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Engaging Dialogue

Cinematic Verbalism in American Independent Cinema

Jennifer O'Meara

Paperback (Forthcoming)
eBook (ePub) i
eBook (PDF) i

Explores how American directors engage audiences through dialogue that is creatively designed and executed

  • Provides a framework for analysing dialogue design and execution that can be readily applied to other films and filmmakers
  • Highlights how speech can be central to cinema without overshadowing its medium-specific components
  • Develops new connections between film dialogue, reception studies, independent cinema and auteur studies

Examining the centrality of dialogue to American independent cinema, Jennifer O’Meara argues that it is impossible to separate small budgets from the old adage that ‘talk is cheap’. Focusing on the 1980s until the present, particularly on the films by writer-directors like Jim Jarmusch, Noah Baumbach and Richard Linklater, this book demonstrates dialogue’s ability to engage audiences and bind together the narrative, aesthetic and performative elements of selected cinema. Questioning the association of dialogue-centred films with the ‘literary’ and the ‘un-cinematic’, O’Meara highlights how speech in independent cinema can instead hinge on what is termed ‘cinematic verbalism’: when dialogue is designed and executed in complex, medium-specific ways.

Read a sample chapter (pdf)


Table of contents
1. Measuring Engaging Dialogue
2. Verbal-Visual Style and Words Visualised
3. The Integrated Soundtrack and Lyrical Speech
4. Dialogue and Character Construction
5. Embodying Dialogue: Rich Voices, Expressive Mouths and Gesticulation
6. Gendered Verbal Dynamics: Sensitive Men and Explicit Women
7. Adapting Dialogue and Authorial Double Voicing
Conclusion: Verbal Extremes and Excess

About the Author

Jennifer O’Meara lectures in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, having joined the department in 2016 from Maynooth University. She has published on a range of film and media topics, in venues such as Cinema Journal, The New Soundtrack, Feminist Media Studies and The Soundtrack. She is currently writing a book on women’s voices in contemporary screen media.


'What a delight to see the study of filmic dialogue pushed forward by O'Meara! Incorporating the latest research and clear analysis, her engaging insights are applicable to a wider field than the six writer-directors she foregrounds.'

- Professor Sarah Kozloff, author of Overhearing Film Dialogue

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