Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Your Script Should Tell Stories

Mother and daughter sit on the porch swing. The girl has obviously been having a rough time recently and her mother has figured out why. There is a moment while the older woman gathers her thoughts. Then...

"Sweetheart. I will never forget when you were in the fifth grade and you were so excited when you got the lead in the play. Do you remember that?"

Kissing Jessica Stein

When we're writing a script it can be easy to forget that we're here to tell stories. We rightly think our movie's plot is the story, and we try to keep that moving forward by simply getting to the point. "Honey, you're a perfectionist and you've missed out on stuff because of it. Stop paralyzing yourself and pursue your dream."

First, such a speech wouldn't really help anyone. Most people know they have a problem but haven't been able to see a way around it. Telling them to "stop it" isn't going to solve anything.

Second, your audience should already know such information. Whatever's happening here is part of your overall story, and you'd better have shown your audience this reality already. Do not use exposition to try to cram your movie into a few sentences... if you do that, you might as well skip making your movie because you already said what you wanted to say.

Instead, use this time to have your characters tell a story. A story from their lives or the lives of others. This is new information for the audience and is something your characters can draw meaning from. In this case, Jessica is able to see that by dropping out of the play because it wasn't going to be "perfect," she ended up missing out on something that could have been wonderful. She also learns that her mother sticks by her side, even after self-destructive choices.

The reality is that stories, not lectures, draw us in and teach us things.

Use stories in your story to better tell your story.

One last tip: If you don't have strong actors like Tovah Feldshuh to carry your scene, you still have options. While your actor tells the story, show it unfold. So, here, get some shots from a youth play practice. Even without world class actors, you can tell a great story inside your main plot.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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