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WHERE'S THE DRAMA?

The stuff that dreams are made of

22 EXT   THE DRAMA REPORTS    DAY

THE FEATURE REPORT 

 

Caveat Emptor:  Your screenplay may offer satisfactory answers to all of these questions and still not present a story that's worth making if you (and your audience) find the characters and their actions predictable, or if we do not care enough about them to compel empathy. However, if the actions that your screenplay presents fail to suggest or provide satisfactory answers to all of the questions below, it is probable that the screenplay is not yet maximising its dramatic potential. 

 

TWO QUESTIONS FOR THE SCREENWRITER ONLY

AUDIENCE  -  To whom is the story addressed, and what effect do you imagine it will have?

TRIBE - For whom is the writer speaking, or who is it that is speaking THROUGH the writer?

 NOTE: for more details, see AUDIENCE and TRIBE sections of this website 

 

SETTING UP - The characters and their conflict 

1. Who/What is/are the main character(s)?  

2. What problem/opportunity does the main character confront at the beginning of the main story?

3. What action (plan) – on the part of the main character – is prompted by the initial problem? 

4. What goal does the main character hope to achieve as a result of employing this plan?

5. Who or what opposes the main character/s?

6. What else, other than what directly opposes the main character, does he/she fear?

7. In what manner or aspect is the main character [or characters] compelling?        

8. Obstacles/complications:  What is/are the major obstacle/s or complication/s confronting the main character after he/she has decided upon his/her initial plan of action? 

9. In what ways does the problem evolve or change, and what impact does this change have on the main character’s objective and/or plans for achieving it?

10. Stakes: What is at stake in the main character’s quest for his/her objective or goal?   And how do these change with the evolving problem/s?

11. What is the main character’s final goal?

12. What new or significant realization or understanding does the main character have at the conclusion of the story?

13. List and identify any subsidiary stories, and explain how they contribute to the dramatic meaning of the main story.

14. Scene sequencing: Does each scene contribute to advancing or retarding the main character’s progress towards a clear goal?    YES/NO     Please note any scenes that are not doing so.

15. Unanswered questions: Does the script raise any questions that it doesn’t answer? Specify.   

 

THEME - log-line, dramatic question & premise 

16. What is the logline of the central story of the screenplay? 

17. What is the dramatic question of the main story?

18. What is the answer provided at the end of the story?

19. What is the premise of the main story as you understand it?

 

GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES/GENRE - context & situation 

Time of Action    How much time does the story cover?   &     at what time/s is it set?

Place of Action    Geographic location

Society      What significant societal groups, clans, or sub-cultures do the characters belong to?

Interactions    What characterises the interactions that occur between and among the different groups in the story?

Intellect / education     In what way/s that are important to the story do the characters express their intellectual identity?

Culture    What do the groups DO that characterises or defines their cultural identity? 

Politics     What principle/s do the characters and character groups adhere to and uphold in order to govern themselves?

Law     How do the groups enforce these principles?

Economics     What principle/s do the groups adhere to and uphold in the production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services?  

Spirituality     What sustaining spiritual notions or values do the groups hold to be true? (This refers to the formal religious elements that may be present and inform their attitudes and actions, inclduing the presence of religious societies, churches, ceremonies, traditions, and the relgious values espoused by the characters.)

Neutral circumstances     which, if any, of these circumstances or aspects are in evidence but not actually employed dramatically in the story?

 Further comments

 

  POWER POINT DRAMA REPORT (FEATURES)

 

 

DRAMA REPORT - FIRST 15 PAGES

                       THE SCENE REPORT

   Sc #____ INT / EXT

Log-line: In a sentence, explain what happens in the scene – who does what to whom and with what result?

Which character is driving the action? Who is speaking through him/her?

Explain that character’s relationship to the other character/s in the scene. 

What problem/opportunity does the main character confront in the scene?

What goal is the character pursuing? (What is he/she fighting for?)

What is the main character’s plan (as evidenced in the action of the scene) to achieve his/her goal?

What is motivating the character to act?    

This scene is the EFFECT of what?  (What action previous to this scene has lead to the action that is presented here?)   

This scene is the CAUSE of what?  (What subsequent action/s is/are the result of the action/s that occur/s in this scene?)

How does the action (in the scene) help or hinder the main character in achieving his/her goal?

Risk: What is at stake?

What is the dramatic question & answer of the scene?     

What is the biggest change that occurs in the scene?   

Identify any superfluous or repetitive action/dialogue in the scene:

Point of attack: does the scene begin at the best possible place? 

Point of departure: does the scene end at the best possible place?   YES / NO   If yes, why? If not, why not?

 

Additional comments:

                THE SHORT FILM REPORT

 

Caveat Emptor:  Your screenplay may offer satisfactory answers to all of these questions and still not present a story that's worth making if you (and your audience) find the characters and their actions predictable, or if we do not care enough about them to compel empathy. However, if the actions that your screenplay presents fail to suggest or provide satisfactory answers to all of the questions below, it is probable that the screenplay is not yet maximising its dramatic potential. 

