Screenwriting 101

Hello!

Screenwriting is a topic approached by many different authors and scriptwriters alike who have their specific ways in approaching an idea and to transform into script format.

But there a few tips that are common knowledge to anyone who likes to write. Especially if that someone has the ambition to write for the big screen, television or even theatre.

My teacher presented these tips with us in class and I would like to share it with you.

They are as follows:

  1. Do your homework. This means that whatever the topic you choose to centre your story around, you must know everything about it! Know the underlining theme, the reasoning behind your characters’ personality traits, how the world of your story came to be – basically you need to know anything and everything that exists in your script as everything needs to be there for a reason.
  2. Be careful with “on the nose dialogue”. A lot of the greatest scripts in movie history, centre more around the visual aspect of a story more so than dialogue. This is because dialogue is thought to be quite overrated by some of the most prestigious film makers such as Alfred Hitchcock. A story can function well with having zero to no dialogue as long as the combinations of all of the other elements in it still are able to portray a compelling and engaging story for the audience. In summary, using dialogue is a good thing as long as you don’t completely spell out everything that the character is thinking and/or feeling when you should rather show it.
  3. Be aware of the audience. When writing a story, any story, that will be presented to an audience even if that audience is your family or your closest friends, you need to be aware of what the reader’s perception of the story is. Basically, as the author, you need to always be one step ahead of the audience because their reaction will determine if your script is going to rise in glory or fail miserably.
  4. Don’t “play the aces too early”. I know you want to make your story the most epic and engaging one possible. But all the excitement behind starting to write a new script that you believe is amazing, might very well cloud your judgement for the most basic knowledge, don’t introduce the biggest climax of your story too soon. That will probably set the expectations of the reader too high when the rest of the story is just plain and simple from then on. Their interest will decrease to non-existence if that would be the case.
  5. Only write what you can “see”. This seems like something very simple to follow through, but the reality is not thus. I have fallen into this mistake many times and it is surprisingly easy to do without noticing. When you are writing a plot where the main characters finds himself in an unknown venue and he is methodically looking around and trying to decipher each detail of the location as to measure where he might be. In this case, you need to be careful and mindful that you can only write what the character is “seeing” not what he is “feeling internally” as that meddles into his emotional feelings or even his back story that you can’t show in screen.
  6. REWRITE. When you think that your script is perfect and you are ready to share it with the world, it’s because it’s probably not perfect and you’re setting yourself off to failure. There is probably some spelling error, repeated words, sentences that don’t make sense or even part of the dialogue for an important scene is missing. Meaning that you need to look over everything and maybe even send it to a couple other people so they can fact-check it for you.

Hopefully this is helpful to some of you!

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4 Little Girls: Documentary introduction

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Hello!

Today we kicked off our Screenwriting module with a first glance of a genre we are going to be talking about for the next couple of weeks. Yes, it is Documentary time. When I first started in this module, we learned all that we needed to learn about Melodrama which was nice but I am glad that we can now move on to something different.

We learned that even though a documentary needs to be truthful and “follow the rules” in order for it to be an accurate representation of an actual event in time and space, it can still be creative. We, potential filmmakers, can still let our creative juices flow and let them show through it. It’s just a matter of editing: the cutting, the order in which we put the footage, photographs, locations, interviews, the use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound, amongst so many others. It is in post-production that we can make a masterpiece out of a documentary. And that was interesting to acknowledge.

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And to kick start our classes, we were shown a Spike Lee documentary entilted “4 Little Girls” which follows the story of four young children that were brutally murdered by a bomb explosion while at church in Alabama in 1963. This is the basis of the story yet Lee tells us much more than that, he tells us all the events that led up to this massacre as to show the audience the “why” this happened. He doesn’t condone these events but instead feels the need to justify and to bring a clarity to the world, of who, why and what happened or needed to happen to give a reason for these murders. I don’t know if he succeeded but at least he told a story that deeply moved audiences, well at least it moved me. Lee goes deep into the begginings of racial prejudice in Alabama with the showing of archival footage, still photographs and even interviews with victims or bystanders that were there at those times.

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Later on in the afternoon seminar, our teacher mentioned something that I found quite alluring, when he said “Film is a ghostly medium”, right when he said it, I felt a chill come over me. The complete truthfulness of that statement caught me off guard. It is something so obvious yet it had such a poetic meaning to me. The idea of each film, even the current one’s, are and will someday be mere ghosts of the past is something morbidly fascinating to me. Yet, I always knew that film was such a beautiful medium where some of the greatest stories and pieces and History are forever “trapped” in film stock (or SD cards!) is something beyond precious. That beautiful moment when you can watch your favorite movie from the 1940’s and feel yourself being immersed into the wonderfulness of the acting, story and location. It’s priceless.

Though this viewing, I learned the difference between the different types of documentaries that exist as well as the basis of what type of documents I would need to obtain in order to, try, and give justice to the piece of history I would like to portray on screen.

P.S.- And I also learn that I rant too much. I am sorry.

Here is an interview with director Spike Lee talking about his documentary film.

Slumdog Millionaire: Screening

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Hello!

Today we saw the Oscar award-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire”. I have never seen it before, although I knew somewhat what it was about. And I have to say that the movie wasn’t as amazing, for me, as I was told it would be. It was an ok movie, which I think focused more on character development than actually being type cast as an action film. I guess it is a romance, due to the fact that the story revolves around this boy Jamal who is in live, since childhood, with Latika a girl from the slum as well. It follows his life story showing, for most of the film, flashbacks of everything that happen up until the point where we, the audience, catches up with the film’s reality. The other focal point of the film is the fact that Jamal upon entering the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” from Mumbai, he finds himself being the winner of the biggest amount ever in his country which gets him into serious trouble. He ends up being repeatedly tortured because the game makers can’t, or don’t, want to believe that he actually won the game fair and square, which eventually propels the story forward as he retells his life story to one of the police officers who interrogate him. This is the basis of the story, which obviously secondary characters who only serve to enhance the story with different plots and actually make the life of the protagonist quite difficult, if I am to be honest. Overall it was an average movie for me, and not one I think deserved as much recognition as the one it had.

Stagecoach: Screenwriter and Audience

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Hello!

As a follow up from last week we delved, finally!, into the importance of visualizing our story and how the audience might receive it, from the point of the screenwriter. We talked about how important it is to the screenwriter to be able to write with a clear mind as to be able to place the story and characters in the specific time line as well as being able to already imagine specific actors in the roles, even if they never get Vivien Leigh or Laurence Olivier portraying their characters. Yet one can dream… But that’s beside the point. The point being that a screenwriter has to think of what actor, or what “type” of actor, would best fit into a specific stereotype as well as thinking of stereotypes and genres and specific actors in relation to casting. As it is already evident, the screenwriter has a lot on his hands! It’s not just about the story, it’s about everything that goes along with it. In regards to the audience it is essential to be able to place the viewer properly within the film storyline. You can either offer an a cinematic experience where the viewer is simply the viewer, watching the action from the outside or you can quite literally consciously “write” them into the film as to make them feel like they are an integral part of the story’s development.