AWDF: Scriptwriting Masterclass at the 2nd African Women in Film Forum


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Powerpoint of a script writing masterclass at the 2nd African Women in Film Forum (AWIFF), led by the award winning playwright and screenwriter Ade Solanke

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AWDF: Scriptwriting Masterclass at the 2nd African Women in Film Forum

  2. 2. AWDF AFRICAN WOMEN IN FILM SCRIPTWRITING MASTERCLASS BY ADE SOLANKE • This masterclass covers key aspects of cinematic storytelling. • It aims to improve your understanding of important principles of dramatic writing and to develop your ability to apply these ideas. • We’ll use film clips and discussion to explore some of the tools screenwriters use to attract, hold and satisfy audience attention. • By the end, you will have an insight into important elements of a screenplay and the contribution each makes to effective storytelling. You’ll also have a workable approach to the process of developing your screenplay from idea to first draft.
  3. 3. CINEMA TODAY Dominant mode is blockbuster action movies which typically depict supernatural heroes, saving the world by winning explosive physical battles against external forces which seek to destroy it.
  4. 4. •How do social justice stories differ? •Human dramas, presenting true-to-life experiences of ordinary people grappling with everyday issues •But the most successful blockbusters have something in common with successful social justice movies... they feature characters who change through struggle.
  5. 5. 1 - Developing the Idea •Selecting a viable premise/idea: •What kind of story do you want to tell? What excites/infuriates/moves you? •What is its dramatic potential (ie how and why will that subject grip the audience)? •Who is the target audience?
  6. 6. “ Spora Stories: Great Stories, Well Told With Spora, i look for material that will appeal to audiences with an interest in Africa and in family stories. Case Study 1: Pandora’s Box A tragicomedy about leaving your child in another country. Why Pandora’s Box worked: subject and treatment – comedy about a serious issue that resonated deeply with the British-African audience. ”
  7. 7. 2 - Developing the concept •Building on your idea/premise to turn it into a marketable concept, the basis for a pitch. •Genre? •Target audience?
  8. 8. •Case Study 2: Dazzling Mirage Theme: Sickle Cell Sufferer struggles to achieve career success and marriage. • The material is about overcoming the stigma of sickle cell. But in crafing the story, the ‘issue’ of sickle cell was not enough. •Audiences want to share an individual’s emotional experience as they struggle to deal with the issue and achieve a goal. They ‘enjoy’ seeing hardship, and seeing it overcome through tenacity, skill and resourcefulness. •The emotional involvement comes through the vicarious experience of first suffering with the character, then ultimately triumphing with her.
  9. 9. “ Social justice films work best when they entertain and elicit an emotional response, as well as educate The issues they explore are best dramatised through an individual or group who/which is striving to help themselves, no matter how terrible their circumstances. Unfortunately, just because someone is suffering does not mean people will want to see a film about them. People like to root for the underdog, but they sympathise more with self-help than absolute victimhood. So design your stories around fighters, troubled people resisting against oppression. ”
  10. 10. Examples of social justice films that successfully do this are : •Philadelphia, •Erin Brockovitch, •The China Syndrome, •Gandhi These films show the issues dramatised and the courage of people who refuse to give up. In fact, the characters often risk their lives to achieve their goals.
  11. 11. 3 – Developing the Characters (traits and arcs ) Types of dramatic characters? •The Kings Speech is an example of how to design a character who successfully draw an audience into their struggle. •Why did a film about a privileged English monarch connect to so many ordinary people? •How does it compare to the impact of Slumdog Millionaire, a film about poverty-stricken Indian kids?
  12. 12. 4 – Developing the Action (drama means ‘to do’) Types of dramatic conflict? • Drama shows what characters do in reaction to crisis • Structural devices to help you shape the action (Beginnings, middles and ends) • Scenes, sequences and acts • Some key plot points in a character’s journey of change through struggle (eg .inciting incident, mid point reversal, the climax)
  13. 13. The Principle of Antagonism One of the main ways a character is tested is by the action of an antagonist; an equally strong character who actively opposes the protagonist and forces her to work harder to achieve her goals. The stronger the antagonist, the better the drama. Social justice drama has no shortage of ‘baddies,’ but make them as complex and nuanced as your ‘goodies.’ They have a POV too, and a reason for their behaviour, no matter how warped it is. Make the bad guy pat the dog!
  14. 14. REMEMBER … Actors like to play great parts . They look for the roles that will allow them to showcase their range and the parts that “give them somewhere to go dramatically.” The viability of any project is increased when you have excellent actors itching to get their teeth into your characters.
  15. 15. 5 - Developing the Project Stages in creating your screenplay, and development documents useful for each stage.  The premise in a 50 word logline  Expand the logline into a one-page outline  “ outline into the treatment  “ treatment into the sequence breakdown • “ sequences into the scene breakdown
  16. 16. 6 – Developing the scene, the sequence, and the act • Planning the scene • Planning the sequence • Planning the act
  17. 17. 7 - Writing first drafts - Managing the process •Get out all your ideas in the first draft •keep going till you finish – do not look back! •Start wide and focus in •Do it just the way you want to
  18. 18. 8 – REWRITING Check each element of the script separately: •Is it clear who the main character is? •Is it clear what their goal is? •Do they change through struggle? •Are they tested by a forceful antagonist? •Do they hit the main plot points at the right parts of the story? •Is the resolution clear?