 

TWO QUESTIONS FOR THE SCREENWRITER ONLY

AUDIENCE  -  To whom is the story addressed, and what effect do you imagine it will have?

TRIBE - For whom is the writer speaking, or who is it that is speaking THROUGH the writer?

 NOTE: for more details, see AUDIENCE and TRIBE sections of this website

 

 THE CHARACTERS & THEIR CONFLICT 

Who is the CHARACTER that has the most significant problem/opportunity at the beginning of the the story?

What is the PROBLEM/OPPORTUNITY and when does it first appear?

What is the character’s INITIAL GOAL in response to this problem/opportunity?

What PLANS OF ACTION does the character initiate for achieving this goal?

Who or what or what provides the OPPOSITION to the character’s plans of action?

What major, specific OBSTACLE/s or COMPLICATION/s frustrate the character's plan/s?

STAKES: In terms of the character’s ultimate goal, what is at risk

What attributes or attitudes - as expressed in actions - make the character EMOTIONALLY COMPELLING?        

Does the character’s problem CHANGE during the story?

Does the chararacter GOAL change?

Does the character find it necessary to abandon one plan of action for another? If so, how many times and where does the plan change?

What is the CLIMAX of the story?   If satisfactory, state why. If not, why not?

In what way is the character’s initial problem in any way AMPLIFIED or RE-CONTEXTUALISED by the climax? 

SCENE SEQUENCING and LOGIC: Does each scene contribute to advancing or retarding the main character’s progress towards a clear goal?    YES/NO

Is there a clear cause & effect relationship from one scene to the next?   YES / NO      Please note any scenes that are not doing so.

Does the script raise any QUESTIONS that it doesn’t answer?  Specify.

 

PITCH, THEME, LOG-LINE, DRAMATIC QUESTION, PREMISE 

THE SELF-CHALLENGING PITCH - Complete as much as you can the following sentence to tell the story of this script:   “You’re not going to believe this (story), but I know a (character) who (problem)...”  

What is the THEMATIC SUBJECT of the story? Is it fresh? If familiar, is it treated in a fresh way?

State the LOG-LINE of the story (as you understand it) of the script

What is the DRAMATIC QUESTION of the main story?

What is the ANSWER provided at the end of the story?

State the PREMISE of the main story.

 

THE TRIBAL WORLD 

TRIBAL CONTEXTS - Note the dramatic actions that express or reveal the characters’ relevant tribal identities in each case.

CULTURAL  --  (i.e.: what separates “my kind” from “their  kind”? 

SOCIETAL - (i.e.: the significant groups, clans or sub-cultures to which the characters belong) 

INTELLECTUAL  --  (i.e.: the ways in which the characters go about obtaining or realising whatever it is that they value)

POLITICAL – (i.e.: the ways in which tribal governance impacts on the actions of the characters) 

LEGAL  – (i.e.: the ways in which the tribes’ enforcement of their values impacts upon the actions of the characters)  

ECONOMIC  – (i.e.: the ways in which the system of exchange and barter and trade impacts upon the values and actions of the characters)

SPIRITUAL  – (i.e.: the ways in which the characters’ spiritual notions or values impact upon or influence their actions)

FURTHER COMMENTS

              THE TREATMENT REPORT

What is a Treatment?

The word ‘Treatment’ is used interchangeably and doesn’t always mean the same thing. Some Treatments, like the one I sold to Warner Bros TV, are designed to help sell an idea and are sometimes accompanied by a script, while others are part of the production process. The main difference between the two is size. Treatments for production purposes are much longer and include a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown; whereas Treatments designed to sell ideas can be little more than a one page summary.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what a Treatment for a television series should contain and its length depends on the complexity of the story being proposed and the production company it is being sent to. However, anyone reading it should come away with a clear understanding of the basic storyline, setting and the main characters involved.

To do this, a Treatment will normally contain a:

Title:              A dynamic one. It seems obvious but a good title is often a sign of a solid central idea.
Logline:         A powerful one or two-sentence statement of the idea being proposed (circa 25 words).
Synopsis:       A three paragraph synopsis outlining the idea in more detail (circa 300 – 500 words).
Episodes:       A three or four page episode storyline summary (circa 500 – 1200 words).
Characters:   Short descriptive outlines for each of the main characters (circa100 words each).
Script(s):        One or two episode scripts. However, submitting a script is not always necessary. I didn’t.
What is a Treatment?

The word ‘Treatment’ is used interchangeably and doesn’t always mean the same thing. Some Treatments, like the one I sold to Warner Bros TV, are designed to help sell an idea and are sometimes accompanied by a script, while others are part of the production process. The main difference between the two is size. Treatments for production purposes are much longer and include a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown; whereas Treatments designed to sell ideas can be little more than a one page summary.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what a Treatment for a television series should contain and its length depends on the complexity of the story being proposed and the production company it is being sent to. However, anyone reading it should come away with a clear understanding of the basic storyline, setting and the main characters involved.

