Big Screen, Small Screen: A practical guide to writing for flim and television in Australia

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Articles

  1. Rex Sikes' Movie Beat
  2. Australian Film Bibliography
  3. Writing & Language - Allen & Unwin - Australia

Carol Drouyn is one of Australia's most prolific and experienced screenwriters and script editors.

Rex Sikes' Movie Beat

Thinking in pictures is a gift; transferring them to words on paper is a craft. Put them together, and that's the screenwriter's art. Big Screen, Small Screen is a complete guide to writing for film and television for beginners as well as more experienced writers. It covers all aspects of screenwriting from changing a film genre to picking a television timeslot. Big Screen, Small Screen takes you through the basics of screenwriting with step by step guides to structure, character and the first draft script, and valuable tips and exercises.

It also shows you how to find and agent, deal with producers, market your script and apply for funding. More books by this author. ISBN: Write to the Point Sam Leith.

Australian Film Bibliography

He left her when he found out she was pregnant. She was still only fourteen. Sally had the baby, came to the city and, after attempting to work as a waitress, went on welfare. She has battled ever since to make a life for herself and David. Now, on the surface, that might seem like a fairly reasonable back story. We know little of real importance, except that the character is an active rather than a passive one.

Writing & Language - Allen & Unwin - Australia

She determines her actions. The decision to come to the city, the attempt to work part-time to support herself, the fact that she is prepared to battle to keep her son, all tell us that.

But the fact that the character is active is only one factor in giving her a three-dimensional quality. Thus her interpretation of Sally might be diametrically opposed to what you had conceived but not communicated.

Real film education. Real film connections.

We have already seen that what has been created for Sally, in terms of plot and back story, shows us that she is an active character. Does this make her a positive or a negative character? There are certainly negative elements in the back story. Because we only know what happened to her all of which seems negative , that is, the external factors.

We are not so much the products of what happens to us, as of how we react to it. We need more information. So, what do we know for certain, as part of the now which every screenplay is, that suggests the character is negative? Well, she runs away, which would suggest a negative aspect. However, her running away is, in fact, a positive reaction to a negative action, that occurs when the DSS wants to take her son away from her.

A negative move would have meant the character doing nothing, or surrendering defeated. Okay, we can say at this stage that this is an active, positive character. Given those factors, and the storyline, the audience expects Sally to be a winner, in spite of all her trials and her inauspicious origins. So we can see that even audience expectations are governed to a degree by character. Normally this would be part of the creative process before the completed plot and storyline. But we know something else too. Sally is a young woman who has her feet firmly planted in reality.

She has no unrealistic expectations; we know that she is pursuing, with determination, what is attainable. We would need to explore further to discover why—lack of education, or self-esteem? The answer will always present itself if you dig far enough under the skin. So a portrait is being drawn of a determined, centred young woman whose dreams are on hold, who expects little from life, but who will not allow circumstances the external to overwhelm and beat her, despite the fact that the road she has travelled in life the physical could well have made her a bitter defeatist.

We can see, then, how this gives us the pathway to the internal, the cerebral core of her character. If we apply those factors to Sally, we know that she was born on a farm outside a small country town and lost her mother when she was young.

How to Write a TV Show Treatment (with Examples) — TV Writing & Development: Ep1

In childhood we usually take on the attitudes of our parents—bigotries included. Not until someone we admire more tells us differently do we start to question what we are expressing. See how, once again, the external colours the internal, the physical affects the cerebral, the negative influences the positive, and vice versa. All this seems horribly complicated, but it is really just a process for creating a psychological profile on a character, so that we know who and what the character is, rather than simply what it does. No two characters are the same, just as no two people are the same.

And you must have the answer. Everything that has happened to us has an effect on how we function, even if we are not aware of it. The most graphic example of this is to be seen in the case of dysfunctional adults who often do not learn until quite late in life that they were abused as children. Some may have forgotten the experience, but it did not forget them.


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Hidden, but not totally buried, in the subconscious, it became a major part of the sum of what they were and influenced all their behaviour from that moment on. Not so. It is the choices you make then that determine what we see on screen. So: Sally, pregnant at fourteen, runs away from the farm to the city.

Now, if we examine this further, we can determine whether it is a positive or negative reaction. Despite the action being identical, the reactions or attitudes governing motivation, if you will are diametrically opposed. You are not going to write great long expository speeches for the audience, for that would be the epitome of really bad writing. No, it is simply that you will know your character in this case Sally , and you will be considerate and gentle with her because of what you know.

Exercises 1 Create your own back story for Sally, using as many opposites as possible to what we have discussed. How does Sally change?


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Will the events stay the same? Was it precisely the same experience for all of you?


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  7. Big Screen, Small Screen: A Practical Guide To Writing For Film And Television In Australia.
  8. Define the differences in terms of how deeply involved you were thus its degree of effect as opposed to your attitudes to it. You might also look at your siblings and try to determine where differences between you in attitudes come from. Have you experienced different life lessons? Were you closer to different parents and thus influenced more by one than the other? How much of the way they behave is determined by what you, as an audience member, actually know about their background, and how much by their personalities and attitudes?

    Our characters are caught up in this chain of events and will, inevitably, control the outcome by their reactions, even though they may appear to be helpless in the face of a story whose ending has already been predetermined. Once in a while, though, a writer creates such a strong set of characters that a story, or plot, appears not only superfluous, but something of a hindrance. It is not the greatest movie ever made.

    It may not even be a great movie at all if one takes into account all the elements involved. You may well not relate to it, or like it. But it is a great example of how carefully constructed characters, allowed to interact naturally without the writer forcing his own desires and attitudes upon them, create their own story, complete with dramatic conflict, comedy, sex, laughs and tears.