When Writing A Screenplay, Start With A Concept Or Character? by Jeffrey Reddick

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: How important is screenplay structure to your overall writing? Is there a specific structure you try to follow?

Jeffrey Reddick: I kind of learned writing through a ton of scripts at New Line [Cinema], when I was there I would read scripts all the time. I find that most of my stuff kind of falls into the traditional three-act structure, [Author Blake Snyder’s book] Save-The-Cat thing where there’s an inciting incident.

In don’t get into…there’s just some stuff…I shouldn’t roll my eyes at it because people do. But you know there are some books where they’ve broken it down to the micro-science and for me it’s just like too much. In the way, you don’t want to beat the creativity out of somebody by giving them too much of a structure. That’s why I think the three-act structure is enough.

Yes, at the end of your second act, something’s got to like propel you into the third act and things have got to get more intense and more intense to your finale.

I have a lot of friends who went to film school and their one thing is like “I wish I’d spent that money to make a film. I would have learned a lot more.”

It’s not anything against going to film school but if you’re trying to teach somebody who is artistic how to…you can teach them how to turn that into a format that is going to be more palpable to the masses.

But if you start to get too much into you know, on page 20 this needs to happen, on page 30 this has to happen, then you are stifling people’s creativity in a way.

There is a reason that there’s a structure like that. I’ve had friends give me a script and the first draft is like 140 pages.

I’m like “I’m not reading this.” This isn’t a script, it’s a miniseries. If they can tell the Titanic in 120 pages, I think you can tell your story about a woman who is trying to find true love in her small town in less than 140 pages.

There is a wisdom to the basic structure. When I sit down to write something, usually I start with a concept. I’m very concept driven because I think working at a studio for so long, I know the concept is going to get people’s attention or not get it, so I start with using a concept and then I think of some scares as well and then start building a story around a concept is how I approach it.

I know a lot of people start from characters and some people start from a story. Everybody’s got their own personal kind of creative style and how they work.

For me I always start with the concept of the story.

I try to think of a concept that is kind of high-concept where you can tell somebody in a minute and they’re like “Oh, that sounds cool.” That’s where I start off when I’m writing.

Question For The Viewers: Do you start developing your ideas with a concept or character first?

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

 

Bio (via IMDB):

Jeffrey Reddick is best known for creating the Final Destination (2000) film franchise. He also co-wrote the story for, and executive produced, Final Destination 2 (2003). Jeffrey lives in Los Angeles. He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and attended Berea College. Jeffrey made his first connection to the film industry at age 14, when he wrote a prequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and mailed it Bob Shaye, the President of New Line Cinema. Bob returned the material for being unsolicited. But the young man wrote Bob an aggressive reply, which won him over. Bob read the treatment and got back to Jeffrey. Bob, and his assistant, Joy Mann, stayed in contact with Jeffrey for over five years. When he went to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York at age 19, Bob offered him an internship at New Line Cinema. This internship turned into an 11-year stint at the studio.

Aside from Final Destination (2000), which spawned four successful sequels, Jeffrey’s other credits include Lions Gate’s thriller, Tamara (2005) and the remake of George Romero’s classic, Day of the Dead (2008).

Jeffrey has several feature and TV projects in development and he directed his first short, Good Samaritan (2014) in 2014.

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