CLASSROOM: What A Script Theme Is and How To You Get It into Your Story

17 June 2019


CLASSROOM: What A Script Theme Is and How To You Get It into Your Story

Filmmaker Jason Hellerman writes:

The theme of your screenplay refers to the issue at the core of the story itself. This isn’t mentioned in the script, but it’s the emotional or spiritual driving force behind your movie’s message. If you don’t have a theme, then your mom will feel like it lacks purpose.

Think of the theme like the thesis statement of a paper.

John August describes the theme as “what is true and what is real.”

So what’s true at the center of your story?

Maybe you’re writing about realizing your parents are flawed humans, or that love conquers all, or that trust and respect are earned.

But maybe you don’t know your theme yet. Stephen King thinks it comes after you write the story and emerges in other drafts. Stephen King had this to say in “On Writing:”

“Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme, it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story. The only possible exception to this rule that I can think of are allegories like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. Once you have a basic story on paper, you need to think about what it means and enrich your following drafts with your conclusions. To do less is to rob your work (and eventually your readers) of the vision that makes each tale you write uniquely your own.”

Whatever the case may be, once you decide on your theme, you should be writing to that theme.

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Photo credit: No Film School