“Tell it from the beginning. Where ever that is. Where ever the story starts, that where you start telling it.” He was pacing in front of the whiteboard, holding forth on the failings of screenwriters. “Withholding information for effect is a cheap technique. But revealing it in flashback doubles down on the offence.”
“What about ‘Rashomon’? That’s a classic.” It was a small class and informal, Sara hadn’t raised a hand to speak out.
“If you think ‘Rashomon’ is an example of flashback then you have fundamentally misunderstood the film and the concept. ‘Rashomon’ is a tale retold from different perspectives. There’s no truth revealed by the stories. A flashback changes our perception of the present, immediate action by revealing new information, the viewer has no choice but to believe it.”
Sara blushes. He doesn’t notice.
“Here is your assignment for the weekend: Take a film with a lot of flashbacks and put them into chronological order. What does that do to the story? What’s missing? Where is the tension now? Where is the climax? Where is the inciting incident?”
The class gathers up notes and laptops snap shut as they exit with mutters and murmur.
“Sara.” He says. “Hang back a moment.”
She stays seated in the front row as the lecture room empties and she’s alone with him. The wooden desk is a barrier between them. He sits on it. Perches. So she has to look up at him.
“Sara, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me during the lecture.”
She doesn’t know what to say, so she nods.
He puts a hand on her shoulder.
“You’re a very bright girl, I’m interested in your opinions – so if you want feel free to visit me in my office. Anytime.”
“Sure. Thanks.” She says.
He smiles and lifts his hand from her shoulder to give her a little pat on the cheek. Then he gets up, grabs his satchel and heads out the double doors of the lecture room.
Sara can feel his touch lingering on her cheek, and the weight of his hand still on her shoulder. It stays there for the rest of the day.