WIFIT Summit 2012
University of California at Washington Center in Washington, DC
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 – 10:00 AM
Writer: Sonya Dunn, Women in Film & Video DC, Member
Whether you are a beginner screenwriter or a seasoned pro, the session on Character Development and Script Formatting was beneficial to all. Top screenwriters and script consultants in television, film and web were present to give insight.
Allison Abner worked as a story editor and writer on one of the most the critically acclaimed political drama created by Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing. Abner then worked as story editor, producer, co-producer and writer on the detective series, Without a Trace. Currently, she is developing a web series.
Timothy Cooper is a screenwriter and director in New York. He has been nominated for a WGA Award for his web series Concierge: The Series. He teaches screenwriting and filmmaking. His first feature-writing credit is set to be released in 2013 – Away From Here. Currently, he is in development for a short film and several screenplays.
Monica Lee Bellias has worked for several high profile companies in Los Angeles: Dreamworks, Warner Bros., Discovery Communications and James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. She has written treatments and screenplays. Currently, she is working on a screenplay for Executive Producer of The Dark Knight Rises, Micheal Uslan. Below are some highlights from the discussion with these three industry professionals.
- Even if you have a very interesting story concept, character development is important above anything else.
- Understand the difference between complex characters versus stereotypes.
- Main character must experience some type of confliction.
- Main character must fundamentally change towards the end of script in regards to the conflict.
- Understand your characters backstory backwards and forwards.
- Determine the Main character’s personal problems that will be resolved by the end of the script.
- The support cast must help to create conflict and propel the story forward.
- You must challenge the lead to keep the story compelling.
- A “Slug line” appears before each scene. It gives the crew three pieces of vital information: is the scene outside or inside (INT. v EXT.)?, what is the location of the scene (i.e. Jerry’s Apartment)?, and what time of day does the scene take place?
- Understand the proper format of your slug lines.
- An example of a slug line: “INT. BEDROOM- NIGHT”
- Most scripts are not shot in order. Slug lines allow you to organize your scenes so that you can, for example–shoot all scenes from the same location at the same time. This will help you stay within budget.
- Action lines must be descriptive and vivid, but short.
- Pick films from the genre of your film. Read their screenplays. This will help you format your script better.
Character development and script formatting can make or break a writer to acquire an agent and get work in the media industry. These industry professionals gave the attendees solid sound advice to help take their screenplay, teleplay and web scripts to the next level in visual storytelling.
About the Writer: Sonya Dunn, Women in Film & Video DC, Member
Sonya Dunn is an award-winning director and writer. She is a national columnist on Diversity on Screen. Currently, she is working on an action/sci fi transmedia project – Byker Chyckz.