This week's Answer:
Pace on Earth
Assuming, John, you’re not speaking
of the picante sauce (which, if inordinately spicy, can
definitely change your pace towards the nearest
water receptacle), I shall attempt to put my finger on the
ever-present yet difficult-to-put-your-finger-on-it
subject, pace. Let me first broach pace by saying what it
is not. Pace
is not how fast you type the words onto your
that were the case, Neil Simon would have no pace
whatsoever in his plays and screenplays since he only
writes his masterpieces in longhand on long pads.
And his works are pace-perfect and depend on, not
only his incomparable witty repartee, but also on the pace
of them.) What
else is not pace? Pace
isn’t just a whimsical speeding up or slowing down of
the action in a script.
True pace is the generic, natural tempo and the
tempo changes of a screenplay. Pace also has to do with the rhythm of the story.
Do you notice several descriptive words here that
are applied to the field of music?
If you listen to a symphony, which usually has four
sections, you discover that, with each section (and
sometimes within each section), the composer’s music is
written to be played at different tempos, which gives the
entire opus variety and allows it to make dramatic and
poignant musical statements.
The same idea applies to a screenplay.
If you watch a good movie (or read a well-crafted
screenplay), you’ll notice the author makes his or her
statements with the help of pace.
You are swept up into the story; and there is a
certain velocity connected to this “sweeping.”
And this velocity changes in degree, sometimes
abruptly, sometimes gradually.
There is an intrinsic relationship
between the pace/tempo and the emotional tone of each
moment in a script (e.g., generally when a scene depicts a
funeral and the accompanying somber emotional tone, the
pace is deliberate and steady; while a car chase, just by
the word “chase,” shouts “speed” and
a screenwriter, you have no control of the Master
Controller of Pace, namely the editor (unless you also
happen to be the editor, and, if that’s the case,
why are you writing me when you should be off editing your
film?), but you are considered to be the Grand Originator
of Pace (so “There, Mister Think You’re All That
you know that feeling when your adrenaline has been racing
because the hero or heroine is in an extremely challenging
situation (such as when the entire universe as we know it
is about to be disintegrated unless he or she does
something rather quickly), and as soon as that scene races
to some sort of conclusion and the next scene opens on a
tranquil, pastoral countryside with the birds chirping
(thereby revealing that at least our planet
wasn’t on the “blow up all the planets” space
Your blood pressure immediately drops; you breathe
an internal or external sigh of relief?
Well, my friend, you have just witnessed a perfect
example of Pace Control (not to be confused with Space
Patrol, an excellent title for a sci-fi series—which has
already been done—so I advise you not to use it, unless
you’re planning on doing a remake, and, then I’d make
sure you have the rights so you’re not sued up the wazoo,
which would definitely put some pace in your day.)