By Aditya Savnal. Posted on March 03, 2015
We recently conducted an online screenwriting workshop with Elliot Grove, founder of the Raindance film festival. The festival which has been in existence for more than 2 decades has been recognised as a prominent Independent film festival that has showcased films of Christopher Nolan, Park Chan Wook, Steven Soderbergh amongst other filmmakers. Besides this, they also conduct workshops and courses on various areas of filmmaking.
It was heartening to see an overwhelming number of people register for the workshop. Sadly, due to the limited availability of seats, we could not accomodate everyone. But we will surely make up for this in our future sessions, we promise!
It is often a challenge to put your thoughts onto paper while writing a script and this proves to be a stumbling block for aspiring filmmakers. During the course of the workshop, the participants got a lot of great insights on screenwriting. We thought it would be a great idea to summarise the key learnings and share it with those who could not attend the workshop.
So here is a list of 10 things we learned from the workshop.
Procrastination is the biggest mistake any screenwriter or filmmaker can make. If you have a great idea for a film , then just go ahead and write it. Do it before the idea in your mind dies. And do not worry about how the script will turn out. For there will always be room for improvement. So don't procrastinate, just go ahead and write your script.
Always be confident while you set out to write your script. Do not think about failure and fret too much about the opinion or approval of others. Remember, the best of filmmakers have often faced tough times and have emerged gloriously from adverse circumstances. And this would have been impossible if not for the confidence and conviction these filmmakers had in their skills and scripts.
Every story must have a hero or a protagonist who is on a pursuit and an antagonist who is determined to not let the protagonist achieve his/her goal. Filmmakers must create interesting characters and engage them in formidable conflicts with each other. For it is these conflicts and clashes that result in a memorable film and performances that remain etched in the viewer's minds forever.
Besides the hero and the antagonist , your screenplay must have an ally who is initially rooting for the hero but later on switches loyalties with villain and vice versa. Some of the greatest films such as The Godfather, Once Upon A Time In America and The Prestige have played wonderfully with these concepts and look how they turned out to be.
As per Elliot, storytelling can either be Low Concept or High Concept. High concept ideas can be defined in 3 to 4 lines and are very easy to sell. The people marketing such films, often know how to cut the trailer and do other things which will help them sell the film profitably. However if this concept is not built upon properly, then it can backfire miserably and invite endless criticism from the audience.
Low Concept films are built on the relationships the characters in the film share amongst themselves, rather than exploring a plot idea. According to Elliot, Slumdog Millionaire is an apt example of this concept. The downside of a low concept film is that it is often tough to sell such films for financiers are often unable to understand the finer nuances of your script.
Always try and give your characters interesting physical traits such as a scar on the face or other similar traits that will make them appear unique. 'Two face' in The Dark Knight, an obese and bald Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder or a dangerously frail looking Christian Bale in The Machinist are some great examples of these. Undeniably, the physical appearance of these characters have played an important role in making them memorable. But one should take care to not let these traits override your story. It is always essential to write your characters well and define them in a way most people would relate to.
The Dark Knight, Heat, Gladiator, No Country For Old Men and many other movies became memorable due to the great conflict their scripts imbibed between the characters. It is therefore essential to have a good conflict point in your story as this can transform your story in a great way.
The conflict can be physical like the classic David versus Goliath story or a psychological conflict wherein the ethics of the protagonist are challenged such as Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, Russell Crowe in The Insider or Al Pacino in Serpico.
The trait of character if stressed upon convincingly can make for a good story. Think of Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar or Matt Damon as janitor with a penchant for Mathematics in Good Will Hunting and you will understand what we intend to convey.
The agent fixes appointments and attends calls on your behalf and these are tasks which any filmmaker can do with a fair bit of persistence. It is often said that agents help to sell your scripts due to their connections. But don't forget the hefty commissions which they would charge for your hardwork and efforts. In today's age of social media, it is not tough to track down production houses through social networking websites and similar platforms. Many scripts in today's date have been sold online and many independent filmmakers have found producers for their films through social media platforms. All you require is some patience and conviction.
Lastly be confident, chuck the procrastination, believe in yourself and go ahead and write your story. After all the words of wisdom we have provided in the points, do you need any more reason to not believe in yourself and write your film? :)