“Audiovisual media” is a term, which, arbitrarily, includes diverse elements such as fictions, documentaries, TV programs, art-videos and many other contents which can be viewed on a computer screen or a mobile phone. This is quite an arbitrary grouping, since a theatre play or a conference both come under the audiovisual field.
For a great part of the 20th century, cinema was the dominating audiovisual media, even though from the fifties on, he had to compete with television.
One of the first theorists in this field, Ricciotto Canudo, maintains that cinema is not just an artistic media, but definitely the “Seventh Art”, which he perceives as the only true outcome of all classical arts: painting, sculpture, poetry, dance and music.
This is why by taking into account its similarities and its differences with the other artistic media (Comic strips, theatre, literature or even music) the cinematographic media can be understood. Some do not use sound (such as classic comic strips (1)); some others don’t use pictures, such as music, but they are all, like cinema, fundamentally sequential
To be continued…
Marshall McLuhan, who became famous after the publication of The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964), proposes very interesting theories, but also a great number of inventive sentences and paradoxical ideas, which gave him great media coverage in a very short time. For instance: “Look behind without turning back, you
are in an acoustic space”, or “We live in a global village”. According to McLuhan, the world got out of the Gutenberg galaxy and entered the Marconi The scriptwriter’s paradoxesThe scriptwriter’s paradoxesgalaxy, which means, it went from the printed media to reach the pictorial media, a picture connected to electronics.
Thanks to new information transmission systems, during the 60s, the world has become a global village in which someone living in Paris can know what happens in Tokyo better than what happens at his neighbour’s.
McLuhan’s most famous paradox is: “The medium is the message”. Until then, it was acknowledged that several factors intervened in the communication process, like the transmitter and the receiver of the message, the medium with which the message
is transmitted and the message itself. Hence the paradoxical meaning found in McLuhan’s claim, which identifies the message to its medium. This expression that travelled all around the world can be interpreted in different ways. One of them, following
Andy Warhol’s famous line, maintains that each one of us is entitled to have fifteen minutes of television glory. It was even said that what is not on TV does not exist.
However, the current interpretation of McLuhcan’s sentence, does not exclude the one quoted above,
but it illustrates the author’s fundamental intuition.
What McLuhan says is that any human creation is
an extension of one’s body:
“Clothes are an extension of the skin, a house is an
extension of the control mechanisms of the body’s
temperature, the stirrup, the bicycle and the car are
extensions of Man’s feet; the computer is an extension
of our central nervous system (2)”.
Human being’s most important extensions are
undoubtedly communication means, amongst
which are objects as diverse as printing, a Russian
icon, a road sign, television or cinema.
In addition, McLuhan puts forward the idea that
communication means do not only transmit messages,
but transform them at the same time. A
same message appears differently according to the
chosen medium and each medium compels the
message to adapt to it.
To cap it all, the transmitter itself (Television-viewer,
cinemagoer or newspaper reader) perceives
things differently according to the medium through
which the message is received.
CINEMA AND OTHER MEDIA
When it began, cinema depended too much on theatre
and did not make the most of all the possibilities
it could offer as a new medium: to direct a film
was just like shooting a theatre play. The camera’s
point of view was that of a spectator in a seat, it
could even be said that the reception was more
passive since attention did not divert once while
still noticing everything that was happening before
Little by little, directors discovered that cinema had
no reason to copy theatre and that a camera could
move even though actors did not.
Another great advantage of cinema compared to
theatre concerns the settings. Each scene can take
place in a different location: in a street, a house, a
great hotel, a boat, in a train.
According to McLuhan, it’s around 1930 that film,
a fully-fledged medium, completely mastered its
force of expression, after what it regressed and
went back to its origins, drawing once again inspiration
from theatre. Sound is the reason for this
regression. Indeed, until then, no one had to deal
with dialogues, since all that actors needed were a
few directives to set the tone, thus conveying the
impression that they talked about love or hatred.
The scenario, in its current form, was born thanks
to sound films, which have in return been altered
by the scenario.
CINEMA AND COMICS
The dialogue balloons of this comics character are
empty, and the reader can try to fill them in to build
When this exercise is proposed to students during
a lesson on scriptwriting, some very interesting
results emerge: first, students build a narration
without noticing it, which shows that telling stories
is simpler that what is commonly believed, especially
when such an exercise is demystified thanks
to Comic Books, a medium which has been largely
ignored until now.
