A screenwriter’s journey to mastery isn’t without its fair share of ups and downs. The hours, months and years of obsessively watching and re-watching movies, poring over screenplays and books, listening to podcasts and lectures. All in a bid to get better in an ultra-competitive field with largely unpredictable markers for success. From story development to structure, theme to dialogue, genre conventions to character, there’s quite a lot for the screenwriter to grapple with.
The peculiarity of the Nigerian context comes with its specific problems: the unfortunate disregard for the craft, the absence of platforms to encourage training of writers, the accessibility of job opportunities, financial viability and many more. The Nigerian screenwriter is left to adopt self-learning to grow, survive and remain relevant. He/She is forced to hunt for and sift through numerous resources available online: Articles, downloadable e-books, video essays and many more. Most are flawed, subjectively designed and will need to be pruned but this is the difficult journey a self-learner must endure.
There are lots of materials available online but, for the sake of young screenwriters out there, we have taken the pain to compile a collection of readily available resources that should be considered for growth and training:
Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
Based on his acclaimed classes at UCLA extension, Karl Iglesias, in this book, argues that screenwriting is simply a business of selling emotions, that the best films are where and what they are because we connect very strongly to the characters in them. He goes beyond the familiar chatter about structure, dialogue and, instead, zones in on storytelling techniques to ensure the reader is hit, page after page, with emotional impacts that will keep him/her glued till Fade Out.
The Idea by Erik Bork
Here, Erik Bork discusses the seven elements of a viable story for screen, stage or fiction. Rather than deal with the execution of stories on the blank white pages of the screen, like most screenwriting books, Erik switches focus off screen to the ideation and curation of story ideas. By probing ideas with his seven essential elements, he questions completeness and commercial viability of ideas. This is where, he believes, the larger work of scripting is. The question he asks is: Is your idea punishing, relatable, original, believable, life-altering, entertaining and meaningful? The book is a must read for screenwriters especially interested in writing commercial films.
Film courage is one of the more popular YouTube channels for filmmakers globally. It’s filled with interviews with a diverse community of filmmakers, sharp essays on easy-to-miss cinematic tricks, analyses of what worked and didn’t work in a range of films and much more. The screenwriting arm isn’t any less impressive. With hundreds of interviews with screenwriters on different aspects of the craft, Nigerian screenwriters certainly have enough to refer to for training and encouragement.
Go into The Story by Scott Myers
Scott Myers is a film producer and screen writer of over 30 projects in Hollywood. He is also a co-founder of the unique online resource for screenwriters, Screenwriting Master Class. What really stands out Scott’s name is the widely renowned Go into the story, the official screenwriting blog of The Black List. Since its inception in 2008, Scott has authored over 11,000 posts on the screenwriting craft. The blog is stocked with interviews, screenplay analyses, downloadable screenplays, writing tips and much more. It’s a haven for screenwriters globally and should be for the Nigerian screenwriter looking to get better.
Draft Zero by Chas Fisher and Stuart Willis
A podcast unknown to many but filled with helpful lessons for screenwriters. What makes Draft Zero special is that anchors Chas and Stuart are emerging, not established screenwriters. Their takes on issues are honest, relatable and not intended to be branded guidelines to be strictly adhered to. All they do is try to work out what makes great screenplays work by analyzing what the writers put on the page and then discussing them. There are over 72 episodes available on the website, enough material for young screenwriters to go through.
Notable mentions include: Dialogue and Story by Robert McKee, the Screen-craft blog, Scriptnotes, a podcast run by Craig Mazin and John August, and many more.
The Nigerian screenwriter has a lot to contend with but there’s certainly enough material online and off to help with training and getting better. The above list is not exhaustive. Far from it. There are surely platforms not mentioned above that have been hugely beneficial to writers all over the world. The most important thing is that screenwriters keep working hard at improving our craft as we all await that big opportunity.
Is there any screenwriting resource that has helped you that we left out? Share with us.