I stumbled across this video essay by accident. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s meant to be a “video essay,” however, it is. The essay is pretty simple. It utilizes split screen to have a scene from The Dark Knight on top and the film’s screenplay on the bottom. The screenplay scrolls from bottom to top as the scene progresses.
I’m generally not a fan of the split screen video essays, not because I think they do a poor job articulating ideas, but because I often find them confusing and they sometimes make my head hurt. However, I think that stacking the videos on top of one another makes them easier to read and go back and forth.
This essay is incredibly effective in showing the role of a screenplay in film, and how much it changes when it goes from paper to film. It shows how actors will often eliminate certain words or will ignore certain actions. In short, they do what feels right and natural in the scene. For example, in this scene featuring the Joker, the screenplay says that he should laugh at certain parts, however, Heath Ledger chooses not to do so. As you watch the scene unfold and read this in the script, you start to insert that dialogue into the scene and you can feel how awkward an inorganic it feels.
The essay does a wonderful job of illustrating how a screenplay is very much a working document, that changes several times by the time the screenwriter, director, and actor are done with it. It shows how much the three rely on one another, and how actors and directors engage with and will often alter the script. We are able to see how directors are able to use the script as merely a rough outline or guide, and how actors are able to tailor it to fit the scene to their emotions and what flows naturally. In screenwriting classes, we are told that the script is merely just a blueprint. In this essay, we are shown that this is true in a simply, yet incredibly effective way.