Understanding new audiovisual media
in The scriptwriter’s paradoxes, Alba editorial, 2007
TEENAGERS AND IMAGES
(1) Comics in the form of
animations, a booming and
rapidly evolving medium,
allow for the use of sound.
(2) Eric Norden “A candid
conversation with the High
Priest of Popcult and
Metaphysician of the Media”
(Playboy , 1969)
This article is a selection of passages taken from
my book, The scriptwriter’s paradoxes: rules
and exceptions in the practise of a scenario
(Las paradojas del guionista, Alba editorial,
2007) aimed at people interested in scriptwriting,
and narration in general. The book explores
the different theories and manuals existing on
the subject, while listing forty paradoxes with
which a scriptwriter might be faced.
actions cinéma / audiovisuel projections / 17
Also, almost every student makes the same mistake,
they do not respect the rules of this medium:
They write outside the
lines of the dialogue balloons.
A similar mistake in cinema
would have a character
moving his lips: indeed,
the dialogue balloon is
the equivalent to sound
in an audiovisual medium.
Or they leave an empty dialogue balloon.
In a film, it would be like having a character moving
his lips but producing no sound. It might be a
way to represent silent films in a comic book, but
films are not silent. In any case, it breaks the basic
laws of comic books.
They use tiny letters,
often very difficult to
In an audiovisual production,
it would be
like having actors
speaking too low, consequently
Other codes from this medium escape comic
books readers since they only perceive them
implicitly. However, those codes were created at
some point by authors as innovating as the first
directors who decided to move the camera in order
to follow the actors.
CINEMA AND LITERATURE
“I had been walking for half an hour when I saw the
house. I rang the bell and nobody answered. I walked
in a corridor where walls were covered with walls filled
with books and I entered the living room. No one was
there. On a table, several bottles. I poured myself a
glass and sat down. Someone rang at the door. I
We entered the living room and sat down. It was three
The reader can try to transfer this literary text to a
When the reader decides to translate
it in a screenplay in which everything
that is necessary to its production
appears (localisation, actors, accessories),
some surprising results are
obtained. The most astonishing
aspect is that 80% choose a male
The reader can read the text again and notice that
nothing indicates the character’s gender. Such an
unbalanced result between men and women cannot
be pure coincidence. Obviously, some implicit
narrative codes have us think that the main protagonist
of a story is always a man. Codes and inventions,
yet so well defined, as in comic books, go
almost always unnoticed. The fact of the matter is
that male (90%) and female (76%) students
choose a male protagonist, a choice remaining
possible since nowhere in the text any clue indicates
the protagonist’s gender.
To allow uncertainty to persist regarding a character’s
gender is something easy to do in literature
but very complex in cinema, unless the story concerns
a transsexual or someone wearing a mask. It
will be very difficult then to hide the singularity of
the situation to the viewer without resorting to a
If a character in a novel enters a living room, some
descriptions, which are essential in literature
become useless in cinema: the fact that there’s a
fire in the fireplace, the number of books in the living
room, the presence of daylight in the room, this
is all seen straightaway by the viewer. In cinema,
the reader’s imagination is replaced by the work of
TEENAGERS AND IMAGES
18 / projections actions cinéma / audiovisuel
set designers, director of photography and costume
designers. Even when the scriptwriter does
not write explicitly about the settings or the costumes,
the director will have to choose between a
classic and a modern seat, between a blue and a
red dress, between one actor and another one,
between a country house and an apartment. In a
film, nothing is ever left to chance: walls are built
following the set decorator’s precise instructions,
comedians wear costumes selected by the costume
designers, light depends on the director of
photography and actors repeat sentences written
by the scriptwriter and move following the director’s
indications. All these choices are important,
since they condition narration in a definitive way.
In addition, the characteristics of audiovisual
media enable one, obviously, to do things which
would be unthinkable with another support. In
Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen tells the story of
an actor, played by Robin Williams, who is out of
focus. The idea is to understand that the camera
does not cause this but that this is the character’s
own attribute, such as having the flu. It’s something,
which would not really have any meaning in
a novel: it must be seen.
CINEMA AND TELEVISION
Cinema and television have many things in common,
but when directing something for television
or for cinema, differences are big. The type of shots
used in television are, basically, the close-up or the
three-quarter shot, since any other type or remote
shot loses its strength and definition. Shots with
two or three characters are favoured, and groups
are avoided. Naturally, these limitations proper to
television tend to diminish when the size and the
definition of a screen is bigger (3).
