Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Recognition and Revelation

Revelation occurs when key information is revealed to the audience but NOT to a character, creating both dramatic irony and tension.

For example, in Hitchcock's North By North West,  we, the audience, see the CIA reveal that the mystery man, Kaplan, doesn’t exist. However, the main character, Thornhill, played by Cary Grant, doesn’t know this and spends the entire second act looking for Kaplan (irony.) What he doesn't know might get him killed, and we are on the edge of our seats hoping he figures it out before it is too late. (tension.)

Recognition occurs when key information that the audience knows is finally revealed to a character. This often resolves tension and dramatic irony.

For example, in Hitchcock's North By North West, the tension of the second act is resolved when Thornhill is told Kaplan does not exist. However, a new tension is established with a Reveal, both he and the audience discover that Eve is working for the CIA and that Thornhill has unwittingly put her in grave danger.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Definition of Screenwriting

In the 21st Century, screenwriting should be defined as writing scripts for moving pictures that appear on any screen.

This includes traditional movies projected in theaters, but also television, animation, webisodes, and other fictional, narrative "moving pictures" that appear on computer screens, smartphone screens, virtual reality goggles, holograms, other technologies.


There are many forms of tension in movies, but tension always creates anticipation and anxiety about what is going to happen next. Tension is what makes you turn the page. Tension keeps the audience in their seats.

Tension is created when the audience can imagine and anticipate what might happen next in the story, sequence, or scene, but isn't sure which way it will go. The story elements suggest several possible futures. 

We (the audience) HOPE for one outcome(s), but we FEAR another.

More specific forms of tension include dramatic tension, comic tension, romantic tension, suspense/fear tension, and more generally dramatic tension. In all cases, the writer leads the reader/audience to imagine something funny, romantic, or scary is about to happen next.

More importantly, while we can imagine (hope) for a good outcome we can also imagine (fear) a bad outcome, and it is not clear to us which way it's going to go.

In general, tension rises (i.e. the stake rise) when the possible good outcome gets better and/or the possible bad outcome gets worse. Likewise, if we have no sense of the future or if we feel like we know how things will turn out, the tension dissolves. To engage the audience, we must keep the tension high.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Week Five - Student Script 2


Written by Kat Boyd-Batstone


The street is dark except for a warm light coming from the house on the corner. From the street, framed in the bedroom window, we see THREE GIRLS twirling around with brightly colored scarves.


Inside, SASANKA, 17, is a blur of red. Her wavy jet black hair, red lips and red scarf blur as she spins and poses, almost flirting with the camera.

Flash. Flash. Flash. RENEE, 17, clicks away enthralled.

SASANKA motions to RENEE to her to join her. ADRIANA, 17, dramatically wraps a scarf around her neck and takes the camera.

RENEE takes a step towards SASANKA shyly, unsure how to act in front of the camera. She hesitates, but SASANKA has grabbed her hand and is pulling her forward with a little smile. Their eyes lock and things slow. For a second there is something more, but a second later they are twirling, posing and laughing.

ADRIANA, slightly annoyed that she is not posing with them, puts the camera on a tripod, and they all pile into the frame.

SASANKA pulls RENEE onto her lap. RENEE looks down at her hand resting on her waist and follows it up to her face. SASANKA smiles, rests her cheek on her shoulder and looks to the camera.

ADRIANA makes a funny face. Renee continues to look at SASANKA. FLASH. RENEE looks too late to the camera.

ADRIANA poses comedically. RENEE poses uncomfortably. SASANKA poses confidently. RENEE somewhat sultry. SASANKA with sunglasses. ADRIANA plays with hair. They collapse on the bed laughing at their silliness.

A car lights up the room, beeps and ADRIANA rolls her eyes. We hear a doorbell. ADRIANA collects her things and heads to the door. RENEE gets up and hugs ADRIANA goodbye.

SASANKA is sitting belly down, legs kicked up and head resting on her bent hands. RENEE shyly edges onto the bed. SASANKA taps the bed next to her and RENEE scoots closer.

