Screenwriting

Because we connect…we watch.

Screenwriter connecting with an audience

Photo by Matrin Kingsley

A screenwriter’s purpose is to connect. “ Only connect, ” E. M. Forster tells us in Howard’s End. He meant it as a rule to live by. I see it as a rule to write by. The best screenplays — long or short — are written by those who know how to connect— to themselves (their unique vision, material, process), to what drama is, and, most importantly, to others.

You may have a different purpose in mind. If you’re anything like the ambitious students I teach, you may well want to write the script for that short film that will open Hollywood’s doors. And that can certainly happen, but it won’t happen unless your screenplay connects. Connecting with others is what you must do to succeed as a screenwriter, and it will also be your greatest success.

Ask any dramatist — playwright or screenwriter. They’ll describe the sheer wonder — and joy — of seeing an audience connecting to a story they’ve written. People lurching with laughter (in the right places) or staring rapt at the screen because they are so moved by the story they’re seeing. And the worst times are those when an audience doesn’t connect. Groans. Sighs of impatience or boredom. Bad laughs.

Years ago, during the intermission of one of my plays, I overheard two young men in the lobby discussing a dog. I like dog stories, so I sidled over to listen. The “ dog, ” I found out, was my play. That’s what is so terrifying about writing plays or screenplays: Failure is so damn public. Okay, you’ve been warned.

Excerpted from Crafting Short Screenplays that Connect by Claudia H. Johnson- Third Edition © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved

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