Maybe the one rule in screenwriting is there are no rules.
Okay, perhaps that's not exactly true, but sometimes what might seem like a fundamental approach to writing a screenplay is actually only how one particular screenwriter approaches the process. Certainly, screenplays follow a particular format and often share an underlying story structure (not always though), but each script should have its own nuances and style because of a writer's unique voice. Otherwise, screenplays would be spectacularly boring to read because they would all look and sound the same.
So, thanks to BAFTA Guru's "Ask the Screenwriters" series, we get three different opinions on how to approach screenwriting from Emma Thompson, Steven Knight and James Schamus as they answer questions from us, the masses, in the videos below.
Personally, I love how all three of these screenwriters admit to loathing treatments right off the top, because I'm currently trying to make the transition away from writing treatments and sticking with outlines before the script stage. Sadly, it's been a struggle, but I hope it will help me streamline my writing process in the future.
My other main takeaways from these videos include:
- Thompson encouraging writers to make their action lines between dialogue funny so the script is a more entertaining read
- Schamus describing how he moves to writing a different scene later in the story when he isn't inspired to write the current scene, which contrasts with the linear approaches of Thompson and Knight
- Knight explaining how a 15-page treatment or outline should capture the essence of the story, but the screenplay should not be restricted to the initial treatment and should diverge when better story points arise during the process of writing the screenplay
What are your main takeaways from these BAFTA Guru Ask the Screenwriter videos? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.