Script writing (getting back on the bicycle)


This year I promised myself and it was in my goals that I would grow as an all round communicator. As part of this I said that I would start doing script writing again. I haven’t written a script in over 5 years, and that’s when I was writing radio and TV scripts. I haven’t written a movie script in 10 years. They say learning to do something again is like learning to ride a bicycle again. That may be so but I was and am abit scared about getting on that bicycle again. I keep looking at it and thinking maybe I am too old to start doing this again. What if I fall? Do I really need to ride that bicycle again, after all I have survived without doing it?

That’s fear talking. That I won’t be able to do it. That I will suck at it. The thing is this year I have written stuff that has amazed me. I have grown in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine. That why I am talking the bulls by the horns and doing this. I have already gotten a book on script writing. That’s progress. I have moved from the denial stage.

So a couple of weeks ago Dwayne Johnson-Cochran a great film maker and script writer was doing a scriptwriters forum at Pawa254. I purposed to go although I knew that I would be extremely late as I had class that Saturday afternoon. Luckily for me the lecturer didn’t come so all I had to do was walk from Daystar valley road to the Pawa254 offices. Passing my old neighborhood of 17 years and indulging in a bit of nostalgia. I wrote a poem about my old house that day.

Anyway I got there late. A short film had already been shown. Dwayne was doing questions and answers. Among the bits of wisdom I picked up are

• When writing a script, think about your target audience. Think of yourself as a viewer and ask yourself would you enjoy the movie you are writing.
• If you want to write good scripts, don’t watch bad movies. Dwayne said no watching Nigerian movies oga oh. I was so disappointed (just kidding).
• You should make a scene in a movie so vivid, that when the audience watch a movie of a place they want to go there.
• You should make a story locally authentic but let the film be universal.
• If you want to write great dialogue read a lot of plays. And go watch them as well. See how the words are transformed by the actors.
• Dialogue is action. Dialogue makes you. It is VSE – Video Special Effects.
• Two books to read. How to make a good script great and the Inside story – the transformational arcs.
• You must scare yourself as a writer. Get out of your comfort zone. Pull the rug out from under yourself. An example is killing a character that you like.
• Watch a lot of movies. Go to film festivals.
• Work with people you trust who understand the story you have written.
• Very important. When you write a great script and go pitching, have another great one so that if they buy your script you have something else to offer. You don’t want to be that one script guy.
• Read the best books that have deeper stories. The classics are great at that, Dickens, Twain, Wole Sonyinka.
• Reading gets writing. The more you read the better you are able to write.

I asked a question about how to start writing again because I want to write scripts about women and movies he could recommend to show me the way home. He suggested Read My Lips, Monsoon Wedding, and Blue, White, Red.

Now wish me luck. I need to get on that bicycle.

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Potentash Founder. A creative writer and editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]