Concerning the narrative conception, the differences
between cinema and television are summed
up in the most lapidary way by this sentence:
“Television is radio with pictures”. If the reader
observes a television series, he/she will notice that
even without looking at the screen, it can be easily
followed and nothing important will be “missed”.
Consequently, scriptwriters in television usually do
not write scenes that are incomprehensible without
THE NEW AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA
The development of IT and digital recording systems,
editing and reproduction, has brought
important changes in the audiovisual field by making
accessible things there were until now very
expensive or almost impossible to direct. In films
such as Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Ring,
almost 70% of images were treated digitally. The
digital revolution has not only brought changes in
technique, but also in narration and, consequently,
it changed dramatically the work of scriptwriters.
A noticeable evolution concerns the development
of non-linear narrations, which are stories that
unfold continuously from the beginning to the end,
but that offer many possibilities to the viewer: several
evolutions can be chosen, or several outcomes
are made possible.
When Julio Cortazar wrote Hopscotch, he tried to do
something similar: the reader must not read the
book from the first chapter until the last one, but
can start wherever he/she wants, and skip chapters
just as he/she wishes. In the same way, in an audiovisual
narration made for an IT support (but also
for television or a mobile phone) the scriptwriter
can provide the viewer with several possibilities,
creating thus personalised plots.
If interactivity with the viewer is something that can
always be resorted to in theatre, it is not necessarily
the case with cinema. Modern artistic performances,
happenings and other contemporary art performances
also try to create such interactivity.
Audiovisual media, including cinema, used to
remain outside this evolution, but things have
changed very quickly.
Such interactivity can already be found in television,
in different ways, for instance when viewers
send SMS, which can be promptly received. This is
an emblematic example of a non-linear language:
the viewer can decide to read the messages or to
follow the program or still, if he/she is able to do it,
do both simultaneously. There exists other propositions
of interactivities, which are even more sophisticated,
mostly developed in the United States, in
Nordic countries and in Great Britain and that
some people name cross-media, since they mix
several media such as television, IT and telephony.
In the show Masterplace, the viewer can chose the
events that the competitors have to go through; in
Thunderyard, chapters and broadcasting order are
chosen by each person; in Tweeby, a television
channel for children, the content is chosen by the
children themselves, from their home, they interact
Xavier Berenguer explains to us that no matter how
interactive and multi-linear the narration is, it is
always perceived in a linear way by the viewer.
“All narrators have to face the same problem, to
TEENAGERS AND IMAGES
(3) But paradoxically, this type of
plans come back with the use
of new screen types, such as
screens on mobile phones.
actions cinéma / audiovisuel projections / 19
unfold a series of events in a period of time. The
only difference is that when it comes to an interactive
support, the narrator must also plan several
ways to unfold it: the more the better (4)”.
All of this, obviously, was already possible before
the advent of digital, but today, a non-linear, multilinear
narration or even interactivity are all booming.
How would it change the audiovisual language?
We do not know it yet, but it is clear that
some new hybrid media are already being created,
between cinema, literature and comic books, used
on different types of screens: cinema, television,
videogames, mobile phones and computers. It
becomes apparent that a new huge work market is
being created for scriptwriters since they do not
only write for cinema, television and documentaries,
but there are also scenarios behind such
diverse objects as music videos, videos for
karaoke, internet pages or virtual animations of all
kinds. These scenarios already exist for
videogames that are sometimes considered as an
eighth art, halfway between the seventh (cinema)
and the ninth (comic books) art. This is why someone
wishing to become a professional scriptwriter
cannot just approach audiovisual through its most
obvious aspect, cinema, in which very few people
manage to find work. This person must think about
the new screens.
A FASCINATION FOR THE TOOL
Until now, we have insisted on the characteristics
of different artistic media and on the specificity of
the cinematographic or audiovisual medium. It is
as though the scriptwriter (or director in general)
had to adapt and to limit oneself to a medium in
which one works, nothing is less reasonable. It is
necessary for one to know the medium in which
one works, without eclipsing what happens beyond
it. Thus, Rudolf Arnheim warns us of the “fascination
for the tool”, referring to technique as such, to
which art lovers are inclined, but that can lead
them to be limited in their creations.
“Any significant technological discovery creates a
wave of exploratory interest, which could only be
satisfied with the creation of a pretext for this exploration.
In the while, what is communicated is less
important than the medium with which it is communicated.
On the long term, once the change has
been done, the new technology is assimilated and
the content restores its primacy (5)”.
Nowadays, someone can edit a digital film at home,
or even create a semi-professional animation.
