August 14, 2012

Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna Provides Tips on Writing Believable Workplaces

For reasons much debated yet still unknown, women are severely underrepresented among screenwriters. The Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting recently reported that out of 7,197 entrants this year, only 2,033 were women (that's only 28% for you percentage people). Perhaps we need to see more working female screenwriters who in turn can illustrate a path for women who write to pursue a career in screenwriting. On that note, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, We Bought a Zoo) not only provides a great example of a working female screenwriter, but also how to write believable workplaces in her BAFTA screenwriting lecture.

Here's a short highlights video of Brosh McKenna's lecture (with a most unfortunate thumbnail):

In the full video available at BAFTA's website, Brosh McKenna explains that the workplace provides a setting where a female protagonist can achieve goals based on merit and her storyline doesn't have to center around simply finding a man. Writing workplaces, however, provides so much more for Brosh McKenna, as she explains:

[S]omething that I also love about writing about the workplace...is the opportunity to be accurate. To get into a world and try and really imbibe what it means to live in that world. The greatest compliment is always, if someone works in these places and they say that it feels right. You can't ever get every last detail correct because these are fast-moving...and shifting businesses, but if it feels correct, if we've sort of gotten the essence of it then I feel very proud of it.

Brosh McKenna goes on to explain to importance of showing your screenplay to people who work in the particular industry where your story takes place. Their feedback not only improves the reality of the world of your story but may also provide valuable insights into how characters relate to one another based on workplace dynamics.

You can also read a complete transcript of Brosh McKenna's BAFTA screenwriting lecture if you prefer.

How do you research workplace settings for your script? Have you reworked a story based on feedback from specific industry professionals? Let us know in the Comments.

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1 Comment

I'm young and am just now in a 'workplace' environment. None of the scripts I've written have had an office environment, so I guess I'm somewhat writing what I know in the sense that I know nothing about any workplace, except local news, so I don't write about them haha

August 14, 2012 at 6:47PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Jason