Planning and Scriptwriting
George Lucas: “Technology is used to tell a story, and that’s the whole point. It is really the
filmmaker and the storyteller and how well they are able to tell a story that counts in the end. The
techniques they use are really a by-product of that process.”
Ever since the dawn of mankind, stories have been told around campfires that ignited the
imaginations of those that watched and listened. Whether the story is spoken, printed, or
portrayed on film, the foundational components of telling a story remain the same. So knowing
how to identify and include those essential parts in your film can make it soar. Once you know
these essential parts, you can include them in your storyboard and script to create a successful
blueprint for making your film.
Setting – the place, both the big and smaller picture of where the story takes place
Characters – People that are impacted by the storyline
Timeline – begins with the introduction of setting/characters and ends with “the end”
Protagonist – The leading character of the story
Antagonist – An adversary
Conflict – This is the drama that drives the tension, which increases along the timeline.
Theme – This is the overriding message of your story – such as good against evil,
transformation of character, revelations, etc.
Create a plan on paper: once you know the parts of your story, the next step is to take your idea
for a film and begin planning your story by writing down specifics.
An example of a plan:
• Setting – The chemical plant near the local river in your town that once teemed with fish
swimming in clean water.
• Characters – Chemical company officials, town environmentalists, impacted wildlife, citizens
who enjoyed the quality of the river, town officials
• Timeline – Begins with historical perspective of the town, river, and chemical company.
Possibly ends with some resolution of the conflict.
• Protagonist – Two students who want to expose unseen pollution from the chemical plant and
restore the environmental health of the river
• Antagonist – Chemical plant or town officials who place profit over environmental health.
• Conflict – Two students discover that the town and the river are being poisoned by the
chemical plant. However, plant officials who are focused on profits, counter-attack the
students by enlisting town officials to make life difficult for the kids. With each attack
and counter-attack, the stakes get higher and the timeline gets shorter…
• Theme –Good prevailing over the dark forces of corporate greed destroying the environment.
Once you have a plan, begin writing the script. Your script can be a simple collection of scenes
and story development supported by interviews, or, it can map out all the parts of your story in
chronological order. If should also include dialogue.
Along the banks of the river in the shadow of the chemical plant.
Two students sneaking up to a pipe discharging chemical waste into the river.
Look at that! I bet those top dogs in the chemical plant wouldn’t
want to fill their fancy swimming pools with that discharge.
No kidding. They wouldn’t want their kids drinking it either. Yet
they’re dumping this upstream from the town’s water supply.
Rob reaches into the water and pulls out a dead fish.
I’d say by the looks of this poor fish that it won’t be long
before people in town start getting green around the gills.
We’ve got to do something, Suz. But what?
I’ve got an idea. But it’s risky. There are a lot of people in that
plant who would try just about anything to stop us.
So we have act quickly!
Rob and Suzie riding down trail along river on their mountain bikes.
From window in chemical plant, executive lowers binoculars and shakes his head. He dials a
Hello, Guido. I’ve got another mess for you to clean up. It’s a
couple of kids on bikes headed back toward town. Maybe they
should have an accident near the whirlpool?
What can you add to the above script excerpt to make it more descriptive and thus easier to film?