• Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of “Little Women” was nominated for six Academy Awards.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: There’s a scene in 2019’s “Little Women” where Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet dance outside giant windows that look into a party where everyone else is dancing. In the 1994 adaptation, this scene is filmed with Jo and Laurie dancing in a study, dining room, and hallway. Both sequences establish Jo and Laurie as outsiders in society, but what separates the 1994 film from the 2019 adaptation is the staging. The 1994 film uses four set pieces while Gerwig uses only one, which more effectively positions Jo and Laurie as outsiders. Where Gerwig stages a scene is just one way she illustrates her genius. And it’s one of the three reasons she deserved to win, or at least get nominated for, best director at the Oscars.

We all felt it coming. In several award shows leading up to the Oscars, women were left out, including former Oscar nominee and supposed shoo-in Greta Gerwig. But as Gerwig writes in her screenplay, “What women are allowed into the club of geniuses anyway?”

Jo: And I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it!

Narrator: Let's start with Gerwig's brilliant blocking. A hallmark of a good scene is when everyone in that scene has something to do. Gerwig takes this concept to the next level with movement. Characters effortlessly move in and out of focus in their scenes at precisely the right time. To illustrate this, we can take a look at the scene where the Marches return home from giving the Hummels their Christmas breakfast.

Meg: Grandfather?

Hannah: Yes.

Meg: Why?

Hannah: He saw you giving your Christmas breakfast away, and he wanted you to enjoy the day.

Amy: But I thought he was a mean old man.

Marmee: That's so generous of him.

Jo: His grandson Laurie put the idea into his head. I know he did. We should make friends with him.

Narrator: Now let's break this down. All the Marches come through the door. Amy notices the spread first, and everybody follows her around the table. We learn that she likes nice things and that's she's aware of material needs. Next, Jo leads the group to the window when she hears that the spread came from the Laurences. She's more idealistic. Marmee stays planted at the center of the room because she's the anchor of the family. Amy leads the group back to what she cares about: the feast. With the movement in this scene, Gerwig uses the space to let her characters organically move. Their familiarity makes it feel like they really live there. But the choreography also informs character dynamics that are important to the story. Jo and Amy tend to lead. Beth and Meg tend to follow. Marmee holds everyone together.

Another great example of movement and blocking is in this scene between Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan. Jo and Aunt March are dramatic foils. Where Jo is always moving, Aunt March is almost always still. Jo has gone off to look out the window. With this decision, Gerwig points out again she's looking out for possibilities.

Aunt March: Is there a reason you stopped reading Belsham?

Narrator: Aunt March forces her back down to continue reading, reflecting her desire to get Jo back to earth.

Aunt March: You'll wish you had behaved better.

Narrator: The ensuing comedic exchange shows that Jo does not do well with being forced to sit still.

Aunt March: [chuckling] Oh, well. No, no one makes their own way. Not really. Least of all a woman. You'll need to marry well.

Jo: But you are not married, Aunt March.

Aunt March: Well, that's because I'm rich.

Narrator: Character-driven blocking expertly executed. Let's talk about pace. Emma Watson describes the dialogue in "Little Women" in an interview with Sony Pictures as having dashes at the end of each line. This means that the lines run together.

Greta Gerwig: But it is in a rhythm. It's not in a random rhythm.

Narrator: Gerwig describes the effect created as "choreographed chaos" and a "cacophony of words and sounds."

[actors talking over each other] [sharp gasp] [Amy gasps]

Narrator: Now, you might be thinking, "Wait, if that's the way the lines were written, doesn't that illustrate why it's a great screenplay instead of why it's excellent directing?" It's a great screenplay, but delivery and pace are a collaboration between director and performer. Where exactly does this character interrupt the other?

Jo: It would be a disaster if we married.

Laurie: It wouldn't be a disaster.

Jo: OK, we'd be miserable!

Laurie: Jo...

