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This is why knowing film history and about other filmmakers and having seen many movies is so important, when you yourself are getting into the game of filmmaking, especially screenwriting.
With my planned story in the back of my head all the time, I was digging deeper into Alfred Hitchcock today as part of my DIY film school. As I am going through his Filmography and listing all the remakes that were done based on his films, I run into one film that startles me and I start reading more about it, including the remakes and all of a sudden I think of other movies too, although not an official remake, that have similar storylines. In the 1,5 month since I started studying him, I had seen the title and knew a little bit about why the story is full of suspense, but I hadn’t read the storyline yet or what it was based on either. I find it very funny. Because I had been thinking about writing the screenplay in a Hitchcock style, as I mentioned before, being so inspired by his film style and movies I’ve seen up till now (Rear Window, Dial M For Murder, Psycho). And no, it’s none of those movies and no, I won’t share yet which it is – cue in suspense.
I was never aiming for a complete original story and I don’t mind running into those movies now either, I consider it a compliment for myself, that I’m thinking along the same lines as none other than the Master of Suspense, Mr. Hitchcock himself, who actually took many of his stories from novels, plays and other external resources. And there’s no shame in that. It is encouraged. I remember Mr. McKee also mentions it in his book Story and the seminar. Why not look to news stories, books, plays, your own neighbourhood, your friends and family, to get inspired for your screenplay. I already mentioned that the story is a crime thriller and since I am a fan of crime stories, true or not, and TV series like Crime Scene Investigation, it’s no surprise that I am influenced by those stories and the characters. It’s almost impossible not to think of certain character traits that you have seen and were impacted by.
After seeing Psycho (1960) last week, I immediately thought of the episode of Crime Scene Investigation in which a motel owner murders guests in the room next to the lobby and having cameras to watch them (‘Check in and Check Out’, season 14, episode 9). And the show has more references to Hitchcock, so it states.
It’s not strange to see Hitchcock’s style thread through so many films and TV series, because it is so unique and he truly is a master of suspense, so no surprise that we all come into contact with his style whether we realize or not.
So, now this discovery of the similarity between my story idea and a Hitchcock movie leaves me to rethink my story plan. I don’t want it to be too similar, a remake. But I don’t want to abandon it either. I’m thinking this might actually work for me. Why not take his movie like sort of a mentor, an anchor and write my story different enough to be surprising to the audience, but similar enough to recognize the style, she says modestly. Because I have no intention of copying the exact story, this feels ok to me. And when it comes to a real completed screenplay, I will refer to Hitchcock’s film as a guide and the others, because that is what I like to do. Being honest and open about what your creations are based on, where you get your inspiration from and not pretend to have come up with something yourself if that ain’t so. Although technically I wasn’t aware of the movie’s storyline when thinking up my story idea. But that don’t matter. I just want to try to make something that feels somewhat new and not a remake, accidentally or not.
Quite the unexpected revelation today. This might actually speed up my writing, not because I will take his movie and remake it, but because I now have some anchors to work with and to stir me on. And with a first screenplay, that kind of help is very welcome. Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock.