A PR lesson learned from screenwriting

I am the Jonathan Ross to my own Jane Goldman.

You see my already talented and gorgeous wife is writing a screenplay at the moment.  The only problem is that she asks me to read her work and offer up suggestions.  This I am awful at because I have always pictured drama as it would play out on a stage, not on a screen.  I see stage sets, not locations; hear pins dropping in auditoriums, not soundtracks; think about actors positions on stage not camera moves; see light fades not cuts.

So how to be of some use to Mrs M and stop myself redundantly and annoyingly saying “imagine how that would look in stage”?

My solution came when I started treating the script as I would a PR pitch.

I read the whole script then put it away.  I then wrote down on post-it notes everything the screenplay needed to achieve in my mind – ranging from introducing the heroine and anti-hero to producing a climax with a twist at the end.  Once those post-its were rearranged in a sensible order to give a satisfying narrative arc, I added to points below each objective that should also be conveyed through the scene – the subtext essentially.

In less than 45 mins I could say to Mrs M  this is what I think you want to achieve with the current script, so you will need to delete all these scenes that don’t move either the objectives or the subtextual aims forward and write new scenes that achieve x,y and z.  For the first time in a few months of “script meetings” together, instead of a  weary disappointed frown from Mrs M I was rewarded with squeals of delight and kisses.

What have I learned from that: the skills needed to write PR pitches are totally transferable, it is all about being clear in your own mind about what you want to achieve through any scene, pitch or indeed business conversation.

But I’m really glad that my contribution to script work can end after clarifying the narrative arc, because the screenwriting talent lies with only one person in the family and that’s my wife.

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