Narrator: These are decisions Gerwig was making in rehearsal and on set as the director. She knew exactly how she wanted the dialogue to sound, taking the words she had written and bringing them to life. Let's take another look at the Christmas scene to see this in action. The scene starts with a very fast rhythm, but then it slows to a perfectly engineered pace for us to learn about the character dynamics and relationships.

Jo: His grandson Laurie put the idea into his head. I know he did. We should make friends with him.

Narrator: Jo admires Laurie and wants to be friends.

Marmee: He's a very kind man who lost his little girl when she was only a child, and now his son as well.

Meg: His daughter died?

Narrator: Mr. Laurence has a heart of gold.

Amy: But doesn't Laurie just seem so romantic? He's half Italian.

Narrator: Amy sees Laurie romantically. What could be seen as purely expositional dialogue is transformed to natural family discussion that anybody could see themselves having around a dinner table. All that in a scene that's less than a minute long. Here's an example of a scene that tries this technique, but not to the same level of success.

Randy: I just don't...please.

Rick: Look, Randy, I'm asking you to help me out, man. If the answer's no, the answer's no, not no with excuses.

Narrator: Rick and Randy overstep each other in this conversation, but why doesn't it feel as natural? It's the movement and the pace. Most of this scene plays out in a static wide shot, but instead of lending itself to the tightness of the trailer, the superwide lens gives both characters more space that they don't really utilize. They both stay planted on either side, never breaking the famous 180-degree line and playing it very safe. Leonardo DiCaprio makes good choices to get ready through the scene, but Kurt Russell doesn't have much to do. The pacing of the interruptions feels choreographed rather than each actor trying to get the upper hand in the conversation.

Gerwig closely collaborated with all creative departments to create the perfect staging for her scenes. Staging is a choice of location for a scene, while blocking is the movement within the space. In the moment we mentioned earlier, her choice of staging adds new meaning to a classic scene. Jo and Laurie dancing wildly at the ball is a classic scene from Louisa May Alcott's novel.

Laurie: I'll tell you how we could manage.

Laurie: I have an idea.

Laurie: I have an idea of how we could manage.

Narrator: In the book, Jo explains to Laurie that she must stay hidden because she scorched the back of her dress. So, to bend the rules, Jo and Laurie dance in the hallway. Gerwig decides to go in a different direction and stages the scene outside of the Gardeners' house. Gerwig told The New York Times that she chose to stage it in this way because you could see the dancers inside and Laurie and Jo having their own dance party outside. What Gerwig accomplishes with this staging is the idea of parallel reality. Jo and Laurie move in between the windows with faux elegance and then become who they really are in the space between. We learn how they see the world and how they view themselves as something different. In contrast, in the 1994 adaptation, the scene cuts back and forth from Christian Bale and Winona Ryder to the ballroom in order to show this juxtaposition. This is a classic film technique to show contrast. Gerwig's restaging adds a new layer of excitement and visual metaphor.

Another example of excellent staging in the film occurs when Jo and Beth are on the beach. This is perhaps the best use of Gerwig's place juxtaposition. Throughout the film, she navigates between past and present, often anchored by place. This is a great storytelling technique in the screenplay, but the staging of the two beach scenes in particular shows excellent directing. The past is lit by a warm glow. In the present it's cloudy, as if the joy has gone out of the atmosphere. The wind pulls in the tide with a cloud of sand. Jo tries to hold Beth tight, but she can't save her. The dramatic staging of this moment shows that for all of Jo's spirit, she can't stop the inevitable.

Passing over Gerwig for this nomination perfectly illustrates the reason why this film is so important. It's easy to see how scenes full of violence, explosions, and life-or-death drama feel important. Traditionally, these themes are more masculine. It takes very special director to create a film about domestic affairs without being tossed aside as a "chick flick." "Little Women" is important because it's an adaptation about the place of women in the world and how their passions outside of romantic relationships are often overlooked. The distinctive style and flair of the film is something only Gerwig could achieve.