SCREENPLAY 101

SCREENPLAY 101

Storytelling and screenplay essentials

BY EMMANUEL K. UDUMA

A SMAT media project ©2009

Introduction

Who is a writer?

A writer is simply someone who has something to say. People write about a whole lot of things; from the very personal to the very political. Whatever it is you have to say, it is very important to note that there is always someone (THE AUDIENCE) who will read, listen and learn from what you have to say

Beyond having something to say, the writer (especially the SCREENWRITER) is, very importantly, a researcher, a historian and a public commentator.

This SCREENWRITING HAND BOOK is designed to help you turn your stories into a MOVIE/FILM SCRIPT for production, so let’s concern ourselves to that.

Now, what is a SCRIPT?

A text of play, film, broadcast, talk or speech. A FILM SCRIPT is a final description of what happens in a film. It spells out what is seen and what is heard, the action and dialogue within the framework of the setting. It’s a story cast into such a form that the director can direct it as a film, the actors can act it and the crew can perform respective duties.

THE FILM STORY

A story is a record of how some imaginary person copes with life. A film story is a work of fiction, designed for presentation in a motion picture form.

Because film appeals to a mass audience, it becomes important to take into account different factors:film s

1.     RELIGION:        is your story about a particular religion? Is it controversial? Will it serve the purpose to which you want it to deploy it?

2.     ETHNICITY:      we have over 250 tribes in Nigeria alone and over 450 different languages. You need to approach your story with these facts in mind. WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?

3.     GENDER:  the world is changing and gender issues have become a very sensitive part of the universal community. How much do you know about these issues? When and how will you know you have crossed the line?

4.     SEXUAL ORIENTATION:  gay issues have come to stay whether you like it or not.

5.     EXPERTS Vs ILLITERATES:  your audience members are a mixed multitude with experts who probably know about what you are talking about in your story. Thus research becomes very important, before you begin telling your story

DEFINING THE SCREENPLAY

The term ‘SCREENPLAY’ refers to a SCRIPT written for the CAMERA; a ‘PLAY’, for the ‘SCREEN’. The modern mainstream film SCREENPLAY may be defined as thus: the story of a CHARACTER who Is emotionally engaging and WHO, at the beginning of the SCREENPLAY; is CONFRONTED with a problem which creates an inescapable need to reach a specific GOAL. The attempt to do so inevitably generates almost overwhelming OBSTACLES which are finally overcome by the transformation and GROWTH of the CHARACTER. Simple abi?

Well, if this is TOO much for you to process, I am going to break it down for you so it looks as simple as A B C

Now this was how I learnt it in a STORY CONFERENCE I was privileged to be a part of. It was the second season STORY CONFERENCE of the BBC TRUST TV series ‘WETIN DEY’

The first thing you have to understand about stories is that every story is ‘BASICALLY ONE STORY’. It does not matter who was in it, or what happened. Every (well told story) follows one basic flow and structure

SOMEONE WANTS SOMETHING| SOMETHING OR SOMEONE STOPS ‘THAT’ SOMEONE FROM GETTING THE ‘SOMETHING’| THE ‘SOMEONE’ DOES SOMETHING| THAT ‘SOMEONE’ GETS THAT ‘THING’ THAT HE/SHE WANTS. _____still confused?

 

Let’s use another EXAMPLE:

 

Who is JESUS?    For the purpose of this lecture, let’s just say HE is a GOOD GUY

A= GOOD GUY

NEXT: what does HE WANT?

B= HE WANTS to change people

NEXT: what is the PROBLEM/why can’t HE get them to change?

C= people don’t want to change

NEXT: what does HE do?

D= HE sacrifices HIMSELF to SHOW that he loves them

This is the FLOW of every GOOD/WELL TOLD STORY

LET’S MOVE ON

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