How Hollywood Is Making Texting Look Dramatic

Illustration for article titled How Hollywood Is Making Texting Look Dramatic

We all increasingly rely on non-verbal forms of communication—email, IM, texting—to let people know what's going on in our lives. That's great for us, but it's causing headaches in Hollywood when it comes to creating drama.


The problem is that TV and film have to remain topical to keep our attention, but it's difficult to make a text message—a few paltry letters on a little electronic screen—particularly gripping. The Wall Street Journal has a wonderful article which takes a look at the techniques used by filmmakers to ensure modern communication is as gripping as classic dialogue:

In the past year, films aimed at teenaged audiences have been experimenting with how to integrate characters' constant texting into storylines, with varying degrees of success. In "LOL," a 2012 box-office flop, the main character, played by pop star Miley Cyrus, posts Facebook updates ("Status: Boyfriend") that were displayed on the screen in a big, cartoonish font as she typed.

The texting seen in "Disconnect" and other coming films adheres loosely to a convention credited to the BBC's "Sherlock," featuring a wired Sherlock Holmes in modern-day London, and more recently, Netflix's hit series "House of Cards"... "Sherlock"... depicts texts on screen as white subtitles in a Helvetica font.


There is, however, more to making text messages gipping than flashing them up on screen in Helvetica—but you should go read the full feature to find out more about it. [Wall Street Journal via Verge]

Image by Jhaymesisviphotography under Creative Commons license

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I wish HoC and Sherlock used it MORE. I feel like both shows used it in the first few episodes, then it trailed off. In a later episode of HoC, they even had an over-the-shoulder shot of an iPhone screen, which sucked compared to that faraway shot of Spacey sitting at the edge of a fountain and the text bubble pops up next to him while he sits alone in the crowd. That was great

Speaking of HoC production, it seemed to get sloppy in general near the end. Another problem with tech: Zoe's iPhone, as she brought it up to look at a text, quite obviously rotated, giving away that it was a screencap. How hard would it have been to turn on the rotation lock? Who didn't notice that in continuity or while filming?