What does a screen­writer do?

Essen­tially the job of a screen­writer is to produce a blue­print that can be used as the basis for film produc­tion. Film-making itself is a collab­or­ative process involving many people with special­ised skills: actors, directors, designers, editors and technicians.

What distin­guishes a screen­writer from these (often very talented) indi­viduals is the fact that their roles are inter­pret­ative. In other words, they can only do their jobs once a script has been written.

The screen­writer and the screen­writer alone is the sole original artist involved in film production.

That is some responsibility.

What is the purpose of a script?

A script has to perform two primary func­tions. At its most basic, it is a set of instruc­tions. It needs, there­fore, to be clear, concise and economical.

You would be annoyed if you bought an appli­ance and the instruc­tion booklet spent six pages telling you how to plug it into the socket. Well written instruc­tions will assume certain know­ledge and skills.

But a script is also a visionary docu­ment. That means it should convey to a reader some sense of the dramatic and emotional impact of your story.

Film works through two of the primary senses: vision and hearing. It tells stories by employing a flow of edited and inflected images, some­times combined with action and/or sound. Everything that arrives on the screen is, there­fore, an imme­diate event, taking place in the present.

An image on the screen is always solid and specific. Your writing should strive to be the same. You need to put your reader in front of an imaginary screen and liter­ally show him or her what happens next.

Your job and this is the funda­mental test of your skills, is to use language in a dynamic way to tell a story that:

(a) Has a filmic quality
(b) Involves and excites your reader just like a good novel!

© David Clough 1995

Alfred Hitch­cock talks about the import­ance of scripts

Leave a Reply


Site Index