SASANKA picks up the camera and looks through the photos laughing. RENEE looks over but then she starts to notice how close they are. Their hands are centimeters away from each other and face just a few inches. RENEE catches her breath.

Sasanka hasn’t noticed but RENEE is now staring at the ceiling, a look of fear on her face. She is no longer engaged in the conversation and her breathing shallow.

A second car lights up the room and SASANKA gets up. They walk to the door and are silhouetted by the porch light. They hug and as they separate, RENEE lingers in the space in between them, but a second later pulls away.

SASANKA frowns from the abruptness, shrugs, and runs to the waiting car.

RENEE closes the door, barely breathing, and turns on the TV. The lights flicker across her blank stare.

Week Five - Student Script

American Fried Rice
Abhichoke Chandrasen


A still image of a party. A large group of Asians is seated
at a table covered with food, eating and talking animatedly.
Another image of a plate of fried rice, held by a motherly

Cut to an image of ANN (20s) at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in
Bangkok, surrounded by friends and family. Ann looks happily
at the camera. A finger swipe over the image. We realize


Everything we just saw were images on a mobile phone. The
finger pinches the screen, and the image zooms into Ann’s
smiling face.

Looking at the mobile phone is Ann herself, her face now sad
and lonely in the evening light.

Ann is sitting alone on a bed in her room. The studio is
bare, as if she has just moved in. An open luggage is on the
floor, the tag "BKK-LAX" still attached to the handle.

All of a sudden, a loud thump blasts from the room next
door. Ann jumps and look at the wall. Spanish music starts
to play. The bass thumps relentlessly. Ann sighs and drop
her phone on the bed. She gets up and walk to the window.

She looks at the busy Los Angeles street outside. Even more
music. Faint conversations in Spanish. Sirens blare in the
distance. Ann looks at everything in trepidation.

At that moment, her stomach growls.


Ann stands in front of a large pile of empty Thai instant
noodle packs. She picks one up. The label reads: ’Tom Yum
Kung’ and shakes it dejectedly. Dropping the pack on the
pile, she considers something then looks out of the window.


Ann walks unsurely through the streets, all by herself.

Around her are rundown apartment blocks, dilapidated
shopping malls. The streets are busy with Latin Americans.

Her eyes scan the restaurants she passes by. All of them are


The streets are now dark and empty, bathed in the sodium
vapor light. Ann is still walking alone down the street,
albeit a little faster. She looks around worriedly until her
eyes rest on a Thai restaurant. Ann’s face lits up.


Ann walks into the restaurant. The place is empty. Ann
gingerly walks to a table and sit down. She looks at the

A WAITER walks over. Ann looks up, smiling, ready to order,
when she realizes that the waiter is Latin American. Ann
struggles for words. The waiter looks at her and leaves.

Perplexed, Ann looks at her hand and notices that her finger
has been pointing at ’American Fried Rice’ on the menu.

The waiter returns with the meal. The fried rice looks
exactly like the fried rice she had at her going away party,
down to the way the sausages are cut. 

Ann picks up her spoon, dips it into the rice, and put the rice into her mouth. 

She chews. And then slowly, she smiles and relaxes.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Week Four - Student Script


Written by

Tracy Egbas


It is completely dark, save the light from a tiny flashlight.
We are under the blanket of TRACY, 8.

In her hand is A COLORING PENCIL- Yellow. She holds it so it stands upright, like a person.


Wait! Tracy!

The Yellow Pencil swivels around, and a RED PENCIL ‘scurries’ up to it.

(as red pencil, panting)

I... I’ve been meaning to tell you something...

(as yellow pencil)


Under the blanket, Tracy blushes sheepishly.

Another Pencil comes into the scene- A BROWN ONE.

(as brown pencil)

Tobi! Let’s go to the playground.

(as Red pencil)

No, Ada. I want to go with Tracy.

She tosses the Brown Pencil aside and makes the Red and Yellow face each other.

(as Red pencil)

I wanted to say, your... your eyes are beautiful, Tracy.

Tracy chuckles.