The continuous development of the digital world
has almost made the act of shooting a film as easy
as the act of writing on a notebook. In this way,
Alexandre Astruc’s old dream is being fulfilled. He
proposed in 1948 a “camera-pen”, claiming that
shooting a film would end up as the favoured communication
system, even for philosophers.
“Nowadays, Descartes would shut himself away
with a 16 mm camera and write his “Discourse on
the Method” in the form of a film (6)”.
The New Wave tried to put Astruc’s ideas in practise,
ten years later, but the technique then did not
allow for a flexible audiovisual writing, which only
becomes accessible today. If it became something
that could be done, the three-act structure would
lose a part of its quasi-absolute predominance. The
purely descriptive, abstract, associative and nonlinear
works would multiply, as it already happens
with Internet, with blogs, photoblogs and other
videoblogs. It can therefore be imagined, in a near
future, to have authors who will become famous
writing a diary, the same way Samuel Pepys did in
the 17th century. But, it will be an online and audiovisual
diary. In a near future, only one person could
be the director, the scriptwriter, the cameraman,
the reporter and the actor. Naturally, and except in
the case of a monologue, this person will need to
employ other actors, even though virtual actors are
already being sold today, such as in the movie Sky
Captain and the Word of Tomorrow in which
Lawrence Oliver was digitally brought back to life.
Ted Nelson, the man who invented the hypertext
link (which is the interaction and multi-linearity
base of Internet), could clearly understand the relations
between new languages and cinema, but, in
spite of his interest for technology, he claimed that
it did not all come down to technique:
“Drawing for the small screen has a lot in common
with drawing for the big screen… Interactive programs
need talents, new Disneys, Griffiths, Welles,
According to Ted Nelson, in the future, we will call
“virtualities” all interactive content found in films,
television programs and IT programs.
A future nearer everyday waiting for directors able
to adapt to it.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN SPANISH.
TEENAGERS AND IMAGES
(4) Xavier Berenguer, “Écrire des
(5) Alejandro Montiel, Theories of
(6) Alexandre Astruc, “Birth of a
new avant-garde: the camera
pen”, in Tests and manifestos
(7) Xavier Berenguer “Writing
Sin embargo, en contra de las opiniones de los preceptistas italianos y de los clasicistas franceses, Shakespeare hace transcurrir sus obras en distintos lugares y en espacios de tiempo muy dilatados: la acción salta de un lugar y de un momento a otro a medida que se suceden los actos, e incluso dentro de los actos mismos. En Antonio y Cleopatra, la trama se inicia en Alejandría, pero enseguida se traslada a Roma, para regresar a Alejandría una escena después y saltar a Mesina, Roma, Alejandría de nuevo, un campamento romano, una galera en el mar, una llanura en Siria, Roma, Alejandría, Atenas, Accio y, finalmente, en la última escena del quinto acto, de nuevo Alejandría. Nada que envidiar a una superproducción de Hollywood como Cleopatra, de Mankiewicz. El problema era que todos estos cambios les parecían inverosímiles a quienes defendían la regla de las tres unidades: “Si el espectador advierte que el primer acto se desarrolla en Alejandría, no podrá creer que el segundo suceda en Roma, pues sabe con certeza que él no ha cambiado de lugar y que ese lugar no puede haber cambiado por sí solo; que lo que era una casa no
puede convertirse en una pradera, y que lo que fue Tebas jamás podrá ser Persépolis”.
Cleopatra habla con Joseph Louis Mankiewicz
Samuel Johnson dio una respuesta que se ha hecho célebre a los partidarios de la verosimilitud y de la regla de las tres unidades: los espectadores no pierden nunca el buen juicio y saben, desde el primer acto hasta el último, que el escenario es sólo un escenario y que los actores son sólo actores… ¿Por qué es absurdo admitir que un espacio pueda ser primero Atenas y luego Sicilia si siempre se ha sido consciente de que no es ni Sicilia ni Atenas sino un teatro moderno?». En la vida real sabemos que no podemos trasladarnos de un país a otro con sólo abrir y cerrar una cortina, pero también sabemos que el teatro o la sala de cine son precisamente los lugares en los que esas cosas son posibles. El público lo entendió antes que los expertos, incluso el público de las obras clásicas italianas y francesas, puesto que siempre supo no sólo que aquella divertida historia que estaba viendo no transcurría en la casa de un enfermo, sino que, además, ese enfermo imaginario ni siquiera era un enfermo imaginario, sino Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, apodado Molière, protagonista y autor de la obra.
