I'm still riding high on the best movie of the year winning four awards at the Oscars, but I wanted to take a beat to look at the screenplay for this wonderful film and explore five lessons young writers can take away from Bong Joon-Ho's process. 

Check out the video from Behind the Curtain and let's talk after the jump. 

5 Screenwriting Lessons from Bong Joon-Ho's 'Parasite'

I love screenplays that have a driving force in today's world and talk about something bigger than all of us. I think this is an excellent movie to study and I look forward to the discussion in the comments. 

Read and download the Parasite screenplay PDF here

1. Drama is Universal

While much was made of a foreign film winning Best Picture, I think the reason it was so lauded is that the movie deals with something universal. The drama and conflicts at the heart of the journey are not singular to one culture, race, or faith. This story takes a universal idea of class warfare and brings it to the forefront. 

So how did the idea for this movie come about? 

When Joon-Ho was young, he worked as a tutor. To get more work, his girlfriend helped hire him as a tutor for a family she worked for and so...an idea was born. 

2. Do Your Pre-Writing 

Before Parasite was a screenplay, it was a treatment that a production company in South Korea bought. While the ending of the film wound up being wildly different than what was presented, all this prep work helped director Bong strategize how he would execute on the page. 

Instead of floundering while writing draft after draft, he allowed himself the time to find the prose version and get that to paper. When you have a great idea, follow the steps you need to make the actual screenwriting process easier. 

3. All Characters are Developed Through Interaction with Others

When trying to develop characters, don't think so much about elaborate backstories or things they say, think about what the characters DO. Joon-Ho said he relies on a character's actions and the way they treat other people to inform the audience of their priorities and desires. 

Think about how things are set up in your script. How do we know what certain goals are or how certain people should act? 

Allow drama and conflict to come from characters and you'll inform the story. 

4. Don't Shy Away from Metaphors

As we covered in our post about Parasite's ending, the movie is about parasitic relationships between classes, family members, and society. Joon-Ho thought about these ideas deeply and then just made them literal on the page. He truly sat and wrote parasitic relationships on a few levels. 

What are some metaphors you want to explore in your own writing?

How can you take these ideas and express them in both figurative and literal senses? 

5. Care About Your Descriptions and Action

While these pages are translated for English readers, you can see the care Joon-Ho put into writing action lines. Everything is clear, concise, and not messy. He's not overly metaphorical on the page, but we still get a clear sense of how things are happening. 


What does your writing look like on the page? Does it draw readers in or push them away? 

What's next? 5 Lessons from Greta Gerwig's Little Women!

Greta Gerwig is a writer and director on fire right now. Learn how she was able to get Little Women made and the lessons she learned writing and directing the feature. 

Keep reading.