This is what happens when you don’t get to watch a film
on celluloid: you read the screenplay.
we remain unsure why our local audience never got to see this
musical directed by the late Robert Altman on the big screen,
we are thankful we got our hands on the film’s screenplay.
story tells of the last broadcast of a well-loved radio program
“A Prairie Home Companion”. Everyone becomes nostalgic
and croon tunes to commemorate this unforgettable day. A colourful
cast of characters come together, each with a story of their
own. Then there is the mysterious Dangerous Woman who appears
every now and then, with her motives unknown.
those who are not familiar with how a production script is
written, this book may not be the best reading material. It
is not like a conventional novel where the story is written
in prose. Directions, voiceovers and locations are included
in this screenplay – it definitely helps if you can
picture the movie in your mind while reading the book.
dialogues are smartly written by Garrison Keillor, who is
the mastermind behind this radio program in real life, and
aptly plays the announcer in the movie. Because musicals are
so popular now, a good accompaniment to this book would be
the movie soundtrack which allows you to listen to the wonderful
yodeling by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin while reading their
lines in the book.
a context for the screenplay is a foreword by director Altman
and an introduction by writer Keillor. These few pages give
us a great insight into how the film was conceptualized and
eventually taken up by Altman. Sadly, this was also his last
directorial work before dying in November last year.
is interesting to read about how George Clooney was considered
for the radio announcer role, how the cast was bright and
cheery on set, and how much the movie meant to Keillor. Since
this introduction was written before Altman’s death,
we are sure this screenplay would hold an even more special
place in his heart now.
"It’s unprofessional for the screenwriter to lurk
around a movie shoot and snatch scripts out of people’s
hands and scratch out lines and write in new ones. A movie
shoot is like an invasion and requires vast detailed planning
in order to get the work done on time and stay on budget.
The last thing a director needs is a screenplay that keeps
changing. But who said I’m professional? Not me."
screenplay gives us time to enjoy the movie’s every
dialogue. Without the power of visuals, this format of reading
may attract only certain readers. If anything, the foreword
and introduction are sincerely written.
Eight pages of photos from the movie set offer
a look at the cast in action during the filming of the movie.
by John Li