Lesson 4: Marking Your Theme In Your Screenplay
My short script ‘Lostalgia’ is about a young man trying to repair his grandfather’s watch. The watch stopped ticking at the moment of the old man’s death. The uninterrupted action takes place in a dusty clock repair shop.
To set up this theme in a visual way, I had the sound effects of the maddening ‘tick-tick-ticking’ of a hundred watches over a black screen – even before the title of the film would appear.
The first image we see is of a free-standing grandfather clock with its heavy pendulum swinging.
We then move past a row of decorative wall clocks, neat rows of wrist watches under glass, as we move deeper into the narrow repair shop.
Then, a few minutes later, we see an antique carriage clock, opened to expose it balance spring and complicated mechanisms. Time, in short, is everywhere in this short piece – as a theme it is claustrophobic and unavoidable.
As a screenwriter, you must try to establish the theme of your story in visual shorthand. If can do it in the first few pages of the script without dialogue, even better.
Write the first page of a script that thematically shows one of the following sayings:
- It takes two to tango.
- Revenge is a dish best served cold.
- A rolling stone gathers no moss.
- It’s better to be an old man’s sweetheart than a young man’s fool.
- Idle hands are the devil’s playground.
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