DFM script writing masterclass stresses the importance of the protagonist


SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The Durban FilmMart (DFM) 2015,runs until 20 July in conjunction with Durban International Film Festival. Masterclasses are held daily during the FilmMart to assist writers, directors and producers in the numerous facets of filmmaking.

On 19 July, script expert, lecturer and writer Sari Turgeman presented a masterclass titled “Story Development: My Characters and I’, and endeavoured to teach attendees the art of fine-tuning the film script. Turgeman recently completed her book Journey to the Script in 84 Days – a theoretical and practical writing manual that focusses on guiding the writer in choosing the right components when putting together a film script. Her masterclass at the Durban FilmMart touched on the most important elements of her book.

Turgeman believes that the key to a successful and honest script stems from knowing and establishing the connection between real life, the script and oneself (the writer). According to Turgeman, the first step to a good script is to know yourself as you are the origin of the idea: “When you are connected to yourself, you can help others connect to you,’ she said. Knowing yourself stems from awareness and awareness is the most important tool in scriptwriting, “You have to know exactly what script you want to write,’ said Turgeman.

Once you know what script you want to write, the next step is to ask questions. “The only way you will find answers are by asking questions, when you find answers you can make choices,’ said Turgeman, and when you make choices you can begin writing.

Turgeman emphasised three “centres’ that one must possess in order to write a quality script:

1. The heart of the story
The heart of the story is merely what you want to say through the story about a specific subject. Turgeman stressed that all elements going forward should be connected to the heart of the story.
2. The protagonist
The protagonist is the most important character in the story as the audience connects to the film through the protagonist. “Connecting with the protagonist allows the audience to experience a new world,’ Turgeman said.
The protagonist is the one who leads the story, “The most important choice you will make is who leads your story,’ she explained. When choosing your protagonist, ask yourself: Who is he/she? Why him/her? Why did I choose him/her?
3. The world of events
The plot makes up the world of events in a story. Turgeman said that by developing specific happenings in the narrative, a clearer picture of the story is formed.

“When you have all three centres and you know why you chose them, you can start to have fun with your script,’ explained Turgeman.

Turgeman continued by touching on five principles that one should adhere to when choosing a protagonist:

The unity of contradictions
Character duality is what makes up a great script. It is vital that the protagonist have both good and bad, as well as outward and inward characteristics.

Uniqueness of protagonist
Our three centres of perception are what make us unique. These three centres are how we think, how we feel and how we act. In the same way, the protagonist needs to possess those three centres of perception that make him/her unique.

The four elements
Every human being possesses character traits relating to the natural elements of earth, wind, fire and water; however one element is always dominant within us. Turgeman stressed the importance of deciding which element is dominant in the protagonist of the story. “Use these elements to define their natural behaviour,’ she said.

The importance of sharing
Sharing your ideas with others is an effective way to further understand your story and your protagonist. “The importance of sharing is to hear yourself and to hear the other,’ said Turgeman.

Develop relationships between your protagonist and other characters
To build relationships between the protagonist and other characters, one must ask these questions about each character: Who is he/her? Why him/her? Why does the protagonist choose him/her for his/her journey? Use these characters to create conflict and harmony in the story.

Turgeman concluded her masterclass by urging attendees, above all else, to write the film they wish to see.

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Chanelle Ellaya is the editor of Screen Africa. She completed her BA Journalism degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2011. While writing is her passion, she has a keen interest in the media in various capacities. Chanelle is an avid social media networker and a firm believer in the power of social and online networking. Between writing and tweeting, she finds time to feed her love for live music.


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