There’s a lot of video essays out there that give cinematography, storyboarding, special effects, and other visual aspects of filmmaking the concept to camera treatment, demonstrating how the intricate details and meticulous planning of pre-production and shooting materialize on the screen. In the first installment of Michael Tucker‘s Youtube series Lessons from the Screenplay, he takes a different approach.
“Many audiences never consider how important a great screenwriter is to a movie. They may not realize how much the director and actors take their cues from the script, or think about why some scenes are exciting and others are boring. Because the hardest part about screenwriting isn’t having an idea for a story, its figuring out how to tell that story in a compelling way.”
Tucker goes right to the heart of any film or video production, the script, and illustrates how the quality of writing and dramatic technique truly make a story come alive. His analysis of Gillian Flynn’s self-adapted screenplay for 2012’s Gone Girl offers three examples of expert screenwriting techniques in action:
Efficient Action Lines
No argument here. Brevity and precision in your action make the script move and help to create mood, tone, and atmosphere without resorting to exposition. We’ve covered the topic of writing action ourselves in a previous blog post – check it out for more tips.
The Last Line is the Point of the Scene
Structure doesn’t just apply to your script as a whole, it also applies to your individual scenes. It goes without saying that every scene in your script should have a point; what makes the point more effective is having it be the conclusion of a miniature arc. If every scene in your script establishes a theme, features rising action, and has a climax which affects the direction of your story, the richer the experience will be for your audience.
Tucker posits that subplot or ‘B’ characters are a frequently misunderstood element of screenwriting. They’re not supposed to be “other protagonists of a separate storyline,” but rather mirrors, foils, or portents of your protagonist and their current situation within the story. Essentially, subplot characters should be facing the same challenges as the protagonist in a different way, and provide the opportunity for the protagonist to be compared and contrasted to them. If your subplot characters are not advancing the plot, they probably shouldn’t be there.
As the title of Tucker’s essay says, don’t underestimate the screenwriter. If his essay’s got you thinking about how you can apply these principles to your current project, sign in and get cracking. Your Studio provides you with all the tools you need to write, workshop, revise, and analyze your script – we don’t underestimate you either.
Source: Lessons from the Screenplay