Cool story, bro – Screenplay Journal #1

I have wanted to write a screenplay for some time now. I’m not sure where or when the urge hit me, perhaps it’s something that strikes a lot of people who revel in the storytelling of cinema. Regardless, it’s an itch and I intend to scratch it. To accompany the eventual writing of said screenplay, I will be occasionally rambling on here about its progress, problems, and particulars. Commence journal entry!

First, I’m going to need a story. That is after all, what films are – an extension of storytelling, a natural evolution. It needs to be a good one, but what constitutes a good film? I remember reading somewhere that all stories revolve around conflict. That is to say, problems or situations to be resolved. This seems pretty spot on. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a film that doesn’t conform to this, and that’s probably for the best. However, there is also the leeway to forego resolution entirely. A film may end without a resolution to the conflict but it can be nonetheless a good film. Some films leave you to draw your own conclusions, which can be quite a bit of head-scratching fun. Allegory is another aspect to consider, should a film say something beyond the face-value of the story? Should it explore an issue or characteristic or emotion? I have read interesting articles written about films that have sought to uncover and explain the seemingly hidden messages and meanings behind them. For instance, Rango can be viewed as an examination of identity, Inception can be viewed as a metaphor for film-making, the list goes on (in fact, search Google for “films with hidden meanings” – there’s some thought-provoking stuff out there). Another adage is to “write what you know”. Certainly I can see the merits of that but I also think one should reach out beyond their own experience, or at least attempt to from time to time. Characters are obviously very important too. Should characters be likeable? Relatable? Deplorable? Endearing? Definitely interesting at least! Should characters change as the story progresses? Should they have their own arcs that allow them to discover something?

So many questions. I think my brain may have started to melt a little. I have perused the internet for help with writing a story/screenplay and in some ways I don’t think it did help. A lot of what I found made the whole process sound impossibly daunting and unassailable for someone in my position (i.e. no education in writing since GCSEs!). After picking myself up again, I have come to the conclusion that this is as fruitless as Google-ing your symptoms on the internet – you will find some website telling you that you are about to kick the bucket. Not constructive at all. What I have gleaned however, is that the a story, and subsequently a screenplay and film, should engage its audience – make them feel something. Whether that is to provoke thought on deeper matters or simply to make them smile, a film should strive to engage through whatever means.

With that in mind, I need to develop a story that engages people. Honestly, I’m not sure how to do that at this stage, this stage being the incoherent ramblings of film-fan with a smidgen of writing credentials. So I’m going to focus on what stories/films have engaged me and what I can draw from them. I have many ideas bouncing around in my head and like Sgt. Nicholas Angel, I am “always thinking away”, but hopefully over the course of the next few months I will be able to flesh out the way in which I want my screenplay to engage its’ audience. Check back for the next journal entry soon.

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