The Beginning of the Beginning

Posted on 27th July, 2018

How it all started

The work of a screen writer begins from the dawn of an idea. This idea, when it’s allowed to bloom, might lead to several other ideas and periodically changes in structure, as it’s an evolutionary process. The process of writing can take from as less time as a week to several months, sometimes even a lifetime.

A script writer can also be hired by a director/ producer on a pre-existing idea, or to improvise a script they already have in hand. The essentials, whether an original or adopted idea is the same: Develop an idea. Write a script. Envision everything, from the first scene to the last. Show your script. Get used to refusals, blatant rejections. Get used to listening to other people suggest changes to your script. No matter what, learn to stick to your story and trust your creative process, until you find a director who shares it.

A complex screenplay could communicate with the viewers, more than what the characters are willing to do. Concealing some details within the screenplay adds layers to the screenplay, which would make the viewers watch it several times and not get bored of. Deciphering these carefully hidden themes could be a difficult task, but once we do decode it, we will be able to appreciate the brilliance of the writer much better.

Understanding the script and representing its spirit through the actors’ costumes is another crucial aspect to consider by the costume designers. They have to work along with the director very closely, so that there is no scope for any miscommunication between them, as that could pose a serious problem to the film in whole.

If we take Sam Mendes' directorial debut American Beauty into consideration, the opening monologue reveals that the lead character, played by Kevin Spacey dies in the film, reminding the readers of the inevitability of death. This open confession wants you to believe that whatever the characters tell you about them is true and that we need to take them at their face value. But, as it turns out, that is not the case. Mendes sets his story in an American neighbourhood like any other, but going deep into the movie, we observe that even in such an ordinary looking community, there could be a lot of complications, which in itself is signalling a theme of hypocrisy.

Almost everyone in the movie is not what they appear to be. The seemingly strong and independent wife of Spacey's Lester Burnham, Carolyn crumbles into tears when she's alone and resorts to extramarital affair to escape from the reality of her morbid life. The coquettish Angela Hayes, with whom Lester becomes infatuated with, although explicit in her stories of her sexual liaisons, is revealed to have been a virgin at the end of the film. The homophobic father of Ricky Fitts, Frank who is shown throughout the film to disapprove of the gay community, is found to be a homosexual himself. All of them make a decision to alter their life, which would, for better or for worse, change their lives drastically. The screen writer, Alan Ball, gives you hints of these aspects of the characters all along the film, but sums up and clarifies only at the end of the feature to make the greatest impact possible.

Contrary to tradition, we could also make a movie without any plot. But, you might be thinking why should a director invest his time, the producer his resources into a movie which essentially has no plot? The truth is a lot of things in life do not make complete sense. Life is not always driven by a plot, or by a valid storyline. If the movie works out according to the combined vision of the writer and director, we might well have a blockbuster purely because it evoked the audiences’ “emotions”.


My favourite plot-less movie is The American Graffiti. Nothing happens. The entire movie follows teenagers, on the verge of adulthood making mostly stupid, but sometimes wise choices. This movie found favour at Universal Studios after being turned down by six publishing houses. It turned out to be a cult hit. Why? What could a movie, which logically speaking, should’ve been an utter dud become such a great hit? The secret lies in its universality. Curt’s fear of college, of the next big change in his career, his regret at leaving the blonde girl who caught his fancy behind...these are real concerns, which people deal with all the time. All of us are victims of the what-ifs of life, the twinge of fear that shadows every choice. The Toad’s ineptness at finding a girlfriend and his elation at finally getting a date is also relatable to a lot of teenagers out there. Another theme of the movie is the “hot rods,” indicating the importance of cars in the American culture. It shows the American teenagers’ obsession of radio, the rock/pop culture during those times. George Lucas kept it real at all times, and this, more than anything, is the reason American Graffiti is framed in the halls of time.

A script writer is thus, the biological equivalent of a cell in a human body. It’s true that his influence carries only until production process, but without his story, there cannot be a movie. Whatever else is added, removed, worked upon and improved, it can all be done only within the perimeters and scope of the writer’s script, and herein lays his significance.

- Open Face Team


* This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinians expressed in the text belongs solely to the author, and not necessarily to Openface Media Organization, or any other group or individual.*


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