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The Screenwriter’s Dog
Posted in My Journey as a Screenwriter 3 min read
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The Writer’s Dog,

(Subtext: In most cases, when you are the screenwriter, you are not the actor, the cinematographer, the director or any other occupation.)

The responsibility a writer of the silver/iPhone screen should be no different than giving a dog a bone. We as the giver of the bone have to acknowledge once we give the treat to the k-9, we have no control over how the dog consumes the bone or have any influence on why the dog does or doesn’t consume the bone in the first place. We simply give a bone and let the dog do with it what it will because that’s all we are capable of controlling.

Unlike a novelist who has three questions to answer through their work, a screenwriter only answers one, “What is the action of the character?” That’s it. The action of the character is communicative movement which the audience/the reader then places meaning upon because it’s not the job of the screenwriter to provide it.

In contrast, the novelist who also provides the character’s action answers two other questions through their work. These other questions are “how does the character execute the action?” and “what’s the motivation behind the action?” However, as per the screenwriter’s duty and the uncontrollable elements of the dog, while the screenwriter provides the character’s action, they don’t provide a descriptive execution or state the motivational reason.

In a screenplay, the descriptive execution is controlled by the actor and the motivational reason is controlled by the director. This concept also adheres with the listing camera movement in the script. Have none of it. It’s not your job.

Unfortunately, some screenwriters feel the need to make the mistake of answering all three questions because they’re the sole creator of their story. News flash, most professionals like producers and or their assistants who are reading your descriptive screenplay will either toss it across the room or will scratch out a large percentage of your script. 

*Helpful hint: Everything in parentheses on how a character says a particular line of dialogue will be scratched out. The job of the actor, the director and so on is to provide a creative interpretation of the scene and will then place their own word in the parentheses instead of being a cog in the machine. So relinquish control, keep it simple and write only the character’s action.

If you let go of your emotional control and the fear of your baby (your script) being incorrectly raised by a collected group of people, numerous benefits will await you. Your script will stop collection dust, its purchasing potential will skyrocket, its festival acceptability will rise. The burden of feeling you must also provide an intuitive screenplay will be lifted off your shoulders. All you have to do is write your screenplay in the same fashion of giving a dog a bone.


blog published in 2018


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