Re: ATTN JMS: B5 (and general) script questions

 Posted on 1/6/2006 by to

Rick wrote:
> JMS:
> I notice, in reading the _B5_ script books that sometimes you just
> establish in stage directions (if that's the correct term) that
> characters are walking into or out of a room; or if already there,
> whether they're standing or sitting. But nothing more specific about
> _what_ the characters are doing. Yet, on screen a particular character
> may be doing something different than just sitting or standing there.
> Case in point: "The quality of Mercy." According to the script, there's
> a scene in Act 1 where Sinclair, Garibaldi, Talia and the Ombuds are
> seated at the conference room table. No description of what they're
> doing beyond sitting and talking. Yet, in the aired episode, the scene
> opens with Garibaldi doing almost a complete circuit about the table,
> taking his seat as he theorizes that Mueller has killed often in the
> past. Was this change depicted in a later version of the script, or did
> you leave it to Jerry Doyle to sort of fill in the blanks, as it were?
> That circuit around the table does seem in character for Garibaldi, and
> I could see it as being either a script change or the actor's
> suggestion.
> On the other hand, in some cases, such as a scene (I'm blanking on the
> episode) specifying Sinclair getting his link caught in his sleeve, you
> give specific stage directions. In terms of script writing (in general)
> do scripts mostly give specific instructions as to what characters are
> doing; or mostly give general enough instructions to allow the actor
> some leeway to interpret the action; or is it a mix of the two? I
> notice, for example, that Londo putting his arm around Lennier in the
> teaser of the same episode is also not described in the script; but we
> are told that Londo seems more excited about Lennier's "education" that
> Lennier does.
> I suppose the main reason I ask, beyond the general curiosity, is that
> the scene at the conference room table reminded me of a scene in one of
> my novels, in which my characters discuss how they're going to proceed
> following a major setback. They're gathered about the table in this
> scene, but when I first wrote it, I found they came across as talking
> heads if there was just dialogue. So I had them _doing_ things during
> this discussion. I had Will pacing back and forth (because that's his
> way- always impatient to get on with matters); while one or two others
> fiddled with knick knacks on the table. Others just sat (or stood)
> listening to the debate, and contributing from time to time.

I put an action in if I think it is important, otherwise I leave it be
and let the director and the actor work out the staging. The director
moves the actor around the room to keep things visually interesting,
and that's their purview. So the sleeve thing was important to
establish kind of the cumbersome nature of things, but whether someone
walks around a table, or back and forth, or clockwise, is not a story
point and is the director's purview.