Creative Global Network for the Visual Arts

Une oasis d'horreur dans un désert d'ennui

Give a Fool a Cross + he'll Mistake Himself for a Messiah.

Script Editor/ Screenwriter seeking salvation.

So you've read Vogler.  Then Campbell.  Then Fuch's The Death of Character. 

You maybe even ploughed through Lehman's Postdramatic Theatre - & the 1000 other books that vanity or curiosity is heir to.  And you realise - you still know nothing.

Does a story need a journey?

Internal. External. Both?

What is a Quest?  Is it more than a voyage with a purpose/ goal?

Is the internal journey - the emotional richness for the audience - the salvation or self-knowledge which comes from the external journey?  Want & Need - in the Frank Daniel Idiot's guide to screenwriting.

Auden said the Detective story was a Quest for innocence?

Do you agree? 

If one can define stories as quests - then do you understand Metaphor, Symbolism, Allegory, Myth - and how each differs from the other?  Can you recognise a symbol - and use it in your screenplay in an emotional/ essential rather than decorative and intellectual way?

How are you building an emotional connection between the audience and each of the central characters in your script?  What is the point of departure, and when does the spectator first start to understand and enter that character's private world?  How many layers are you drawing out?

You introduce a Symbol. 

How is the meaning evolving for a character/ characters in relation to it?  Does s/he come to a realisation of self which is either paralleled or counterpointed by the symbol - or by another character's relation to it?  Is the change reflected in one character's relationship to another?  Is that symbol - or aspects of it - manifested in other varied images in your story?

Look at Bosch - the layers of meaning which may seem esoteric to us but met with recognition to his contemporary audience - reflecting the Society, local sayings, relevant religious iconography + parables. 

Or read Baudelaire or Rimbaud noting down the succession of images - + how they relate - how they develop the theme/s.

Are cinema and dream an action in images.  Are both structures symbols composed of symbols?  Freud's dreams are designed to carry and hide unconscious motives, preferably bad.  To reveal and conceal, not only the function of Carlyle's transcendental symbol, is also that of Freud's libidinous dream, which exploits the irrational, primitive and childish parts of our personality.  The latent or real content of a dream is what we have repressed, and its manifest content or what we remember is the latent in disguise. So with cinema, indirection is necessary to avoid the banality of statement.  To prevent our knowing what we are, the censor uses symbols, which by a kind of compromise of dreams satisfy the demands of social ego and disreputable id.

Dream work - the making of symbols  involves displacement, condensation, and secondary elaboration.  The last and simplest of these is giving an air of coherence to latent disorder.  Displacement can be the disguising of important matters by making them seem peripheral.  Condensation is the process of all symbolism - taking elements and combining them together into image or act.  This rich composite of meanings, though designed to conceal them, invites attention.  Symbol implies putting together.  The nature of a cinematic symbol avoids explanation for its origins do not explain it away; origins do not determine it entirely nor is likeness identity.  Unlike the dream symbol, the cinematic symbol is not dream but art belonging as much to the external world as to the internal, mediating between them - following not only the demands of the unconscious but social and aesthetic.  The cinematic symbol, like a dream before Freud, remains mysterious - an immediacy of emotional connection before analysis turns image and action into sign and discourse.

If a symbol is a form that puts things together - reconciling them in some form - then it works much as dream as insight.  The manifest content of a dream is never its meaning, we must look below the surface to find what it implies.  Dream has been called a myth of the individual and myth the dream of a race. Myth is a narrative of primeval reality, it confirms and strengthens tradition by precedent, supplies a retrospective pattern of moral values and, while supporting magic and ritual, confers order and unity on the tribe.

As Cassirer wrote, myth is a symbolic form which like language, religion, science or art creates a world and way of seeing it.  Rules.  Borders.  Genre.  As remote as possible from the mode of discursive logic with its distinctions, myth concentrates experience by analogy, for like language, myth has its roots in metaphorical thinking.  Among primitive peoples myth is a way of making the moment permanent, of celebrating its mystery and power - and of releasing conflicts by objectifying them.  Among moderns, myth, freed from primitive beliefs (at least partially), is symbolic action.  Myth is symbol - a symbolic narrative.  Myth and dream present man's central problems - but the dream, however general its images, concerns problems of the individual whereas myth focuses on those of the community.  Both involve the individuals relationship with men and things around him from Odysseus to Ahab. 

Voyage - Dream - Myth: What for you are the differences (if any)?

Ex 1.  Prospero.

Write a 1 page synopsis for a horror film or film noir in which Prospero island is now an apartment which he can't leave in a contemporary city. 

   - How can you make his magic avoid feeling tricksy - breaking the genre in a

     gratuitous + tiresome magic realist way.

   - What is the function of the magic?

Ex 2.  Caliban.

Write a 1 page synopsis for a horror film in which the protagonist suspects - then slowly discovers - and has confirmed - that he (or she) is Caliban.

   - What are the obstacles.

     (Think of movies like Seconds - or even Shock Corridor).

   - Think through what is providing the forward movement - and whether you

     can create an interesting 'A' plot which gets progressively more distorted -

     then overwhelmed - by the horror.


Rewrite the 1 page into a 2 page synopsis where what you have initially is Act 1.

Ex 3. Bond

Write a 7 page Step Outline for a Bond film where 007 is the most recognised/ famous spy in the world.

