Kevin Conroy Scott: The Voice over really works well in the film (Election) and I think it’s wonderful. Why do you think Hollywood screenwriting books are so against the technique of using voice-over?
Alexander Payne: It seems that there are two schools of thought against voice-over. The first is that in cinema you are supposed to show, not tell. The second is that if the film is perceived to be bad or incomprehensible. you slap voice-over on it so that you can at least release it. I don’t know why some people take those example of voice over badly used and translate it into a blanket statement against all voice-over work. You can point to all the great directors and greta films that have used voice-over.
Jim Taylor: How could you watch Sunset Boulevard and say, “You should never use voice-over?”
Alexander Payne: What about Clockwork Orange? I really think it’s tantamount to saying that in a play you shouldn’t have a character speaking a soliloquy all by himself: “I feel this, I aspire to do this.” But I saw Uncle Vanya last week and three or four characters have moments when they express their thoughts on stage. I can’t conceive of Election without voice-over. That is where form and content are very much united.
It’s worth noting that Taylor and Payne were nominated for an Oscar for their Election screenplay, and won one for their screenplay Sideways.
Related Post: Is Voice-Over Narration Dead?