Screen Writing: What You Say Is What They Get

There are no rules in screen writing; however, as in jazz, there are certain things that happen a lot. If you want to be a successful screen writer then it is beholden on you to at least be familiar with these rules even if you choose to ignore them. Apropos of nothing, I posted on Twitter recently describing how, whilst cycling around Amsterdam earlier that afternoon, I wandered into a record shop in the Jordaan district where Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno was performing a solo acoustic set. Now, Gaby is young, talented and original; she has a strong and confident voice in all senses of the word. Her music has elements of pop, soul, Latin and jazz (have a look on YouTube before purchasing an album). Clearly she has these styles under her belt however, the way that they are delivered is original and commanding, and you find yourself wanting to hear more partly because of the elegant interpretation of these styles joanne whalley, but more because of the original stories that are being articulated over the familiar riffs and phrases.


Why mention this in a post on screen writing? Because, dear reader, it's not what you say but how you say it. It's not the story, but how you articulate it. It is your voice that matters.


Give the audience what it wants, but not in the way they expect...


This is excellent advice from Robert McKee which he typically expands upon in his books and seminars on story technique. Tease the audience with your erudition, and your knowledge of the form and history of film writing, but in the end you have to tell the story. It's not for nothing that McKee focuses on the word story. Story is what we are talking about when we talk about film writing. Other forms of cinema exist, but not in Hollywood and not on the big screen on Saturday night.


What all of the books that I have suggested in the bookstore section of Manifesto Books have in common is a recognition and indeed reverence for the concept of story. Paul Schrader talks about the vital importance of the story telling craft in the context of film writing. It is the fundamental principle that underpins all great or indeed competent screen writing. Schrader talk about camp fire story telling. If an idea is going to work you should be able to tell it as a camp fire story. You can dress it up and switch it round but the core story must be capable of retelling as an engaging, not to say, gripping tale around the burning embers in the dying light of the evening. And this is from a man who wrote about transcendental style in cinema; grasp the theory by all means but tell the story in the end.

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Starward's picture

Would you please tell me what

Would you please tell me what kind of poem this is?