Some believe it is impossible to capture reality on film. Even in documentaries, some argue that it is still constructed, planned and overly detailed. But there is one way I believe writers can bring reality into their screenplays: use your own experience. Of course, this does not mean that every film you write will be realist, but this does mean that there will be something honest, genuine and raw about your characters and situations. For me, almost every screenplay I have written, the central character is a girl aged between 17 and 21, very similar to my own age.
This is because I find it easier to relate to them, and am therefore able to accurately portray truthful emotions that girls that age would experience. I think that it is very important to use this as a tool when you’re starting out as a screenwriter. Jumping into extreme characters and situations is always dangerous grounds if you have nothing to tie them down with, which can make your screenplay seem sloppy and completely false. One of my screenplays ‘Bare Face’ is set in some sort of post-apocalyptic, anti-idealist world, and is therefore physically and visually very different from our world.
However, the emotional and political values of the characters are able to ground the screenplay in some sort of reality as I took them from real life experiences I have gone through and/or heard from other people. Using your own life experiences is also a great tool if you’re ever in a rut in your writing.
Just think ‘what would I do’ and nine times out of ten you will have something you can work from. And for me, that’s the beauty of screenwriting. It takes elements of you as a person and splatters it all over a whole new world with new people. It is almost therapeutic in a way! So there you have it, golden rule number 2, use your own experiences to bring reality into your writing.
It will add a whole new, honest depth to your screenplay, as well as well as being a fantastic fall back plan if you get the dreaded writers block!