One of the perks of being a student and paying all of this tuition is all of the resources available to you. If you’re paying for it, you might as well use it. With that being said, I recently ventured out and chose to take advantage of some workshops that are being offered by Concordia University Television. For all those interested in scriptwriting, here is what I learned from CUTV’s scriptwriting workshop.
As I entered the room, I immediately noticed the island table with Mac computers on each side as well as the computers lined against the wall. This was a television headquarters after all, that means much filming and even more editing. As I waited for the class to start, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that an equal amount of women as men were filling the room. Seeing women unashamedly seek out information on what it takes to enter an industry (film) dominated by males excited me.
The workshop, taught by Ian Goodman, was structured in a way that allowed for discussion. Goodman would ask a question and step back as people would offer their suggestions. “I loved the conversation and the synergy that comes from it,” said Rumi Shakira, one of the women in the workshop.
So, here are some things I learned.
Before you can write your script, you need to have an idea. But how do you know you have an idea? If it excites you, is relatable, is feasible, is topical, has tension, is unique, or reveals a problem/shows a solution, you’re probably onto something.
Unfortunately, the first step is not as easy as it may seem. Thankfully, story ideas can come from a myriad of places. Some suggestions include, but are not limited to: music/sounds, memories/stories from your past, newspaper stories, gossip/social talk, conflict, everyday experiences, brainstorming sessions with other people, and chemically induced trips. The possibilities are endless.
You’ve now found an idea, but how do you know if your idea is good or not? “The key to creating catharsis is relatability,” Goodman said. Working on a script and film will take months, often years; there must be a high emotional commitment in order to give your story a chance of coming to life. One participant put it this way, “you’ve got to care before [and more] than anyone else.” Another way to know if your idea is good or not is by sharing your story – or pitching it – to someone. It could be a friend, a mentor, or even a family member; if they respond to your story the way you intended, you’re probably onto something.
Another key ingredient to creating a good script is great character development. If you’re having difficulty going deeper with some characters here are two suggestions.
1. Consider thinking that great actors are going to bring your characters to life, so do your part in writing characters full of life.
2. Try writing character bios. Giving your characters back stories may help you in developing the dialogue necessary to make your script a masterpiece.
As you’re working through your script, here are some suggestions as to how to shape your story. Imagine the ending. Allow yourself to have a stream of consciousness, where you simply write as the thoughts come. Eventually, this will require more structure however. Research, research, research. “The more research you do, the more relatable and realistic your story will be,” Goodman said. Know the main points for your story, and constantly ask yourself, “what am I trying to tell.” And a nice tip when trying to vary your characters is to consider recording people to understand different people’s diction, cadence, and even pick up some slang that you could incorporate.
After having written this amazing script, now you want to film your project and bring it life. You should have a general idea of how you’re going to film, especially considering how expensive it can be to make a film. For aspiring writers, it’s probably good to start with a short film or two due to budget constraints. And if you have connections, use them.
Whether you do this at the beginning or figure it out at the end, it’s important that your story has some sort of theme. Some other names for a theme are a ‘basic premise,’ and a ‘thesis.’ Once you’ve figured this out, this will also help you in character development. Think of it this way, you’ve got an essay and different characters are representing different arguments (in the way they speak, act, come to life).
Discussion time was followed by analyzing a short film clip by clip. Goodman suggests watching films to build your skills. The more you watch, the more you learn.
I learned so much from this workshop, and I know we didn’t exhaust everything in the two short hours we spent in the space. However, this first step has been helpful in getting my foot in the door, and I hope it’s been helpful for you.
Here are some extra resources to check out for more information. Website: savethecat.com Book: The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell
CUTV will be having workshops throughout the month of March, you can find out more info from their website: http://cutvmontreal.com