Inspired by Roger Wolfson, Four exercises for screenwriting
Just like we had the golden era of Hollywood for decades after the First World War, it is fair to say that we can fully commit to the idea that the 21st Century is the golden era for Television. Since the relentless rise of internet streaming and the razor sharp observations of real life dramas featured in box sets, more actors and directors are turning their heads from feature length film scripts to that of television instead. Look no further than the success of ‘Saving Grace’ writer Roger Wolfson for providing us great inspiration for his tone, tempo and sharp observation to the depiction of the modern urban landscape in his script writing.
If you like writing and feel that this TV revolution is for you, here are 4 basic exercises to get you started in building a portfolio of creative writing.
List certain people in your past and wonder where they are now. Give them new names, jobs, addresses and foibles or flaws. Pair them with an imaginary relationship. This could be a family member, a friend, a lover or a partner.
For each character, use these references as a matrix to write a 5000-word monologue conversation they have when answering the telephone to their paired partner. Allow for pauses for thought and suspense. Do not conclude the conversation to allow for off screen story continuation. This will allow for more in depth scrutiny inside the dialogue.
List five of your favorite places you have visited. Consider that quiet solo retreat you took for an Easter break or the childhood memories of a summer holiday that had the blurred effects of memory but vivid recollections of an object. Even the places attached to great sadness offer deep influence to writing like where you were dumped by your first love.
Imagine what cinematic scenes from a film could take place there by pairing them with the following subjects… A Ghost story, a love scene, a dramatic argument, an accident and a slap stick comedy.Write a ten page script for each scene using three characters borrowed from the aforementioned exercise.
Take notably famous scenes and intertwine them to set a new scene where the characters are still themselves but find themselves in completely foreign situation. For example extract Joey and Ross from Friends and place them in the circumstance of Renton and Sick Boy trying to quit their heroin addiction in Trainspotting whilst picnicking in the park with a pellet gun.
This exercise lends itself to understanding characters on a deeper level by observing their inherent characteristics by putting them in completely new situations and unpacking their behaviour to adapt to the situation.
Describe a watched film through the lighting, camera angle of it’s scenes and background soundtrack. This exercise is rather abstract but is designed to crack open ones thinking when formulating the transition of scenes from observing other background components rather than the main characters and what they are doing.
Understanding the importance of lesser noticed scene setters through story telling can help alleviate the mood of your script and the story arc. It also helps to understand the collaborative process that occurs when scripts get used for production and how others interpret your vision.