Routines, Plots & Collaboration - Same shit, different medium.
Posted: 1st Dec 2013
No right or wrong - Guardian Screenwriting Masterclass.
Last weekend I spent my Sunday with some pretty amazing writers. The Guardian hosted a screenwriting masterclass and I was lucky enough to attend. I went expecting to find out about the industry, the craft and the realities of the business. I've been a screenwriter for many years now but am always more curious about finding out about how some of Britain's best writers work on a daily basis than how to 'break into the industry'.
Every writer has a unique way of working. Each of the 5 speakers had a totally different approach and relationship with the film industry.
I found Joanna to be the most influential of the speakers. She came from a TV directing background but is now a renowned film writer/director. She mastered social realism, each of her films centred on family relationships and unique locations.
I loved the way she wrote. Often structure, especially the strict format of a script, can limit your scope and be a real burden. Joanna combated this by writing her scripts as a prose of sorts, she ditched the typical dialogue and action format and opted for a focus on feelings and visuals. Her scripts were full of photos and off-screen references, I loved it.
Famed for films such as 'My beautiful Laundrette' and 'My son, the Fanatic', Hanif was one of the writers I couldn't wait to meet. He was a character with a harsh, realistic opinion of his craft. He is fearless and unromantic in his writing process, he writes for directors and is a chronic over-writer.
He discussed his influences and relationship with the film-makers who adopt his scripts. He was happy to pass over his work and move onto the next project, he wasn't at all precious over his scripts. He also advocated criticism and believed one of the greatest things a writer needs is honest feedback from people who know what they are talking about.
Chris was perhaps the most prestigious and credited writer at the event. As a director as well, he had a unique perspective on the role of the writer. He knew that no two scripts are the same and worked on each new project with a new perspective and routine. Freedom and narrative were heavily discussed, Chris believed that screenwriting was in fact a very limiting medium to work in.
He was highly concerned with structure and story. Discovering what makes a story a 'screen story' was integral when it came to creating the characters and narratives. As a writer who adapted novels and theatre plays, he referred to a script as simply a 'blueprint'.
I was impressed at how honest the speakers were. Each writer was open about their occasional lack of confidence in their work. How they wrote and collaborated with directors was truly insightful, their success was attributed to the fact that each writer simply wrote for themselves.