The Another World studio has been instrumental in developing my creative practice. I began the studio with expectations of developing my screenwriting skills and I received much more than just that. The studio focused on how the world of a story shapes screenwriting craft and looked at several examples from texts that contain strong examples of world. This included Rope (1948) and The Apartment (1960). The blog post Small World discusses additional examples such as The Hateful Eight (2016).
The studio introduced me to standard screenplay formats and common issues and technical features of the format. I was also introduced to other possibilities of the format and how the tone of the screenplay can be captured in the big print. This is discussed in my previous blog post Breaking down “Up”. The studio also looked at how genre drives audience expectations and contains specific elements and characteristics associated with these expectations. This exploration of genre led me to develop my own creative project, Deluge.
The week 5 reading, “Working with Genre I” by Dancyger and Rush was the impetus for the Deluge project, as I begin looking into the common features of the Western genre. I focused on the dichotomy between civilization and primitivism as outlined in the reading (Dancyger & Rush 2013, p. 107). I then broadened the exploration to include other genres that I found interesting including the disaster and murder mystery genres. I then analysed common features and found that both genres deal with survival. I then decided on the hybrid genre of disaster murder mystery. An outline of the technical features from both genres and a detailed explanation of this process is discussed at length in the post What is my world?.
The plot started to develop rapidly after I decided on the setting of a small isolated town in the Victorian bush during the 1860’s Gold Rush. I decided on the mini-series format because it would allow for the development of characters over a short amount of screen time. I quickly developed characters, and a vague story line and I was keen to begin writing the hybrid genre. I had some difficulties in beginning the screenwriting process as found it difficult to write a pilot episode without knowing in detail the relationships between the characters, how well they know each other?, who is new to the town?, who is an outsider? and most importantly, who is the murderer?
I then decided to focus on the development of the plot from start to finish in order to not only map out the characters, but also the clues, misdirection and the balance between the murder mystery and disaster genre. I developed a character map and some plot points which can be seen in the blog post Deluge Story Draft.
Another problem that I encountered was whether to give one genre dominance over the other, or to give each genre equal weight. While researching the project, I came across Selbo (2008, p. 43) who wrote that there is usually one dominant genre accompanied by one or more supporting genres. Furthermore, Selbo (2010, p. 277) suggests that screenwriters should “identify the overriding genre as the dominant frame of the film”. This would mean that the structure and characteristics of the dominant genre would take precedence over the other genre. I understood this decision to be important in establishing audience expectations. This dilemma is discussed in the blog post Generic balance. I decided not to choose an overriding genre, and instead pit the genres against one another so that they would create a natural tension between the individual selfish needs associated with a murder mystery and the collective overcoming of obstacles that define the disaster genre.
After overcoming these problems it was time to decide on the formats I would choose to deliver the proof-of-narrative in. As I had already developed the plot points for the project, I decided to write a treatment outlining the entire plot. I also had already developed a character map explaining the relationships between all of the characters, and I decided to also create character profiles providing information and quotes from the characters. The proof-of-narrative elements are listed below.
- One sentence synopsis
- One paragraph synopsis pitch
- Deluge logos
- Character profiles
- Character map
- Plot outline
In order to develop the project further, I would create a pilot script that captures the tension between the two genres. I would hopefully include the two inciting incidents of the river bank overflowing and the discovery of the body. I would also experiment with the structure of the project, as I developed elaborate backstories which could be explored further. I could structure each episode from the perspective of one character, similar to the techniques used in Rashomon (1950).
Dancyger, K and Rush, J 2013, Alternative Scriptwriting: Beyond the Hollywood Formula, Hobooken: Taylor and Francis.
Selbo J 2008, Screenplay: The Rewrite, First Draft to Marketplace, Washington DC and London: Garth Gardner Publications.
Selbo J 2010, “The constructive use of film genre for the screenwriter: mental space of film genre – first exploration”, Journal of Screenwriting, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 273-289.
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