This week I taught my seminar to the FILMMAKHERS group. We learned how to use the Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting to structure a current screenplay or to build a new one. Most of the 30 plus women who attended are quite accomplished as writers, but still struggled when it came to organizing their material. This is especially dangerous before going into production. You will lose time and money shooting stuff you don’t use, and not shoot things you needed.
The Four Magic Questions of Screenwriting makes structuring your screenplay easy by breaking up Act 2 into two separate parts of the story, each with its own purpose. Structure is relational, so Act 1 and Act 3 ask and answer the same questions. Act 2 part one, and Act 2 part two, answer different questions that relate to each other.
By getting Act 1 set up and then jumping forward to Act 3, it becomes easy to find a story shape that can be filled in with the events in Act 2 part one, and Act 2 part two.
Structure is also based on determining and showing, not telling, what the inner conflict your main character is struggling with. When I use the example of the opening scene in the film, Se7en, where Somerset, the police detective gets dressed, his inner conflict is revealed when after putting on all his police gear, he then opens, closes and pockets an illegal switchblade, revealing his secret fears. The plot of the story is thematically about him facing his fear and failing to resolve it.
On another note, I attended my first voiceover class this week. My interest in learning voiceover is so that I can voice two of the characters we have created in our animated series.
Michael George, is a great teacher and taught us the basics using his own national TV spots as examples. He’s so skillful that I didn’t realize that he had voiced each of the commercials until the end of class! The most important thing I learned was that reading copy, however frivolous, must be approached as if you were storyteller. The amount of feeling that you can bring to the work on top of the necessary technique and craft is what will get you the job. I enjoyed “being in the booth” and will continue studying with this most excellent teacher.
To those of you who celebrate Easter and/or Passover, I wish you a joyous holiday!
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz