Scriptwriting Master Class Review
The Screenwriting Master Class I attended on 21st October 2013 at FACT as part of the BFI Film Academy was an extremely valuable evening in which a professional screenwriter and director talked about the process of creating stories specifically for film. She started by discussing the meaning of the terms genre and theme and emphasised the importance of every film having a theme that the audience could connect with such as love, loss or frustration so that the deeper meaning behind the writing would have greater impact emotionally. She then showed the group of us a short in which a man on a bus found himself getting increasingly irritated by everyone’s noisy use of technology around him to the extent whereby he went on a violent spree beating them up to vent his frustration. This then turned out to be a dream as he awoke to realise it was his phone going off in his pocket and everyone on the bus was in fact annoyed with him for leaving it ringing for so long. I found it useful to use an actual example and put what we had discussed into context and after watching the film we were able to categorise it in the thriller genre and identify the theme as natural human frustration.
We then looked into forming ideas and getting them down on paper and we experimented with the technique of stream of consciousness writing whereby we were given a word or phrase taken from a newspaper and then had to write whatever subsequently came in our heads. This technique was entirely new to me and I found it to be an interesting and useful way of getting ideas flowing. Following this exercise we each wrote a character biography based on a photo of a person we were given and were given a checklist of attributes to consider in order to flesh out their overall persona. I found the checklist incredibly helpful and will definitely make use of it in future. However, I feel I would have got more out of this task if we’d been given slightly longer than five minutes to complete it because then I could have put more thought into the character and started to also think about the characters’ inner elements such as who they care about, what they want in the future and what they fear (as suggested on the checklist).
The next task undertaken as part of the master class involved getting into partners and working out a relationship between our two characters in order to write a scene. I found this enjoyably challenging and when we were initially unsure of where to go with the plot I was grateful of some personal help from the professional writer who said not to over think or over-complicate it as it was only one scene. Overall I found it to be a really beneficial evening full of good advice such as “make the audience intrigued” and “everything means something so don’t just put Greek books on the shelf” (in relation to a past error i.e. if it doesn’t serve a purpose to the plot do not include it). I liked the idea presented that the writer has a creative palette including: genre, theme, location, characters, dialogue, action, movement, emotions, sound, mood, colour, lighting, pace (in the edit), framing and special effects. My eyes were really opened to the limitless possibilities for imaginative direction in the writing – as long as they are not completely out of budget of course. However, in conclusion I left with not only ideas but also further knowledge of how to convey them for screen and therefore I think the Screen Writing Master Class was a great event which I would recommend to anyone with a similar interest in writing for film.