Film Courage: Can we talk about Chekhov’s gun?
Adam Skelter, writer, director, story artist: So basically Chekhov’s gun is (the axiom is) if there’s a gun on the wall, you have to use it. If the gun doesn’t go off then you’ve set up an expectation that you didn’t deliver on. And it’s a good principle and again it’s one of those principles where generally speaking you want to obey it. But again look at NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Llewellyn Moss has a loaded gun on the wall and in the end he fails and we don’t get what we expected but it meant something to the story.
It’s like every principle, it helps us to understand that…the general principle is that if you are going to talk about something, no detail in any story should ever be wasted. Especially with screenwriting. You want to be as sparse as possible, you want to be as specific as possible. So when you’re writing something it all has to be…you should regard every single word as a kind of set-up that you now have a debt to resolve. But that said if you are going to break that rule, have a really good reason for it. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is the perfect reason for it because it directly contributed to the interpretation of the theme.
“The general principle is that if you are going to talk about something, no detail in any story should ever be wasted.”
Film Courage: So even if an author is going to paint a world and maybe add little details when in a screenplay you’re saying don’t do too much of that world because it’s a waste of money?
Adam: I would say it even without the writing.
Film Courage: Oh really?
Adam: Because it really comes down to the voice, the language. And a lot of times when you’re setting something up, you’re trying to plant seeds of something up you are planting seeds that you don’t want the audience to pay attention to because later it pays off and comes through and you’re like Oh, I didn’t even see that coming? But if you didn’t set it up beforehand it feels like a cheat when suddenly introduced. It really just comes down to really knowing the craft. It’s super specific to the needs of your story and a lot of that will depend on get it in front of other people, see if it feels like a cheat, see if it feels like you’re setting something up.
Sometimes if you say the laser gun sitting on the table you’re going to be like The laser gun? Are we in the future? And those are things you need to pay attention to and a lot of that is fine tooth combing your script and getting other people to read it and gauging their expectations, getting as much feedback as you can.
Question For The Viewers: What do you think of Chekhov’s gun? Do you use it in your work?
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