Screenplays are the blueprints for some of the most iconic films of our time, but they are much more than just technical documents that guide the filmmaking process. Screenplays are literary artifacts that offer a unique window into the creative process behind the movies we love.
They are a form of literature that combines narrative storytelling with visual storytelling, and they require a mastery of language and structure to effectively communicate a story through the medium of film.
I love studying screenwriting. It's why I got my MFA from Boston University in Screenwriting and Film Theory. I think there's a lot to unpack from the art form.
Back when I was in grad school, I met the smartest person I've ever encountered. Her name was Marta Armengol-Royo, and she was that kind of genius that would be terrifying if she wasn't equally as nice and welcoming.
Marta was the person who first told me about screenplays being "literary artifacts," or a work characterized by creative expression and artistic qualities. It was something I had never heard before but something I still think about today.
It's what makes me feel special writing.
But what is a literary artifact, and do screenplays qualify?
Let's take a look.
'The Goonies'Credit: Warner Bros.
What is a Literary Artifact?
A literary artifact is a written work that has historical, cultural, or artistic significance. It is a product of human creativity and serves as a record of a particular time and place, as well as a reflection of the values, beliefs, and ideas of the people who produced it. Examples of literary artifacts include books, poems, plays, letters, diaries, and manuscripts.
These works are often studied and analyzed to gain insight into the cultures and societies that produced them and to better understand the human experience throughout history.
In addition to their cultural and historical significance, literary artifacts can also be appreciated for their artistic merit. They may be valued for their language, style, and imagery, and studied as examples of the craft of writing.
Overall, a literary artifact is a written work that has enduring value and serves as a record of human thought, creativity, and expression.
'National Treasure'Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Are Screenplays Literary Artifacts?
Yes, a screenplay is considered a literary artifact. Although it is a specialized type of writing that is primarily meant to be produced as a film, it is still a written work that communicates a story through words.
Did you think the smartest person I ever met was going to be wrong? Never underestimate Marta.
Screenplays are written in a specific format and style, with the goal of translating the writer's vision into a visual medium. As such, they require careful attention to detail and an understanding of the conventions and techniques of the craft.
You have to be very talented to write a great screenplay!
However, it's worth noting that the primary purpose of a screenplay is to serve as a blueprint for a film, rather than a stand-alone work of literature. While some screenplays may be published and read as literary works, the vast majority are intended to be produced as films and experienced by audiences in that context.
It might be the only literary artifact that has two purposes that have their own artistic merit!
Nevertheless, as a written work that tells a story and communicates ideas and themes through words, a screenplay can be considered a type of literature. It is a unique and specialized form of writing that requires its own set of skills and techniques, and it can be appreciated for its literary merits as well as its potential for visual storytelling.
That's why as a writer, you're creating a treasure for people to find.
You're participating in an art form contributing to the greater understanding of humanity.
That's a helluva reason to keep writing.
'Adaptation'Credit: Columbia Pictures
Summing It All Up
To wrap it up, screenplays are more than just technical documents for the film industry. They are literary artifacts that offer a unique window into the creative process of filmmaking. They represent a fascinating hybrid of narrative and visual storytelling, requiring a mastery of language and structure to effectively communicate a story through the medium of film.
As we have seen, screenplays can be studied and appreciated for their cultural and historical significance, as well as their artistic merit. They are products of human creativity that reflect the values, beliefs, and ideas of the societies that produced them, and they continue to inspire and influence filmmakers and writers around the world.
They showcase the very core of what makes us human; complex emotions.
Whether you are a fan of cinema or simply interested in the art of storytelling, exploring screenplays as literary artifacts can provide a fascinating glimpse into the creative process and a deeper understanding of the stories that have shaped our culture.
Now get back to writing.