Spec Scriptmarket @ SWF 2009

Another presentation by Simon Van der Borgh, together with Developer / Script Editor Jo Tracey.

SVdB started off by issuing a warning about “readers” – one should always make sure that they are “real industry professionals”. Then he listed common pitfalls and flaws:

* When asked “what is it about”, writers tend to tell the story.

* Often the main character does not really go on a journey or have a purpose. It is important you really know who the main characters are; what their needs and challenges are; what the obstacles and turning points are for them; and how they interact with others. All this must feed into the theme.

* If during the writing a secondary character becomes more interesting than your chosen protagonist, be flexible enough to move to the secondary character.

* A character should never be predictable (watch Chloé – this film takes you somewhere entirely different from where you expect to go).

* Your characters must be believable; they must live outside the movie.

As in so many other SWF sessions, the importance of GENRE was driven home – know the genre; know its history, where it comes from; research what else exists in this genre AND works.

Decide whether you want to explore / develop your story for cinema or TV – rule of thumb: feature films are generally about ordinary people in extraordinary situations (or vice versa!), TV shows ordinary people in ordinary situations. TV is also more dialog-driven. Final Draft users can check percentage of dialogue in tools > reports.

Know the TIME (they mentioned a script set in the 14th century where someone checked his wristwatch…) and TIME FRAME of your movie – rule of thumb: the longer the time frame, the lower the tension.

Know who you are writing for – use language that is appropriate for your primary audience – know who it is going to appeal to and why.

Finally: “Beware the fear of being understood” – screenwriters have a tendency to overcomplicate things when they should aim to “let the audience in”!


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