“I think therefore I am.” – René Descartes (1596 –1650)
What an eloquent way to describe the human existence. We are our thoughts.
And there’s no better way to capture those thoughts than to write them down. In that regard…writing a screenplay is collecting a group of thoughts and converting them into a coherent and captivating story.
So. Before I move on with further discussing Act I of my screenplay, I want to explore the “thoughts” that go behind such an undertaking.
Over the past few years, I have read books, taken classes from renowned screenwriters, and researched countless theories on screenwriting. And one thing that I hear over and over again, is that screenwriting is both art and science.
It’s art because you create something out of nothing. You create a universe based on your imagination.
It’s science because there is a systematic organization to its structure.
For me, the art part is fun. The science part. Not so much. I am going to make the assumption that the structure aspect (or format) of a screenplay becomes an afterthought as you become a seasoned screenwriter. But, until your reach that level, paying attention to the structure aspect is just as important as the art aspect.
And that’s where the hardcore “thinking” comes into play. You have to ask yourself so many questions about the plot…the characters…the conflict…the resolution. And that’s just a tiny little sampling of topics you must put some serious hours of though into.
I mean. I guess you don’t have to. But, if you want to write a great movie, you better do the thinking. And, if you don’t want to write a great movie. Then why write it at all. There are enough sub-standard movies out there. And, I (along with the rest of the movie going audience) want to see a great movie!
Yesterday, I sat down with a pen and notepad, and revised the relationships between all of my characters. And most of the things I wrote down are backstory, and will never be shared with the audience. I also put more details into the plot, and the conflicts within the story. Some of the stuff will go in the script, while a lot of it will just be part of the universe in which the story exists. It is important that you know that world so well, that the backstory helps you tell the present story. And the people who read scripts and see movies know the difference between well thought out characters and plot versus a haphazard and unorganized story.
A film is a visual medium. It’s storytelling through images. So, instead of describing a person’s inner thoughts (like in a novel), you must show these thoughts through action or dialogue.
The point I am making, is this – think through your story, then write, then think some more. Your script will be so much better if you take the time to think through how you want to present your story to the world. And, embrace both the art and science of screenwriting. Because when they are in harmony, you’ll have a hell of a script.