Writing Your Screenplay by Lisa Dethridge

By Lisa Dethridge

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Psychologist Abraham Maslow points to a hierarchy of human needs which structure our lives through various levels. The core of any good dramatic situation is usually concerned with these needs: • the need for survival • the need for safety and security • the need for love and belonging • the need for esteem and self-respect • the need for fulfilment and self-actualisation. 26 Cinema creates a parallel universe This hierarchy reveals what motivates us and what may be at stake if our basic needs are not met.

The codes and formats of this design, the measurements and the calculations that are represented in the drawings and figures, must all add up to the creation of a safe and sturdy structure that is appealing to the eye and will survive the ravages of time. It sounds simplistic and obvious to remind writers that what they are describing on paper may eventually exist in a real dimension, inside a studio or on location, where real actors and props will be put to use to realise the vision that is created on paper.

Now, it is true that screenplays can be written with all the precision and irony of Haiku poetry, with all the majesty of epic theatre, with passion, romance and razor-sharp insight. However, unlike a novel, an essay or a poem, which are read directly by a public audience or readership, the screenplay isn’t written to be judged as an artistic text in itself. The screenwriter is not appealing directly to the audience with their text. They must first pass muster with a crew and cast of industry craftspeople—the 43 Writing Your Screenplay producer, director, technical crew and actors who then follow the writer’s instructions and specifications to construct an entire imaginary realm for the screen.

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