Screenwriting myths: Debunk concepts that prevent creativity

One of the problems in the process of learning to write a screenplay is the misunderstanding of the concepts about movie scripts. These misunderstandings became screenwriting myths that almost everybody believes just because of the standards adopted by the majority in the cinema industry and the stupidity of some screenplay instructors and filmmakers. When writing a screenplay, it should be always remembered that the primary factor is creativity and these patterns and concepts can prevent your creativity.

In our opinion, the healthiest way is to understand the concepts correctly: So even if you are going to put your screenplay into a mold, you should do it consciously and willingly. Our aim in this post is to clarify some concepts about movie screenplays that are accepted without questioning and to give you some ideas that will help you to make your own way in the process of learning.

So, let’s debunk some screenwriting myths.

screenwriting myths
A still from Satantango (1994).

Screenwriting myths

A good film requires a good screenplay

The history of cinema contains many examples that debunk this one of the biggest screenwriting myths. There are directors who set out great works with bad screenplays even without a screenplay. We don’t say that a good screenplay is not important: Of course, you will try to write good screenplays. But it is necessary to understand that movie scripts are only technical guiding texts. They are not a sine qua non for a movie. There is no point in glorifying movie screenplays out of their functions.

For further details about this subject, you check this post: What is a screenplay and why is it necessary?

Filmmaking is storytelling

Undoubtedly, cinema is an art that includes storytelling. But there is no rule that every movie and accordingly the movie screenplay must tell a story. Cinema, as visual and auditory art, allows us to produce storyless products, too. In this context, it would be wrong to say storytelling equals filmmaking or screenwriting. Since storytelling is much older and deep-rooted than cinema, it is a fact that it dominates the film’s structures and that most of the audience pays attention to the stories of the films. In addition, screenwriters or directors can identify themselves as storytellers. But let’s not forget that there are also filmmakers who are not identified as storytellers. For example, James Benning′s films consist of photographic frames without any story and dialogue. If you want to tell stories in your screenplay, of course, you should do it, but you also should be aware that you don’t need a story to write a screenplay or shoot a movie.

Scriptwriting could be taught

Scriptwriting could not be taught but could be learned. Of course, this is about what you understand from the concept of learning. Learning in a particular art or creative field is not in understanding certain rules that are standardized, but in a personalized learning process that is based entirely on your own personal experience. If we take into account the individuality, infiniteness, and relativeness of any creative process, you have to discover this process on your own. Don’t expect any books and any instructors, including this blog, to teach you this thing.

Subject of a screenplay should be original

It is okay to write a screenplay about a subject that has been handled hundreds of times. The important thing here is that your perspective which could add innovation, originality, and personality to the subject. In short, you always have the chance to add originality to a cliché topic. If you seek originality, it is very important to know what has been done before you. Originality does not descend from the sky or be obtained through revelation. You have to add something new to what has been done before, or subtract something, or put things together that have not met before.

Screenplay are literary works

A screenplay is not literary work, such as a novel or a storybook. A screenplay consists of images and sounds transferred onto paper, similar to musical notes. So screenplays are useless for reading except for professional reasons.

The screenplays of the best-selling films are successful because they are written according to the audience’s taste

Anyone can guess the audience’s tastes. But making movies for the mass audience is harder than you think. The majority of successful screenwriters actually do not write for the audience’s taste, but the tastes of the screenwriters and the audience could be common. In other words, the screenwriter actually could reach more audiences just because he has the same taste as most of the audience. But, of course, this is not the cause of success, it is only a result. The key to success lies in many different factors.

Rules must be learned first, then those rules could be broken

This stereotype may work in other areas. However, as there is no rule for creativity, there is also no rule to write a screenplay. If scriptwriting is learned within the framework of certain rules, creativity gets stuck in a narrow perspective that is based only on the breaking or stretching of these rules. Then writers could lose his focus while looking for a rule to be broken. In short, you should stop focusing on breaking rules. Apart from that, the formal, technical and sectoral parts of the scriptwriting, of course, could be learned in some standards. However, it does not help you to take a rule-breaking approach to these standards which serve only practical purposes and do not require much originality.

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