Writing at the Top of My Lungs

Here’s the thing I love about screenwriting – it’s about using the fewest words to create the largest picture. There’s a wonderful economy in the language of films. You’re given two hours at best; two hours which translates into 120 pages of script – one page per minute. I’ve had table readings of my scripts – no action included – and have been surprised to find that it really is one minute per page.

So here’s your mission: Write a scene that doesn’t include the character’s thoughts, desires and complex histories, but somehow conveys a character’s thoughts, desires and complex histories. It’s like a puzzle. Add to that the fact that somebody important who’s reading your script does not want you to direct them. It sounds confusing, doesn’t it? It is.


I was wrong. You can tear up my contract and keep your money. I'll take my chances on the outside.

This is a line from my screenplay, A PERFECT WORLD – a dystopian society in 2046 where America is bankrupt from taking care of the sick. All illness has been traced to HPAS - Hybrid Procreation Autoimmune Syndrome – caused by the cross-pollination of people breeding outside their race of origin: The American Melting Pot. The government has decided it’s time to fix the problem before humanity is too sick to survive. What if medicine suddenly became illegal and the sick were encouraged to die while America cultivated a new race?

Now picture my dilemma as the screenwriter. Exclamation points are frowned upon. Italics aren’t allowed. Underlined words are not encouraged unless absolutely necessary. Using all caps (ala Christian Gray style) is a complete no-no.

And yet my character, Rennie, is a woman in a government run clinic, who is thirteen-weeks pregnant with a genetically viable child, produced through a government sanctioned union, and she wants out.

She wants out at the top of her lungs. She wants out in spite of the fact that she has signed a contract. She wants out even though she knows that medical care outside of the facility has been deemed illegal.


But it’s not my call as a writer to do the director’s job (or so they say). So I write the words and hope he/she gets it. Or more likely, I hope the twelve-year-old he/she intern assistant to the producer gets it.

It’s all good, though, as long as YOU get it.

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