All of your parts are still in motion, even when they are not on the screen. #writing — heavyliftingind (@heavyliftingind) January 30, 2015
I frequently post things to twitter as a reminder to myself for later. These are often contextual and relate either to a reminder of something I already knew and had forgotten or a new insight around my current project. In this particular instance it happens to be the former.
This came from working on the script competition project I recently mentioned. I’ve learned a couple of things about that project while working through it. These things all funnel from one to another.
Limit Your Point of View
In pulling back the page count from a feature to a maximum of 35 pages I quickly realized I needed to limit the point of view.
While there are a half-dozen primary characters in my script there is only one main character. If I’m going to make this fit I need to limit the point of view and perspective of the audience. To do that effectively it all needs to filter through the protagonist.
This is a pretty easy choice to make. The length of the piece can’t support more than two perspectives very well and doing so would muddle its direction. By filtering everything through the protagonist we can get a pretty pure perspective.
The World Still Needs to Breath
Characters don’t stop existing merely because they are off-screen. They continue to operate toward their own goals and responsibilities, always moving forward. I have six characters integral to the progression of the plot. If they’re not operating on-screen they better have their asses in gear the rest of the time.
What works even better is when these things intersect. When the actions off-screen directly impact the happenings on-screen. When they drive events toward each other or inform how things fail or succeed.
Truth is Relative
The next place this shines is in being able to spin the off-screen events. Given that a number of important events happen off-screen and in parallel to the events experienced by the protagonist, he is forced to be informed. This can be through outcomes influencing his experiences or through content related second and third hand.
Where this really gets interesting is how those inputs may or may not be accurate. Partially in how they reflect the character relaying the information and more broadly in how they are trying to manipulate others and outcomes. Which leads right into the major challenge.
Given all of this, how do you…
- build a living, breathing world
- with important events happening off-screen
- that influence and impact the protagonist in meaningful ways
- as experienced by the audience through the protagonist’s perspective
- when the input he receives may or may not be bullshit intended to manipulate him
- and being able to tip viewers to that possibility
- without destroying the protagonist’s credibility
It’ll be an interesting challenge to make it work.