Writing Exercise of the Week: Pick a Favorite Movie

Last time, we played around with movie visuals, working to see if we could figure out what was happening in a movie without sound or dialogue.  In that exercise, you picked a movie you’d never seen.

This time, pick one of your favorite movies.  Old or new.  Any genre.  Doesn’t matter.  Once you have one or a few in mind, you’ll be ready for this exercise.

Let’s get started.

Watch the Movie

You love and enjoy it, so watching it again shouldn’t be a big deal.  But this time, as you watch, make notes about why you like this particular film.  Is it the story?  The characters?  The dialogue?  The visuals?  The film score?  What draws you into the film and holds your interest time and time again?

Are there specific scenes that are memorable to you?  Why?  What makes those scenes or sequences stand out in your mind above the others?

Read the Script

Find the script online and read through it.  Does the script give you similar emotions or feelings to the film?  Are there any changes you notice between the text of the screenplay and the completed film?  If so, why do you think these changes were made?

Watch the Movie Again with a Critical Eye

I’m not asking you to change your opinion or enjoyment of the movie you’ve chosen.  Watch the film in this exercise and analyze what works and doesn’t.  What are the strong points of the story, characters, etc.?  What are some of the weaker moments in the film?  

Would the film still work without them, or are they needed to move the story forward?

Re-read the script.  Were these scenes in there, or were they added later?

Why Am I Doing This?

By digging deeper and analyzing your favorite films, you can learn how these screenwriters crafted a narrative and how the filmmakers interpreted the words into a completed film.  Your task as a screenwriter is to create a compelling world on the page that can be elevated by other creative talents to become something still representative of what’s written.  

Final Thoughts

A screenplay is a blueprint for a massive construction project that becomes a beehive of creativity populated by actors, production designers, directors, costume designers, digital artists, composures, and hundreds – if not thousands – more.  

Taking the time to dig deeper into the initial creative process and the text that was turned into the film, learning from in its original form, can help you understand the screenwriting process and the work needed to bring those words to life.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: A Visual Exercise

This week’s posts have been about the craft of screenwriting.  Screenwriting is primarily a visual medium; its main goal is to translate the text into visuals for the screen.  This means that technically, a person should be able to watch a film without sound and have a general idea about what’s taking place.

The Exercise – Part One

Find a movie you’ve never seen – thousands are on all the streaming services, and YouTube has movies free with ads – and watch the first 30 minutes of the movie WITHOUT SOUND.  That’s right.  Mute that TV or device.  You’re just watching the visuals presented on the screen.

Write down what you see and what you think the story is.

Who are the characters?  Can you tell what their relationships are based on their body language and performances?  

What’s the location of the story (if you’re given a graphic that tells you where the setting is, what visual cues make it clear that that’s where the film is set?)?

Can you figure out what the basic premise of the story is after the first 30 minutes?  What’s happened in that time?  What has changed for the main character or characters?  Was it clear based on the visuals?

Based on what you’ve seen in silence, do the visuals make you want to keep watching?

Part Two

Now, watch again with the sound on.  How accurate were your notes?  Were the film’s visuals effective and strong enough to convey the story, setting, and characters without the audio elements?

Part Three

Watch the rest of the movie – hopefully you picked a shorter film and not an epic – muted, taking notes and working to see if you can discern how the rest of the story unfolds through the visuals only.

Then, watch the film with the sound and see how accurate your notes were.

Final Thoughts

We watch movies for the visual experience, so it’s important as a screenwriter to understand the impact that quality visual description can have on the final produced product.  By writing and crafting a strong visual narrative, you can then use dialogue to enhance the story rather than carry it completely.  

Remember: You want to show the audience the story, not tell them about it.

Happy viewing, and I’ll see you next time!