Screenplays are not Gospel

So, the screenplay form as we know it today, if you hear from major screenplay writers or people who give tips on writing screenplays, is untouchable. One should always follow the script (pun intended). But why is that? What makes it so perfect? I mean, this form as we know it was developed in its final form in the golden age of filmmaking, around the end of World War II. Certainly, other elements of filmmaking have changed since then. Why not the screenplay?

I think it’s clinging to something for the purpose of universality, and while that makes sense if you are shopping your screenplay to various production houses, to me, sticking to the form for form’s sake doesn’t make much sense. There is so much more that could be done with that document, but instead, we hold to the standard. We hold to monotype (because of typewriters). We stick with what information that has always been there. I’m here to challenge that.

Information is Key

Thing is, if you’re writing for a particular group of filmmakers, if you’re the dedicated screenwriter, I think it’s a good idea to rethink the form. It’s about efficiency. It’s about getting all of the information that would be helpful for your actors, directors, DPs, and audio engineers.

For example, would it be helpful for an actor to know via the script if a scene will be primarily a closeup or a wide? I think it would. It would change how they approach the material, I think. Face vs. Body.

What Should a Screenplay Include?

Well, that’s the thing. It’s up to you and your team. I could see a number of elements being included in a screenplay that would get rid of the need for further documents and confine the information to a particular scene or shot. Here are some suggested inclusions: shots, props, sound equipment needed, etc.

The screenplay is not gospel. It is not an untouchable form. It is what you and your team deem it most effective to be. Don’t get caught up in doing something a particular way simply because it has always been that way. Be fluid to best serve your filmmakers, and have it be a communal document where writers, DPs, and sound men work together in a singular space.

What do you think of this idea? Blasphemy? About time?

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