Visual Storytelling 3

Lesson Three | Visual Storytelling Course


Lesson 3: Theme

Why is it important to show theme through images?

  1. Theme is the heart of your screenplay – you must show your central idea in the opening images.
  2. It is never stated explicitly – show it through a series of crafted images. 

Showing Theme

The opening scene from the cult classic ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) is not only visually stunning, but it shows us the theme in a subliminal way.

Dimly, we see a city, immured by shadows, rocked by sporadic fire and explosions, while the occasional ‘spinner’ (flying car) streaks across the screen. A bleak vision of an urban landscape that lies in the not too distant future.

We then see a human eye filling the screen, watchful, sentient, reflecting fire and light. In short, we are literally looking at mankind’s future and it is not a pretty picture. The theme is transmitted to us without a single line of dialogue.

When we are shown theme, we feel it as an audience. A good writer manipulates the audience so that they absorb the main theme of the film through the eye.

Exercise 10:

Imagine a city where no people can be seen. Factories, bars, schools are closed. Empty streets. Drones patrol the skies.

How would you show this theme in a screenplay? Free write for 20-30 minutes. Show the cause for the isolation or abandonment.

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