How Writers Can Better Collaborate With Film makers

According to Mark Travis and Gil Bettman, it’s best for writers to think of themselves as collaborative film makers with a writing major. They need to wear many hats so they empower themselves to produce their own scripts, rather than waiting for a studio to discover them.

Acting, directing, writing and camera all work in synergy. All are equally vital components to the film making process. Since it’s a collaborative medium, it’s crucial that writers appreciate these other aspects.

Attach yourself to directors who can help realize your vision. Learn to discuss your work with up and coming talent. Establish relationships with as many people in the film industry that you can. It’s a small world and you don’t know how many degrees of separation are required along the way to get your film made.

The key problems with writer-director collaborations are differences in vision. Don’t assume the movie in your vision is the same as the director’s. As with all conflicts, communicate your differences. Discussions help story alignment.

What is the subtext of the story? Its the heart and soul. Think of script notes as subtext. What are notes really trying to say? Oftentimes, creatives can’t articulate what’s wrong with a story. Moreover, the solution is often a combination of multiple suggestions from various people rather than just the writer. The joy of collaboration lies in the thrashing out of a solution which best serves the story.

Directors often can’t fix story problems because they don’t have writers’ toolbox. Usually they cut things out to fit into a production schedule with scant regard for the story consequences. Since it is our area of expertise, the writers’ suggestions should carry more weight. A script is an organic being. It is arrogant to assume that once a script is locked down, its perfect.

The best advice I ever took was taking acting classes to improve my writing. It’s helpful to learn the actor’s process in interpreting a script. What is the purpose of each scene? How should they play it out?

Many writers under estimate the value of of the actor-writer relationship in story development and character interaction. Try engaging actors early on and benefit from them create story rather than simply casting them later on.

Learn the director’s process in breaking down a script. Understand how to stimulate emotional beats in your story to engage the director, character and actor.

Don’t isolate yourself as a writer. Stop directing actors. Direct the character. Focus your attention on the center of the drama through the eyes of the actors.

When writers collaborate with directors, DPs, production managers and key on set staff, establish geography, mood, tone and environment. This is especially important in master shots. Consider each character’s relationship to place, time, characters and their place in the story. Understand the difference between static and kinetic scenes. The former tend to develop character and the latter develop plot.




3 Comments Add yours

  1. markwtravis says:

    GIdeon. Great notes on the whole process. You know, as much as I enjoy teaching directing, writing and acting, the biggest thrill comes from feedback like this article. When I can see the impact my ideas and insights have had, that is the real payoff. Meanwhile, check out my Blog at for my (usually) daily thoughts on the whole process of Cinematic Storytelling.

  2. Monica Solon says:

    Hi JG

    Just to let you know that the London Screenwriters’ Festival 2011 kicks off on October 28th for a three day festival like no other – It will be a fantastic opportunity for getting in touch with fellow writers and industry professionals.

    Best wishes,

  3. Wayy cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and also the rest
    of the website is also very good.

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