Definitions

walk and down

Walk and talk

Walk and Talk - sometimes referred to as pedeconferencing - is a distinctive storytelling-technique used in film and television in which a number of characters have a conversation en route. The most basic form of Walk and Talk involves a walking character who is then joined by another character. The two then talk on their way to their destination(s). Variations include interruptions from other characters, and Walk and Talk relay races, in which new characters join the group and one of the original characters leaves the conversation, while the remaining characters continue the walking and talking.

From a technical perspective, the Walk and Talk is a variation on the tracking shot, and, like it, is usually filmed with a Steadicam. At times, multiple cameras are used to provide tighter shots of a particular character, a technique more common in television than cinema.

Purpose

The technique is frequently used as a means of emphasizing how busy the characters are; it suggests that there is so much to do and so little time to do it in that even traveling time must be used to serve additional functions. It also serves the purposes of smoothing transitions from one location to another, and adding visual interest to what might otherwise be static "talking heads" sequences. All three Law & Order series have used the technique to this purpose occasionally, and it had been used as a prominent story-enhancer in numerous episodes of The West Wing, House M.D. and ER.

The Walk and Talk is also often used as a way of combining exposition with a visual introduction to major areas (and their locations in relation to one another) that will be used in a production. Examples of this can be seen in both film (the opening conversation between Mal and Simon in Serenity) and television (the similar conversation between Sinclair and Lyta in the pilot episode of Babylon 5, "The Gathering").

Use

Thomas Schlamme favored the technique in Sports Night when working with Aaron Sorkin and adapted it from the typical wide-angle shot of that time to a closer tight-angle shot, usually only encompassing the subject's upper torsos. Subsequently, Schlamme used this technique heavily in the NBC show The West Wing, and it remains a favorite of West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, who has continued its use in his more recent show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. In both shows, Sorkin has at times mocked his own use of the technique in character dialogue. One example of this can be found in the West Wing first season episode "Five Votes Down", where Josh and Sam pedeconference meanderingly around the office before Sam asks, "Where are you going?"; each man then claims to have been following the other. On the West Wing special episode "Isaac and Ishmael", an episode shot over only two weeks and presented before the official season 3 premiere just weeks after the events of September 11, Sorkin remarked that the episode included "zero walking", unlike any other West Wing episode.

Origin

The "walk and talk" is adapted from an earlier literary device in which the characters achieve two purposes simultaneously by traveling towards an objective while exchanging information through dialogue, as in the story "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb", in which Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson and three other characters compare differing theories while traveling by train to the scene of an earlier crime. In movies (far more so than in television), it has been recognized for decades that an ordinary dialogue scene -- in which absolutely nothing is happening, other than people talking -- can be made much more interesting visually if the characters are aboard a moving vehicle with some sort of changing background visible through the windows behind them. One example of this device is the "cuckoo clock" scene in The Third Man, in which Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten have a conversation aboard a moving Ferris wheel, and the end of their talk occurs at its starting point.

References

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