SCREENPLAY 101-5

CHARACTER MOTIVATION

We have stated that the GOAL of your major CHARACTER drives the STORY forward. The CHARACTER thus becomes the most important element of your SCREENPLAY, and what follows is what MOTIVATES that CHARACTER

Audiences always hunger to know why a CHARACTER acts as they do. Working on a CHARACTER’S biography and BACK STORY will tell you what generally MOTIVATES them with respect to YOUR STORY-your CHARACTER must want to accomplish SOMETHING by the end of your SCRIPT, and their reason for it MUST be clear, evident and VISUAL. This is your CHARACTERS MOTIVATION.

Motivation is what makes it DRAMATIC; the CHARACTER in CONFLICT and WHY that CHARACTER will seek CONFLICT

CONFLICT AND CHARACTER

So, the most important component of SCREENPLAY is CHARACTER and the most important aspect of CHARACTER is MOTIVATION. However, CHARACTER and MOTIVATION can not be understood in isolation. You need the third part of the equation: CONFLICT

PRACTICALS!!

GET YOUR DICTIONARY AND LOOK UP THE MANY DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS OF CONFLICT

Conflict is the essence of DRAMA: in real life, we all try to avoid it. As a SCREEN WRITER, you can not avoid CONFLICT. You can not write a SCREENPLAY without it.

Your CHARACTER may have a GOAL, but if there is no CONFLICT there is no DRAMA. Being confronted by obstacles and problems, and the different ways your CHARACTER reacts to and tackles them is how we see the PROTAGONIST develop

CONFLICT ARISES WHEN A NEED/INTENTION/GOAL MEETS AN OBSTACLE

In typical HOLLYWOOD movie, CONFLICT/OBSTACLES progress in danger as the STORY progresses-until the final battle, LAST FIGHT ‘gan-gan!’

Thus CONFRONTATION IS A UNIT OF CONFLICT!

YOUR CHALLENGE therefore is to lay out increasing degrees of confrontation, every time increasing the stake, danger and risk (for the PROTAGONIST) to put your audience on the edge of their seat and holding their breath until you decide to let them breath. E.g. 24, PRISON BREAK etc

Why, you may ask, are my only using Hollywood examples? Simple; Hollywood is the standard. If you want to grow as a SCREENWRITER, study HOLLYWOOD MOVIES!!!

TYPES OF CONFLICT

The SCREENWRITER has a choice of THREE

1.     individual against individual

2.     individual against environment: conflict with forces of nature

3.     individual against self: conflict within the CHARACTER from something they have not acknowledged, confronted or overcome

PLANING THE ACTION

At it’s most eloquent, the SCREEN is a behavioral medium, one that shows rather than tell-“show, don’t talk”. Tell your STORY in action, pictures and not ‘talking heads’ yapping away.

With this in mind, let’s go back to the IDEAS you linked together from the thirty you listed earlier

Look at the list of sequences you made and rate each by how readily it could be understood by a ‘deaf person’. In some sequences you will see that the film narrative is evident through action. In others the issues reach only ‘verbal levels’

DIALOGUE

Dialogue is verbal action which pushes the STORY forward and which is derived from the CHARACTER’S needs within the SCEEN. In cinema, dialogue follows the vernacular speech of the type of person depicted. According to whether this is a young boy, market woman, taxi driver or a professor, you might expect the person to speak street slang, broken English, or in strings of qualified jargon-laden abstractions

Dialogue in movies is different from dialogue in real life and each character should have his or her own dialogue characteristics, vocabulary, and syntax and should be unlike another

Watch any movie or series and then try and identify distinguishing difference in the speech of the various CHARACTERS on screen, taken special note of their background, age and experience, with respect to the STORY.

In general, dialogue should be the last resort of the SCREENWRITER after all the means of expression have been tried and found wanting

“Never let an actor talk unless he has something to say…that will move the STORY forward”

FUNCTIONS OF DIALOGUE

1.     providing information

2.     advancing the STORY onward

3.     deepening the CHARACTER by revealing emotions, mood, feel, intent and by what ever would be difficult, time-consuming via character action

4.     Revealing incidents and information. i.e. from the past (BACK STORY)

5.     adding to the rhythm and pace of the SCRIPT by contributing to the style of the SCRIPT

6.     connecting SCEENS and shots by providing continuity

7.     suggesting the presence of objects, events or persons not seen by using off-screen (o.s.) dialogue

LAST: “SAY MORE WITH LESS”

CREATING A SCENE

As with sequence, first you have to create the context (purpose, place, and time of your scene) then content will tend to follow.

Now to create context, ASK YOURSELF:

1.     What happens in this scene?

2.     What does each character in this scene want? Want to happen or prevent from happening by the end of the scene?

3.     Where does the scene take place?

4.     At what time does the scene take place?

5.     Why does is it there?

6.     How does it move the story forward?

7.     What happens in it to move it forward?

And while you are sorting out these- do not forget your CHARACTER

8.     How did my CHARACTERS get from one end of that scene to the start of this one?

9.     What were they doing all the time?

10.       While I’ve been concentrating on CHARACTER X and Y in this scene, what are the other CHARACTERS doing?

SCREENPLAY STRUCTURE

Basically, a SCREENPLAY is based on a three-act-structure. People refer to this template as the ‘classic Hollywood film structure’, but it’s origin lie with Aristotle and it forms the basis of nearly all good dramatic structure

ACT I: THE SET UP:    establish main CHARACTER(S), setting, situation, a CONFLICT and GOAL. PROTAGONIST (or HERO) begins the journey to achieve that GOAL

¼

1-30 pages

ACT II: DEVELOPMENT      develops the main STORY, establish and develop obstacles to that GOAL: develop the PROTAGONIST and other characters. Adds depth and meaning to the STORY concept

½

30-90

ACT III: PAY OFF AND DENOUMENT

Contains climax and resolution: the main climax occurs: the GOAL has been achieved/task completed: all the character relationships and sub-plots are resolved and finally the audiences are allowed to wind down, feeling satisfied at the end

¼

90-120

With each ACT ending in a climax and each one being greater than the one before, until we reach the major climax at the end of ACT III.

Familiarize yourself with it now. Can you now create your STORY in this way?

BEFORE YOU DO, LET’S LEARN ABOUT SCRIPT LAYOUT AND VISUAL LANGUAGE

SCREENPLAY LAYOUT

Before starting the creative journey it is important to establish some basic details about how  scripts are laid out on the page (professionally formatted scripts) and the technical language used

All SCRIPTS must be typed on white A4 sized paper on one side of each sheet. They should be typed using 10 character per inch. Why? It’s easy to read. The font type is currier new

At this point you should be thinking about getting your hands on some properly formatted scripts. This hand book comes with a one-page sample, but you can request for more at a give away price. CALL FOR details

PAGES

Page one is your first page of text. Pages are numbered in the top right-hand corner

FILM FORMAT

You do not place the title at the top of the page, that’s what cover pages are for. The first information to appear is FADE IN: in the top left-hand corner (FADE OUT appears in the bottom right hand corner of the last page, at the end of your SCRIPT)

This hand book comes with a SCREENWRITING SOFTWEAR that will automatically format your SCREENPLAY as well as a sample copy of a Hollywood SCREENPLAY

You will observe that the first page of most film SCRIPTS contains little, if any, dialogue: you are trying to set the scene and atmosphere, establish your main character, intrigue us, draw the audience in

 

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