Writing in a visual medium: Useful lessons for all writers

 In All About Writing

We launch our first Screenwriting Crash Course of 2019 in a week’s time. It is, we think not quite modestly, a really good course, both practical and inspiring.

The question is: why learn to write film or television scripts at all if you’re not committed to a career in the industry? If you do want to break into the world of film and television, then clearly you need to enrol! But what if you don’t? Well, there are many answers. But the one we like best was written by one of the joint developers of the course, author and screenwriter, Michele Rowe. Here’s what she loves about screenwriting:

“I’ve always loved film. I spent most of my early twenties sitting in art house cinemas devouring every classic film available to me: B-movies, 40’s ‘women’s pictures’, Swedish snot en trane dramas, exuberant Italian comedies, French post-modern love stories, Hollywood musicals, German expressionist films, Japanese martial arts movies.

“I knew nothing about screenwriting, or that there was even such a thing as a screenwriter, but I was swept away by what I was seeing, hearing and feeling, by the sheer all-encompassing experience of this enthralling medium…

“And most of all, images of rich complexity, beauty and meaning.

“A boyfriend, equipped with a Super 8 camera and dreams of being a director approached me to make a vampire movie set in Johannesburg. The cast was to be our friends and neighbours, the budget non-existent, and I was to write script.

“The only script I had ever seen (this was before the internet) was a rare annotated draft of Citizen Kane in the New York Public Library. What had been illuminating about seeing the script, was how much of the story was conveyed visually. All these images, that I had so admired, had first been set down by a screenwriter. So when I sat down and quickly wrote the vampire film (in the trashy style of the American B-movies that had so captured my imagination), I tried to emulate the Citizen Kane script by thinking in pictures.

“But make no mistake, the script was no Citizen Kane. It was bad, seriously bad, in the way that only a very inexperienced, but very pretentious and opinionated person can produce something bad. I had little idea of how screenplays were constructed. What I did learn was that I was writing in a visual medium, one with its own shorthand, one that was exciting and immediate, where time was compressed and where things happened very quickly.

“One of the thrills of teaching other writers how to write screenplays, is seeing this same verve, immediacy and energy taking shape in their assignments, to witness them catch the bug, to see how much fun and originality they bring to the medium… both Richard and I are always astonished at how inventive our participants are, at how much they enjoy the courses, at how much they bring to the process.”

So, for the sheer excitement of stretching your boundaries, for lessons in thinking visually (useful to all writers), and for learning the skills you’d need if you do want to write for the small or the large screen, consider signing up for our Screenwriting Crash Course.

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