El propio Shakespeare, en el prólogo a Enrique V, admite que cualquier obra de teatro es en su misma esencia inverosímil:
Pero todos vosotros, nobles espectadores, perdonad al genio sin llama que ha osado llevar a estos indignos tablados un tema tan grande. ¿Este circo de gallos, puede contener los vastos campos de Francia? ¿O podríamos en esta O de madera hacer entrar solamente los cascos que asustaron al cielo en Agincourt?
Por fortuna, esa inverosimilitud esencial puede ser olvidada si el público pone algo de su parte y acepta jugar al juego que se le propone:
Suplid mi insuficiencia con vuestros pensamientos. Multiplicad un hombre por mil y cread un ejército imaginario. Cuando os hablemos de caballos, pensad que los veis hollando con sus soberbios cascos la blandura del suelo, porque es vuestra imaginación la que debe hoy vestir a los reyes, transportarlos de aquí para allá, cabalgar sobre las épocas, amontonar en una hora los acontecimientos de numerosos años.
La O de madera por la que podrían entrar los caballos que participaron en la batalla de Agincourt era probablemente el escenario del teatro, aunque aquí tenemos otra O, también de madera al fin y al cabo, en el restaurado teatro The Globe, en el que Shakespeare representó algunas de sus obras.
El cine no exige tanto como el teatro de la imaginación del espectador como lo hace el teatro, y Shakespeare no habría escrito el prólogo de Enrique V si hubiese rodado una película, en la que habría podido mostrar a miles de hombres, un ejército entero de extras, el estrépito causado por los cascos de cientos de caballos al galope y reyes vestidos como tales.
El cine puede mostrar casi todo, pero, paradójicamente, eso hace que el espectador, acostumbrado a no tener que usar apenas su imaginación, sea más exigente que el de teatro con cualquier pequeño detalle que no coincida con la idea que él tiene de cómo
es eso en el mundo real.
El teatro The Globe en 2013. (Foto de Daniel Tubau)
Esta entrada es un fragmento, que he modificado en algunos detalles sin importancia, de mi libro Las paradojas del guionista, reglas y excepciones en la práctica del guión.
Página web: Las paradojas del guionista
Comprar en Amazon
Las 38 paradojas del libro y algunas más
Las paradojas de Las paradojas del guionista, aunque aquí se añaden nuevas ideas y consideraciones, mostrando que incluso existen interesantes excepciones a las propias excepciones.
Las 38 paradojas del guionista (y algunas más)
Decir que no se deben dar normas es dar una norma
El medio es y no es el mensaje
Causas sin efecto y efectos sin causa
El guionista debe trabajar para que su trabajo no se note
Se debe proporcionar información sin que parezca información
La mejor manera de mostrar algo es no mostrarlo nunca del todo
Promete pero no cumplas
Todos los métodos son buenos, incluso los malos
La meta del viaje es lo de menos, lo que importa es el camino
Reglas y excepciones (Las paradojas del guionista)
Las reglas del juego en Shakespeare
Las formas narrativas… no narrativas
Las paradojas del guionista (y de cualquier otra persona)
Excalibur , entre las leyes del mito y las del guión
Cambiar de tema para aprender mejor
Manera de leer Principios de filosofía y otros libros
Las reglas del juego en Shakespeare
¿Dónde suceden las cosas en Shakespeare?
Shakespeare y los guionistas
…y un artículo de Lucía Burbano
El rey Lear en tres dimensiones
Los celos en Shakespeare y Calderón de la Barca
Los libros que queremos leer y el Cardenio
Shakespeare y Cervantes /3
El Shakespeare cervantino
Shakespeare y Cervantes /2
Cardenio, la obra perdida de Shakespeare
Shakespeare y Cervantes /1
El guionista a la búsqueda del espectador
McLuhan y Shakespeare en un balcón de Verona
La vida y la obra en Shakespeare y Catulo
Un curioso epílogo de Shakespeare
La opinión de Shakespeare sobre sus obras
Shakespeare según Johnson
El efecto Shakespeare
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 1
Los tópicos de Shakespeare
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 2
Prefacio al Prefacio
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 3
Johnson y su Vida
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 4
Voltaire contra Shakespeare
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 5
Algunas destrezas de Shakespeare
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 6
Los defectos de Shakespeare
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 7
Shakespeare y la novela histórica
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 8
Shakespeare, el vulgar
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 9
La improbable verosimilitud de Shakespeare
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 10
La muerte aplazada
|| Defensa de Shakespeare y ataque 11
Todas las entradas de literatura en: El resto es literatura