Visuals in a Screenplay


My creativity has been like some sizzling foam on rocks recently after what can be described as little less than a tsunami of creative endeavour. I was working as a teacher trainer in Uganda[1] and during the same period I drafted my entire screenplay in a mere five weeks. My aim being to get a rough cut together that I could then mould and polish later. My  sanity then required a few weeks away from the screenplay – getting back to life as normal – and for my sins have now decided the time has arrived to return to it. I’ve received a great deal of feedback on the piece and am now in the process of sifting through this feedback and theoretical and academic frameworks in order to see how I can sculpt the raw clay I’ve produced.



There are a number of traps that my screenplay falls into and a number of errs I am guilty of. However what was most eloquently phrased by Hitchcock as one of the ‘cardinal sins’ of screenwriting is certainly one which I need to confess to. I have made dialogue more than ‘just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms’.


I’ve focused on my characters telling the audience how they feel, like I were constructing some type of group-therapy session for my characters instead of showing the audience through the wide-range of visual prompts, props and gestures that were at my disposal.


It seems obvious – so much so that it’s difficult to comprehend how I missed it – but I entered the project initially almost as a blinkered-horse staring ahead at the dialogue pathway to lead me to a story. However, when I remove the blinkers I see the full range of visuals that are at my disposal in the writing of a screenplay and am eager to exploit them to full effect. In some ways I feel that the dialogue is the skeleton or the sketch and since I have now laid that I can focus on adding the meat or the colour to my screenplay. A task which I can’t help but relish and fear in equal measure…

[1] As I’ve written about extensively previously in this blog.


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