Walk and talk
Walk and talk is a distinctive storytelling-technique used in filmmaking and television production in which a number of characters have a conversation en route. The most basic form of walk and talk involves a walking character that is then joined by another character. On their way to their destinations, the two talk. 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.
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, plus all three shows in the CSI franchise use this frequently. Moreover, it has been used as a prominent story-enhancer in numerous episodes of The West Wing, The Bill, House M.D., Ugly Betty, and ER.
The Walk and Talk technique 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"). This use of the technique is regularly seen in opening scenes in the UK series Hollyoaks as a way of recapping current story lines and showing how the plot streams interrelate with the characters.
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An early use of the technique is in the British police procedural The Bill, but it was arguably popularized by Thomas Schlamme, who favored the technique in Sports Night when working with Aaron Sorkin. Schlamme adapted it from the typical wide-angle shot of that time to a closer tight-angle shot, usually only encompassing the subjects' upper torsos. Subsequently, Schlamme used this technique heavily in Sorkin's NBC show The West Wing, and it remains a favorite of Sorkin, who continued its use in his 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 talk while meandering around the office before Sam asks, "Where are you going?" each man then claims to have been following the other. This gag is repeated in the episode "Mandatory Minimums" when Sam and Toby are walking to breakfast and pass the restaurant by an entire block because they were "having a nice conversation." Another mocking reference to the walk-and-talk occurs in "Debate Camp" during one of the flashback sequences to their first days in the White House. Josh and Sam are looking for a meeting in room West Wing 160 and agree to prepare for the meeting while searching for the room. Sam says to Josh, "We'd better get used to having meetings in the hall from now on." Josh later says that he is going to walk around some more and see if he can "get into a pickup meeting." In "Arctic Radar", Josh's assistant Donna tries to tell him something while hurrying along behind him on his way to a meeting; he reaches the door and tells her, "You've gotta go faster next time. I'm here already." The technique was further parodied in the fifth season episode "Talking Points," in which Josh and Donna have a "walk-and-not-talk;" Donna is upset with Josh, and the two walk several stretches of hallway together without talking at all. 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.
Sorkin later parodied the technique during a guest stint on 30 Rock in the season 5 episode "Plan B". Sorkin and show star Tina Fey are each waiting their turn for a meeting, when they engage in conversation. Sorkin suggests they "walk and talk," and they end up meandering through the hallways of the office building for about a minute before they end up back where they started.
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 film (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 the Wiener Riesenrad, and the end of their talk occurs at its starting point.
In the fourth episode of the second season (20 October 1990) of Twin Peaks, Ben Horne uses the phrase "walk and talk" while walking down a hallway and listening to one of his employees of the Great Northern Hotel. 30 Rock has mentioned walk and talks on several occasions, one of which the characters walk and talk despite not actually walking to any desired place, to which they then realize. It also occurs in an episode of NCIS, when Michael Weatherly's character, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, is approached by an extremely attractive woman from the Seattle Police Department applying for a job. He asks her, "Can you walk and talk?" She answers the question sarcastically, as they proceed to an interrogation room. A reference to the technique is also mentioned in the House episode "Ugly", where the main character says, "Let's go for a walk. Walking gives the illusion of the story moving forward."
The sitcom Frasier mentions "walk and talk" twice in season 3, episode 23 ("The Focus Group"), first broadcast on 14 May 1996:
- Frasier: Niles, is this going to be a long story?
- Niles: Moderately.
- Frasier: Walk and talk.
- Frasier: Niles, is this going to be a long description?
- Niles: Very!
- Frasier: Walk and talk.
By contrast, Larry David, in a few episodes[specify] of sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, mentions that he dislikes the "stop and chat", a Larry David formulation that turns walk-and-talk on its head.