Notes on Screenwriting

1st question for every scene:
What does the protagonist want? This is the super objective.

Next – break scene into shots and assign meaning or an essence to the beat.

What are they literally doing?  vs. What is the essence of what they are doing?


The purpose of each scene is to create order – so start with disorder and let the beat be about the attempt to restore order.

Trust yourself to judge if something is any good.

The process for each scene is re-forming the super-objective to better understand the beats (essence) and then reframing the beats to clarify the super objective (ultimate want).

Try to avoid a lot of dramatic structure within a scene.

You will be humbled by the constant screaming demands of the craft.

What happens next? That’s all we really want to know.

Tell a story. Don’t make it sloppy or trivial.

Let the story tell you how to write it.

The story will fight back – it KNOWS how it wants to be told.

There is the objective of the scene and the meaning of the beat. When you really nail these and put in effort to figure them out your subconscious will reward you with answer. But you pay for subconscious help by agonizing over structure.

Don’t narrate with dialogue.

Strive to make a silent movie.

Answer the most important questions first. Then reason backward and answer the smaller.

Most emotional situations call for restraint (not all).

Do NOT split focus in terms of a protagonist’s need. And do NOT repeat the same incident in a different guise.

Show the struggle of the character NOT her idiosyncrasies/wacky habits/odd knowledge.

What the character is literally doing (the doable action for the actor)

What is the essential action (the deeper meaning behind the literal action)

What is the nature of the relationship between the characters (define it)

Eliminate all ideas about what the character feels in favor of what she is trying to accomplish. Then the scene becomes about the degree to which she succeeds or fails and the reaction of the other person while she’s trying to fulfill her action.


Leave a comment

Filed under Think Tank

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s