By Helen Stevenson
The perfectly timed joke on your favorite comedy show, the chase scene that had you on the edge of your seat, the scene in that one movie that made you cry for hours – almost every one of those moments started with a screenplay. And every one of those screenplays started with a writer.
But no one really cares. I have never heard any one say, “Oh, I heard that movie was good – who is the screenwriter again?” “Who’s in it?” Sure. “Who directs it?” Maybe. But who wrote the screenplay is completely irrelevant to the average person.
And I get it – I really do. Hollywood is all about the glamour. It’s about red carpets, expensive dresses and beautiful people. Not many viewers want to spend time wondering about a writer hunched over their computer, creating the magical worlds on TV and in movies. They want the story told from the perspective of the actors they know and love. They want to see these worlds as an experience of the characters, not the fantasies of a writer.
But screenplays are so interesting. For me, at least, reading the screenplay of a movie makes me feel closer to the plot. It’s like reading the book after you see the movie, only better – you catch on to things you never noticed before. You can understand what actions were purposely placed in the movie and what actions were improvised on set. You can see how the movie or television show grew from pieces of paper to an elaborate production.
But the most important thing, to me, is the way you can read the intended feeling of a scene that actors may have missed the mark on. Writing is a beautiful thing. All you need is an idea and something to write with and you can create an entirely new world. You can see the raw emotion of a piece as it is in its simplest form – without elaborate CGI or grand explosions – broken down into setting, action, expression and dialogue. You can see the perspective of the writer and his or her interpretation of their work.
This year, 2018, was a big year for screenwriters. The front-runner nominees for Best Original Screenplay at the 2018 Oscars were Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele for Lady Bird and Get Out, respectively. Jordan Peele rightfully took home the Oscar that night for his work, a piece that managed to be comedic, terrifying and impactful all at the same time.
Both of the nominees had amazing screenplays, obviously. In the screenplay for Lady Bird, you can read the relatable anguish of a teenage girl during her senior year of high school and notice the subtle nuances of the 2000s-era America in the script that made their way to the big screen. In the screenplay for Get Out, Jordan Peele captured the fear of his protagonist and outlined intentional themes throughout the piece that add to the message of his movie. In the script, he includes details that might be overlooked in the movie otherwise.
Like her protagonist Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig graduated from Sacramento High School in 2002. As a black man in America, Jordan Peele has gone through similar situations that his protagonist Chris Washington experiences. This is no coincidence. These stories are great because they are honest, and they are relatable because they are true. Seeing the written work of these writers allows you a direct line to the thoughts and intentions of Gerwig and Peele during production. It is the blueprint of their creation. I can honestly say that reading the two screenplays gave me a greater appreciation for two films that I already loved.
Just look up the screenwriter to your favorite movie and appreciate them. Or at least try to at least remember their name. They created a world you have come to love.