To do this, a Treatment will normally contain a:

Title:              A dynamic one. It seems obvious but a good title is often a sign of a solid central idea.
Logline:         A powerful one or two-sentence statement of the idea being proposed (circa 25 words).
Synopsis:       A three paragraph synopsis outlining the idea in more detail (circa 300 – 500 words).
Episodes:       A three or four page episode storyline summary (circa 500 – 1200 words).
Characters:   Short descriptive outlines for each of the main characters (circa100 words each).
Script(s):        One or two episode scripts. However, submitting a script is not always necessary. I didn’t.
 
 

The word ‘Treatment’ is used interchangeably and doesn’t always mean the same thing. Some Treatments, like the one that sold the Stringer series to ABC-TV, are designed to sell a program idea, while others may be are part of a develop process. There are no hard and fast rules as to what a Treatment for a film or a television series should contain and its length usually depends on the complexity of the story or series of stories being proposed, as well as the requirements of the production company. However, anyone reading it should come away with a clear understanding of the basic storyline, setting and the main characters involved.

THE QUESTIONS A SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT ANSWERS: 

1. Who/What is/are the main character(s)?  

2. What problem/opportunity does the main character confront?

3. What action (plan) – on the part of the main character – is prompted by the problem? 

4. What goal does the main character hope to achieve as a result of employing this plan?

5. Who or what opposes the main character/s?

6. What else, other than what directly opposes the main character, does he/she fear?

7. In what manner or aspect is the main character [or characters] compelling?        

8. Obstacles/complications:  What is/are the major obstacle/s or complication/s confronting the main character after he/she has decided upon his/her initial plan of action? 

9. In what ways does the problem evolve or change, and what impact does this change have on the main character’s objective and/or plans for achieving it?

10. Stakes: What is at stake in the main character’s quest for his/her objective or goal?   And how do these change with the evolving problem/s?

11. What is the main character’s final goal?

12. What new or significant realization or understanding does the main character have at the conclusion of the story?

13. List and identify any subsidiary stories/plots, and explain how they contribute to the dramatic meaning of the main story.

15. Unanswered questions: Does the treatment raise any questions that it doesn’t answer? Specify. 

1. Who/What is/are the main character(s)?  

2. What problem/opportunity does the main character confront at the beginning of the main story?

3. What action (plan) – on the part of the main character – is prompted by the initial problem? 

4. What goal does the main character hope to achieve as a result of employing this plan?

5. Who or what opposes the main character/s?

6. What else, other than what directly opposes the main character, does he/she fear?

7. In what manner or aspect is the main character [or characters] compelling?        

8. Obstacles/complications:  What is/are the major obstacle/s or complication/s confronting the main character after he/she has decided upon his/her initial plan of action? 

9. In what ways does the problem evolve or change, and what impact does this change have on the main character’s objective and/or plans for achieving it?

10. Stakes: What is at stake in the main character’s quest for his/her objective or goal?   And how do these change with the evolving problem/s?

11. What is the main character’s final goal?

12. What new or significant realization or understanding does the main character have at the conclusion of the story?

13. List and identify any subsidiary stories, and explain how they contribute to the dramatic meaning of the main story.

14. Scene sequencing: Does each scene contribute to advancing or retarding the main character’s progress towards a clear goal?    YES/NO     Please note any scenes that are not doing so.

15. Unanswered questions: Does the script raise any questions that it doesn’t answer? Specify. 

 

"Smart, insightful, highly useful, applicable, suitably short."- Penelope Herbert Amami"A valuable tool for any serious writer out there."     - Gregg Sargeant

" Every film school needs one."

- Mark Shivas, Executive producer, BBC 

INTERROGATING YOUR SCREENPLAY

Love it or hate it - it only matters if you can say WHY.

Wondering why your screenplay or film lacks power? Have a sense that it's running out of steam in Act Two?  Confused as to whose story you're actually telling?  Don't just stand there; do something!

THE DRAMA REPORT is a diagnostic tool for the liberated screenwriter/filmmaker - a set of targeted questions that will assist the writer in examining and identifying the dramatic strengths and weaknesses of the screen story, whilst providing a critical language by means of which every script and screenplay can be constructively criticised.

If "the drama" isn't firing on all cylinders, if there are credibility issues, or a fundamental lack of clarity concerning character motivation and action, chances are you've over-looked or ignored  the grammar essential for telling a coherent and powerful dramatic story.

Whether you're writing/making a fictional or factional (documentary) story, you'll discover that the application of the relevant drama report a practical and illuminating aid to solving most of the story problems you'll encounter.

Test your own screenplay; see how well it answers the questions. Vivid and accurate answers to these questions are an essential prerequisite for any writer who intends to work as a medium for character and story.

Producers, directors and others will also find these useful tools, providing as they do a critical and creative language for effective communication.

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 POWER POINT DRAMA REPORT (SHORTS)