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The Death and Life of Drama cover

"The Death and Life of Drama"

Pub. 2005

Review: University of Texas Press

What makes a film "work," so that audiences come away from the viewing experience refreshed and even transformed in the way they understand themselves and the world around them? In "The Death and Life of Drama", veteran screenwriter and screenwriting teacher Lance Lee tackles this question in a series of personal essays that thoroughly analyze drama's role in our society, as well as the elements that structure all drama, from the plays of ancient Athens to today's most popular movies.

Using examples from well-known classical era and recent films, Lee investigates how writers handle dramatic elements such as time, emotion, morality, and character growth to demonstrate why some films work while others do not. He seeks to define precisely what "action" is and how the writer and the viewer understand dramatic reality. He looks at various kinds of time in drama, explores dramatic context from Athens to the present, and examines the concept of comedy. Lee also proposes a novel "five act" structure for drama that takes account of the characters' past and future outside the "beginning, middle, and end" of the story. Deftly balancing philosophical issues and practical concerns, "The Death and Life of Drama" offers a rich understanding of the principles of successful dramatic writing for screenwriters and indeed everyone who enjoys movies and wants to know why some films have such enduring appeal for so many people.

Review: Robert Foshko, Head of Screenwriting, Department of Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas at Austin

This is an intelligent, practical, and interesting study of the screenwriting art and craft.... Lee's explorations into underlying philosophy and the psychological intricacies of character behavior and story consequences are so well developed they could easily be taken as case histories of real people and real events. One can scarcely have higher praise for [this] cogent analysis of the moviemaker's art.

Review: Joanna E. Rapf, Professor of English and Film, University of Oklahoma

Lee presents an intelligent, historically informed discussion of how and why some films are inherently better than others.... He gives audiences and those of us who teach film some important ideas about how to evaluate the quality and significance of one film as opposed to another.... The book is filled with tantalizing, thought-provoking, and insightful ideas.

Review by TheatreBooks.com

Using examples from both well-known classics and recent films, Lance Lee investigates how writers handle dramatic elements such as time, emotion, morality, and character growth to demonstrate why some films work while others do not. "The Death and Life of Drama" offers a rich understanding of the principles of successful dramatic writing for screenwriters and indeed everyone who enjoys movies and wants to know why some films have such enduring appeal for so many people.

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