Motivation for Screenwriting

by Gabriel Hood

Writing is an integral part of various forms of media, such as books, poems, plays, and more. Today, the most profitable type of writing is screenwriting, which lays the foundation for major motion pictures, short films, and television shows. Imagination and social consciousness motivate the medium of screenwriting and produce the most influential work. 

My motivation for writing screenplays is to create unique stories and bring back real imagination in a time when audiences are saturated with superhero, sci-fi, and horror films. Last year over the summer, I wrote a screenplay that catered uniquely to my imagination entitled Stuffed Animal Nation. I intended it to be a high-concept buddy comedy with fantasy and thriller elements. It depicts a human being who becomes a fugitive after buying a stuffed animal that comes to life and goes on a dangerous mission to save the universe from a group of terrorist stuffed animals. The motivation I had for creating Stuffed Animal Nation was that while Hollywood is continuously working with superheroes, aliens and robots, almost nobody thought about the concept of stuffed animals coming to life and saving the world. 

A published work that is very imaginative is Stephen King’s 1986 novel It. It focuses on the terrifying experiences that seven children go through as they face off against Pennywise, a clown that disguises itself to exploit the children’s worst fears. King’s motivation for the novel was the exploration of loss of childhood innocence and the most extreme way to confront your worst fears.

The novel’s success led to a two-part film adaptation in 2017 and 2019. It fits my imagination in a way that instead of the stereotypical slasher movie, that are hints of supernatural elements. Also, the movie serves as a literal metaphor for overcoming personal demons, since the seven kids have been subjected various sorts of bullying, including implied sexual abuse in the case of the lone female member of the Losers Club. Also Pennywise can be interpreted as a demonic being. 

In addition to imagination, another important element for screenwriting is having social consciousness. Throughout the past few years, Hollywood has begun to recognize the importance of telling diverse stories. In 2017, comedian Jordan Peele surprised audiences with his satirical horror film Get Out. The movie centered on an African American photographer who goes to meet the family of his white girlfriend. However, during the weekend visit, he discovers very dark secrets about his girlfriend’s family and ultimately has to fight for his life. 

Jordan Peele’s initial motivation behind writing his screenplay for Get Out was to point out that racism in America is still alive. In fact, he started writing the film when Barack Obama had become President of the United States, and people naively believed that racism was going to disappear. Despite Obama being the first black to be elected President, he was only able to do so much to improve the quality of America since majority of the Republicans restricted his power. Given the events that have occurred including racial profiling and police brutality, Peele has since referred to this time as the “post-racial lie.” His screenwriting for Get Out was masterful as he captured the nuances of racism in both covert and overt ways, especially as allegories to slavery. In the movie, one of the big reveals is that the annual get-together is actually an auction for the bodies of black men, and that the main protagonist Chris Washington is going to be the next victim. Later, close to the climax, Chris picks cotton from a chair that he is tied to in order to block hypnosis, which conjures up images of slavery on Southern cotton plantations. However, by the end of the movie, Peele’s biggest surprise is that during Chris’s final confrontation with his girlfriend Rose after betraying him, a police car shows up, but it is his best friend Rod who gets out and rescues him, symbolizing black power. This was important because Jordan Peele made sure that not only did audiences have a black protagonist, but also that Chris survives as a hero. 

Another popular movie that had both imagination and social consciousness was the 2004 comedy Mean Girls, which is centered around a homeschooled girl, portrayed by Lindsay Lohan. She was educated in Africa and starts high school and becomes both enamored and corrupted by the hierarchies of high school popularity. Comedian Tina Fey wrote the film and based it upon the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. Both the book and movie take an unflinching look at how young girls go through high school, including how they form cliques as well as the aggressive behavior of high school girls and how to approach it. Wiseman points out in a behind-the-scenes featurette for Mean Girls that the characters’ behavior in the movie is very similar to how a lot of high school girls treat each other in real life. In addition, she also stated that it is important to teach them how to express themselves in healthy ways and that her youth program Owning Up Curriculum operates with the purpose of reducing teen violence. 

Tina Fey did an excellent job with capturing the nature of how high school girls behave and interact with each other. Moreover, the message that she aimed to send to audiences is that young women must support one another instead of ridiculing and fighting each other, and she did so successfully by portraying gossip and catty behavior among high school girls as destructive and toxic. Toward the end of the movie, main character Cady Heron is elected spring fling queen, and makes a passionate speech about how young women should support one another and then gives everyone a piece of her crown. Although released 15 years ago, Mean Girls is still relevant because it uses comedy to spread an anti-bullying message. Most importantly, it can be considered a promotion of feminism with the Me Too Movement as women begin to seek solidarity with one another by standing up against abuses of power, and most of all, learning to stick together. 

Screenwriting takes a lot of imagination for audiences to become invested in a particular story. In addition, audiences are also interested in social consciousness because it has become more important now than ever. In other words, screenwriting is not as easy as it appears, but it is rewarding.

Gabriel Hood is a Cinematic Arts Major at HBU. In his spare time he likes writing screenplays and obsessing over the news.

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