I like to write big things. There is no limit to your imagination when you're trying to develop a huge idea for film and television.

From the colossal creatures that roam the landscapes of monster movies to the expansive universes of science fiction sagas, filmmakers leverage the elements of scope and scale to create a cinematic experience that is as immersive as it is awe-inspiring.

This article explores the art of writing with scope and scale, providing insights and strategies for aspiring screenwriters to infuse their narratives with a sense of grandeur and magnitude.

Let's have some fun and unpack blockbusters together.

Mastering Scope and Scale in Screenwriting

A group of superheroes, 'The Avengers'

'The Avengers'

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Writing with scope can be a challenge to beginning writers. You need to make things feel big and like events. You want to paint a huge tapestry in your reader's mind. And a lot more goes into the work than just describing things differently.

Scope and scale are two pivotal terms that often surface in discussions about film and television. Although they may appear interchangeable at first glance, they carry distinct meanings within the context of storytelling.

Defining Scope in Film

In the realm of screenwriting, the term 'scope' refers to the breadth of time and space encompassed by a story. It dictates the temporal and spatial parameters within which the narrative unfolds.

A film with a narrow scope might focus on a single day in the life of the protagonist, set within a confined location. In contrast, a film with a broad scope could span across several decades or even lifetimes, traversing across continents and, in some instances, galaxies.

Defining Scale in Film

On the other hand, 'scale' pertains to the size of the narrative, often manifested through the stakes of the story or the magnitude of the events portrayed. The scale of a film can range from intimate, character-driven dramas to grand, action-packed blockbusters.

As an example, an indie romantic comedy might have a smaller scale compared to a sprawling epic like Star Wars, which traverses galaxies and involves the fate of entire civilizations.

The Art of Balancing Scope and Scale

A dinosaur roaring at a drive in theater, 'Jurassic World Dominion'

'Jurassic World Dominion'

Universal Pictures

Striking the right balance between scope and scale is a delicate art. While both elements can contribute to the cinematic appeal of a film, they do not necessarily determine its value. A film with a limited scope and scale can be just as compelling and meaningful as a grand, sweeping epic.

The key lies in how these elements are employed in service of the narrative, enhancing the storytelling rather than overshadowing it.

You're worldbuilding at a clip that needs to envelop the reader and share your vision.

Leveraging Scope and Scale for Impact

An Elven woman reaching out to a drowing man, 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'

Amazon Studios

To effectively utilize scope and scale, writers must consider these elements from the initial stages of their writing process. A clear understanding of the story's scope can guide the narrative's development, ensuring that each event contributes meaningfully to the overarching plot.

For instance, in a film like Jurassic Park, the scope is confined to the events occurring within the island, with the dinosaurs establishing the scale of the narrative. The narrative's limited scope intensifies the sense of isolation and danger, while the towering dinosaurs amplify the stakes, rendering the human characters insignificant in comparison.

Or in Jaws, you need to feel how small humans are in comparison to the shark that's terrorizing them. It's a real man versus nature story that also allows the ocean to feel like this endless and vast area where bad things can happen at any water ripple.

Learning from Screenplay Examples

Two men staring at a shark in the water, 'Jaws'


Universal Pictures

Screenplays offer valuable insights into the successful implementation of scope and scale. For instance, the 2014 Godzilla film effectively portrays the colossal scale of the monster, providing a realistic depiction of its movement across the globe. The narrative's scope extends beyond the immediate destruction, exploring the broader implications for humanity.

Meanwhile, films like The Last Jedi utilize scale to amplify the odds stacked against the characters, while the scope delves into the potential consequences of their actions on the galaxy. Similarly, Mad Max: Fury Road consistently escalates the scale through the epic chase at the film's core, set within the wider scope of a dystopian future.

We're feeling these worlds and situations on the page.

You have to artfully write these scenarios and scenes. One thing I like to think about is using three questions when writing any of these scenes:

  1. Where are we, and what does it look like?
  2. Who's in the scene, and how do they measure up to their surroundings?
  3. What is at stake with every movement inside the world?

Embracing Scope and Scale in Writing

Road warriros in the desert, 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

'Mad Max: Fury Road'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Writing with scope and scale can rejuvenate your writing process, infusing it with a sense of excitement and adventure. Whether you're crafting a narrative around a gargantuan beast or an epic intergalactic war, the mastery of scope and scale can elevate your storytelling, creating a cinematic experience that reverberates with audiences.

As you embark on your next writing project, consider how you can incorporate scope and scale into your narrative. Whether it's through the size of your monsters, the magnitude of the stakes, or the breadth of your story's universe, these elements can add a layer of depth and dimension to your narrative, making it all the more compelling.

The more you can master this, the better your script has at being produced or launching a bunch of franchises.

Summing Up Mastering Scope and Scale in Screenwriting

Writing with scope and scale is an essential skill for any screenwriter. By understanding and leveraging these elements, writers can create narratives that captivate audiences, providing a cinematic experience that is as immersive as it is engaging.

Whether you're crafting an intimate drama or a grand epic, remember that the magic of storytelling often lies in its capacity to transport us into a world of the extraordinary.

So go ahead, let your imagination run wild, and start crafting your own cinematic masterpiece.