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Hitchcock’s Constructionist

I love reading up on Hitchcock’s technique, he was such a diligent craftsman. 

Today I learned he would often employ what he called a constructionist - a term I have never heard anyone else use in the film industry. This was a person solely responsible for the construction of a story - the story design!

One of his early collaborators was the playwright Charles Bennett. In Bennett’s own words:

“Possibly, I suppose, I was the best-known constructionist in the world at that time. I am not being conceited but I was awfully bloody good. I was a first class constructionist. I’m not saying I was the best dialogue writer in the world. Sometimes we had to bring in dialogue writers.  

“…But the important thing - and Hitch always knew this - was construction. Get your story, get your architecture right, and you can always add your dialogue afterwards. That was always the Hitchcock attitude right up to the day of his death.” 

It seems that in the early studio system, screenwriting was almost split into three roles: a story designer (constructionist) who would build the narrative and the key events; the director (or storyboard artist) who would visualise each event; and then a dialogue writer who would add lines where the images could not themselves convey the idea.

Now these seem to have been blurred into one, but what a wonderful way to work.

Also, props to Bennett for this exchange:

Interviewer: All this foolery with credits didn’t bother you in those days?

Bennett: Nothing bothered me in those days. I was young and very good looking.

Filed under Charles Bennett Alfred Hitchcock Constructionist film making story design screenwriting script screenplay story construction narrative Adam Westbrook