Ex 4.  Heart of The Dog

Write a body swap film for kids where a priest receives the heart of a mafioso dog - + the dog the priest's

Ex 5.  The Conversation

Write up a telephone interview.

   - remove the words of the person you talked to.

   - What is clear/ implied? Shape the work

Ex 6.  Court

Sit in on a Court case.

Write notes, do research.

   - Now write the crime up from a police Dog's POV?

   - Genre

   - Tone ?

Ex 7.  Parallel Lives?

Do 3 unrelated interviews - perhaps work related (ticket tout, bouncer, cop). -

Edit into a dramatic narrative

Ex 8.  Chopin

Write a SQ length short (8 - 12 minutes).

Now take a Chopin Etude and rework the film to it.

Ex 9.  Verbatim

Write a 30 minute Verbatim theatre work based on interviews with real people who voted Brexit.

   - Theme.

   - Tone.

   - Shape.

   - Visuals

Ex 10.  Lost Honour

Adapt The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum into a 2 page treatment set in the Present.

Rewrite: to avoid copyright

Ex 11.  Pieta'

Recreate a Renaissance Pieta' using rats and insects - focusing on composition and colours.

Discuss the Composition

Ex 12.  Song & Image

Group. Pair up - giving everyone the same song to create an image narrative to:

   - NO - to the literal

Ex 13.  Cuchulain

Write a 2 page feature treatment about Cuchulain finding himself in today's world + not fitting in.

Ex 14.  Twins

Write a short sketch with Twins in their mother's stomach - to be played by 2 adults.

   - What are you satirising?

Ex 15.  Life after Death

Write a Short film: Visual layer: the journey after death Aural: a guide's narration. Avoid cliche.

Ex 16.  Site Specific

Write a site specific play where audience participation is central. Include a scene which involves pulling in fishing nets

Ex 17.  Modernist Me.

Recreate a modernist photo.

Analyse its composition/ narrative elements - the photographer's choices - asking why

Ex 18.  Rewrite

Read through H C Andersen - looking at his use of Double themes/ motifs/ characters etc. Apply to your own story.

Ex 19.  Birds & Bees

Write a Father/ Son 'birds + bees' scene between a trying to reform hoodlum + his studious middle class kid

Ex 20.  Second Hand Time

Take a story from Svetlana Alexievich's Second Hand Time - and adapt it into a documentary theatre piece of 20 minutes.

Ex 21.  La Regle du Jeu

Screen/ Playwriting Ex

With La règle du jeu projected behind you (mute) - play out different 2 or 3 actors scenes. Focus on theme/ structure

Ex 22.  Sartre

Adapt Sartre's Childhood of a Leader into a Step Outline. Rewrite to obscure / avoid copyright.

Ex 23.  Soundscape

Bring an image narrative - like Ruttmann + Vertov - to Staffan Storm's 3 Autumns. i. Create a soundscape for your images

Ex 24.  Moby Dick

Screenwriting Group: Moby Dick Allocate 1 chapter to each person per week - a 1 page synopsis + 2 page outline.

Rewrite as 1-woman play.

Ex 25.  Groundhog

Write an outline for a 7 SQ film un which the same couple fall in love - then out of love. (think of Groundhog Day)

Ex 26.  Short

Write a Short film which is over in 100 heartbeats.

Ex 27.  Stalker

Watch Tarkovsky's Stalker and write yourself into that story as a theatre work. How is your character refocusing it?

Ex 28.  Unforeseen Consequences

Write a 8 minute film where the development comes from the unforeseen consequences of each choice the protagonist makes.

Ex 29.  Guido

Write a 5 pages Step Outline for Taxi Driver.

   - Now rewrite it with Marcello from La Dolce Vita as the protagonist.

Ex 30.  Nordic Noir

Take Nordic Noir a write a black comedy which satirises the social commentary cliches of the genre

Ex 31.  The Muse

Take the story of a musician and his/ her muse + write it as a 5 minute Short consciously subverting all the cliches.

Ex 32.  Portrait

Do a portrait - thinking of composition, symbolic use of colour - to capture how that person will look in 20 years. Subtly


Do a double portrait - Man & Woman - with 1 in profile, 1 in full face. How is tension/ violence/ conflict suggested


Take the double portrait - and rework it to make each character suggest an archetype. Again - subtly.


Rework this last Double Portrait - painting over it, not using a brush but your fingertips.

Ex 33. Self-portrait

Make a self-portrait using a hammer rather than paint/ charcoal/ photography.

Ex 34.  A Year in the Life of...

Take a self-portrait

   - 1a day, for a year. Arrange/ edit + order them like a flick book.

Look for SQs. Narrative patterns.

Ex 35.  Empathy.

Approach a hospice to offer a willing collaborator to make a photographic record of how their body changes

Ex 36.  Mort

In Group.

Discuss how to adapt La Mort d'Arthur into a contemporary drama focusing on the relationships, the journeys, the themes.

Ex 37.  Wall Street

Adapt Indagine su un Cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto for the Against Wall Street generation

Ex 38.  Calvary

Write a 15 minute play of the Calvary - with Chaplin & Buster Keaton as the 2 thieves.

   - Avoid Stoppard.

i. Rewrite as film

Ex 39.  Step Outline

Write 1 image for every scene

   - Take that now to 1 level of abstraction

   - Put the images together After each 3

   - add 1


Why not try Eco's Poetics of The Open Work (1962) rather than the barely literate jargon buffoon who's 'teaching' you.

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