Screenwriter in the Director’s Seat; From Action to Cut. Hold the press!


Since my premiere production I received feedback from a panel of judges who took the time to evaluate my script, Say It Once More with Feeling. I have also taken the last month and continue on my studies in scriptwriting. Here’s what I learned:

In the writing process the story takes on a life of its own. As a writer of many genres I feel all but compelled to include the setting and blocking in the script as I write. That includes writing many fine details including where the props might be placed and the body language the actors’ might use as they perform their dialogue. Using this personal method of writing the producer reads the story they get a mental projection of how I see the story taking shape as it spills onto the page.

Some people criticise that approach and there is reason for and against it. Mainly, when scripts are purchased a director takes over to help the producer create their version of how they see the film and in so doing all those extra tidbits of information, the overflowing cigarette trays the condoms laying used on the kitchen floor, the wife screaming the dialogue while wildly waving her hands become more of an inhibition to getting the script sold than proactive in convincing a producer this is what they want.

In fictional narrative all these minute details are crucial. Minute details paint the story for the reader but film is a visual medium and while the job of the scriptwriter is to write visually. It is becoming clearer to me that it is not necessarily to paint a vision in parentheticals of how the script should work but to make sure that the dialogue and action in the script come across in such a way that the producer and future viewers become emotionally invested in whether or not the child makes it out of the ghetto alive, or whether or not the wife gets away from the abusive husband.

It is hard for me as someone who chooses to write all genres and not specialise in one as many writers do, to not sometimes confuse the rules that come with writing different genres. Fortunately I have the surroundings of a very talented and supportive film community with professionals across the spectrum to help remind me that everyone has a job and place in the making of a production when it comes to script writing.

I went to a filmmakers and actors social recently and was delighted to sit with producers, actors and performers who were uninhibited about sharing their filmmaking experiences and pet peeves about the industry.

Actors who have demonstrated with their craft why parentheticals explaining how they should look or react in a scene become redundant when you see how they apply their skills with their character studies and rehearsals before the shoot.

While as a screenwriter I naturally include parentheticals I have decided to keep these descriptions to a minimal having noticed that in the scripts that I have studied there is no room for lengthy direction for the director or cues for the actors. These people know their jobs and every day I hone my scriptwriting skills just a little bit more.

To be cont’d…



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