 'up' in 'to eat up' seperates it from 'to eat' how? It adds a sense of voraciousness on the part of the eater, annihilation on the part of the eaten.

    To say a computer program "eats up" memory is to complain about the amount of memory the program requires. A thumbnail of a picture uses memory, but it does not 'eat up' memory. (Unless perhaps the total amount of memory is so small that ANY use qualifies as 'eating up,' the way one might 'eat up' a pea if the pea was all the food there was.)

    I worked for several years in Scott Rudin's New York office, in script development. The process of paring a storyline down to a single paragraph description is one of the most difficult and reviled parts of the job. (I never knew a single professional screenwriter who even attempted it.) No one I knew would describe that process as 'eating up 15 lines on a sheet of paper.' It simply makes no sense.

    Perhaps 'jam-packing 15 lines on a sheet of paper.'

    I still see the sentence in question as an answer to the preceding "How to fix it?" The 'it' in question is 'what's wrong with the script' ... and so, it seems to me, is the '15 lines on a sheet of paper.'

    15 lines in need of annihilation.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    I worked for several years in Scott Rudin's New York office, in script development. The process of paring a storyline down to a single paragraph description is one of the most difficult and reviled parts of the job. (I never knew a single professional screenwriter who even attempted it.) No one I knew would describe that process as 'eating up 15 lines on a sheet of paper.' It simply makes no sense.
    Maybe you'll have to call David Mamet and ask him about this moment of seeming inarticulateness and/or creativity on his part. :D

    Elisabetta
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    I don't get it.

    If I understand you (all) correctly, you are (trying to) equate "eat up" with something like "fit into." I think yes.

    (...)
    I still see the sentence in question as an answer to the preceding "How to fix it?" The 'it' in question is 'what's wrong with the script' ... and so, it seems to me, is the '15 lines on a sheet of paper.'

    15 lines in need of annihilation.
    Hi mgarizona,

    Wow, you really immersed yourself into the damn thing. Thanks so much.
    Actually I'm afraid I really can't judge if you're right or not.
    Maybe Mamet uses his very own sloppy language to protect himself for
    being captured and interpreted easily. On the one hand he's pretty
    cooperative when it comes to how screenwriting really goes. He vividly
    spill the beans about screenwriting, he gives away a lot of valuable (and
    trusty in that regard) insight knowledge regarding (the process of)
    screenwriting. He is one of the good guys. On the other hand he loves to
    puzzle (me in particular, I guess;)). Bad guy he is.

    Since I'm not a native, I admittedly can't "feel" the "up" as in "eat up". ;)
    I just have to trust my gut-feeling. And that tells me, that in that particular
    case Mamet says essentially: (maybe I am repeating myself, forgive me)

    The structure is the whole thing.
    means
    The structure (of the intended script) is the most importend thing.
    Clear enough.

    -- getting the movie to eat up 15 lines on a sheet of paper
    means
    In order to accomplish/finish the script, you (the screenwriter) have to
    write something (the structure), that eats up (that takes) only a sheet of
    paper (that fits on a single sheet of paper), 15 lines of words to be more precise.


    so you can write it
    means
    If the structur is hammered out, you can begin with (the script). If the
    structur is not hammered out, it's not worth to begin with. It's just a
    bloody waste (of time).


    Voxy
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    If your brain can associate the delicate notion of 'developing a succinctly synopsizable through structure' with the image of 'devouring a small amount of paper' then, as Jean-Paul Belmondo once said, "As you like it, baby!"

    Good luck!
     

    Voxy

    Senior Member
    Deutschland, deutsch
    All right, well, by no stretch of my imagination I dare to defy your
    authority of the English language, Lord, who am I?

    However, I think it's catch 22, no?

    Voxy
     
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