(as Yellow pencil)

You too, Tobi.


(as Red pencil)

I think I love you.

(as Yellow pencil)

Me too...

The two pencils slowly move closer and closer, until they ‘kiss’. She presses the pencils together. Begins to rub them against each other.

Suddenly, the room door FLIES open.

Chaos, as Tracy panics, fumbles with the flashlight. Turns it off.

HER FATHER stands at the doorway. He does not buy.

I don’t want to hear any more

sounds from this room. Go to bed!

She lays still, unmoving. He leaves the door open a crack and walks away, his footsteps resounding down the hallway.


High-pitched laughter and commotion, as all the energy that had been contained in several tiny classrooms is now released upon the two sets of slides and swings.

A small group is congregated near the back- including Tracy, TOBI and ADA (pencils from previous scene). They form a rough circle.

One of the boys- the tallest of them- EBUKA, pants heavily.
He crouches down to catch his breath.

I know you guys cheated! You


ADA laughs contemptuously. She is famous for her hair- long, like her legs.

Shut up, Ebuka. Your shiny head

makes you so easy to find.

TOBI sits next to her. He laughs too loudly at her joke.
Tracy, on the other side of him, shifts closer.


Who is hiding next?

     Rose, a shrill-voiced girl, bossy for her size, gets up.

Tobi found them, so he’s hiding
next. Who is hiding with him? Who

has not gone yet?

A group of hands shoot up- all girls- including Ada and Tracy.

Rose darts over to the middle of the circle and points at each girl in rhythm with the song--

Tum-bom Tum-bom, baska-laba,
Susan went to Sokoto to find the
sun in Soweto,
Rain fell and wind blew,

then she began her search again.

Her finger lands on MIMI, the girl right before Tracy.

Mimi, you already went!

Mimi smiles sheepishly, slipping her hand down.

But you didn’t do the song right.

You didn’t count Aisha...

Rose glares at her, petulant.

Yes I did! You just want to be the one to hide with Tobi!

Tracy stares at her, speechless.

Ebuka raises his arms in resignation.

Tobi, just choose somebody! The

break is almost over.

All look over at Tobi, eyes brimming over with expectation, dread. Tobi shrugs.



She jumps up, and the rest cover their eyes while the two hurry away together excitedly.


Tracy does not cover her eyes. She does not count. She stares, morose, in the direction they disappear.

The kids stomp in rhythm with the countdown. In rhythm with the wild beating of Tracy’s heart.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Rewrite Questionnaire:

95% of feature screenplays submitted to festivals and contests, as well as agencies and managers, fail in three areas: Character, Tension, and Development.

Here are 20 questions that focus on these areas. As you reread your first draft, ask yourself which specific scenes illustrate your answers?

1. Does the resolution dramatize your story’s central idea or theme?

2. Does your ending satisfy the tensions set up in the beginning?

3. Could your story begin earlier or later?

4. How can you incorporate more VISUAL storytelling?

5. What specifically and concretely does the protagonist want?

6. What does the protagonist fear will happen if s/he doesn’t get it?

7. Is your plot driven by your protagonist’s ACTIONS and CHOICES?

8. What does the protagonist need? How do we know?

9. What is the protagonist most afraid of? Where in the story does s/he face it? 

10. What is the protagonist secretly ashamed of?

11. Does the protagonist change? How do we know?

12. Is there a clear ANTAGONIST (person, force, institution)

13. Do the SUPPORTING CHARACTERS have clear wants, needs and fears?

14. Which moments can only happen in THIS story with THESE CHARACTERS? 

15. If you had to tell your story in 60 pages, which scenes would you cut?

16. Where do you NOT feel the main tension of the story?

17. Do the sequences and subplots have their own tensions? What are they?

18. Which scenes have little or no conflict?

19. How can you tell your story with less exposition?

20. Where is the TONE of your script inconsistent?

After thinking about each of these questions, write 1-2 pages about which questions identify the major strengths and weaknesses of your first draft.

For more on how to begin a rewrite, check out How To Begin and This Is What A Rewrite Looks Like.