Expert screenplay readers and analysts from ScriptShark answer questions that Facebook fans and Twitter followers posted. Read on to find helpful answers to questions regarding how to become a professional screenwriter and many other aspects of screenwriting and the movie business…
Q: What exactly makes a strong theme? Should public opinion affect one’s themes when writing a saleable script?
Analyst: As is the case with most screenplay elements, part of what makes a theme “strong” is wildly subjective – like a premise or a protagonist, not everyone’s going to dig it. If you can keep that in mind, you’ll likely sleep a little better at night and make more headway.
Generally, studios respond to a theme based on its universality and relevance because they’re looking to appeal to a broad audience. One example of this is the recent Social Network, the central theme of which – friendship – is one nearly everyone can relate to and is always relevant. Most people couldn’t give two figs about a geeky, anti-social narcissist such as this movie’s protagonist, but because the film’s theme of friendship is so incredibly universal, we’re all thinking about that friend back in junior high we treated so poorly. That’s a strong theme.
Q: Typically, do you find that a meta-theme and/or themes drive character development and plot or do they tend to evolve organically during the writing (rewriting) process?
Analyst: From my many conversations with writers over the years, each seems to approach theme a bit differently. For some, the governing theme is crystal clear at the onset of writing, usually in the form of the story’s premise. While others may be initially focused on developing and effectively stringing together the major plot events, in which case the themes tend to crystallize as they write. In either scenario, a script’s big themes get focused during the rewriting process and they certainly impact character development.
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