A Method For Introducing Conflict In A Screenplay by Occidental College Professor Aleem Hossain

Film Courage: When should a screenwriter introduce conflict in a screenplay?

Aleem Hossain, filmmaker and AR/VR creator, assistant professor in media arts and culture at Occidental College:  I think conflict needs to emerge organically at first. Oftentimes when I’m brainstorming writing a script I try to avoid actually thinking about the classic sort of markers of structure that we think of when it’s three-act or five-act or The Story Circle [Dan Harmon] or Save The Cat [Blake Snyder] or any of those things. For me I just want to know as I’m getting to know the characters and as I’m shaping the characters I do think I am consciously shaping the characters not just letting them emerge that are from some ethereal muse.

How are the characters different from each other? How do they see the world different from each other? And how does that create conflict? And then how to the characters in their world, the society themselves, how do they clash? I think there is no timetable for that. I think there are some movies where there is conflict in the very first shot that are masterpieces and there are some where they are going to use a classic definition of conflict we are 20 minutes in before we realize what the conflict is. I definitely don’t believe in any sort of timing formula. What I do think is you can feel artificially forced conflict. “Oh I just need to have these two oppose each other in this scene,” or that sort of thing.

For me I’m just way more interested in asking what is the journey that the character is on and when do they react and when do they come up against an oppositional force and when do they have trouble and that usually emerges from them not particular preset timing.

Film Courage: How do you continue conflict?…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

 

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AFTER WE LEAVE by Aleem Hossain

ABOUT ALEEM HOSSAIN:

I’m a film writer/director, virtual reality creator, and professor.  

I grew up in a Connecticut town so small that Pizza Hut would not deliver there until 1997… but my family was very diverse and international. My father is a Muslim from Bangladesh who immigrated to the US. My mother was born and raised in Connecticut in a Roman Catholic family with roots in Italy, Spain, England, Ireland, and France. I grew up watching baseball and Bollywood, eating curry under a Christmas tree, and waiting for the day when Oreos would no longer use lard as an ingredient… also not until 1997! This multi-cultural mashup has shaped me as an artist.

Most recently, I wrote and directed AFTER WE LEAVE, a gritty sci-fi drama feature film won Best Feature Film at SCI FI LONDON in May 2019 and will soon be released theatrically in the United States.

I was selected for the initial Oculus Launchpad program, a VR incubator run by Facebook/Oculus, where I began developing my ongoing documentary VR series, I NEVER TOLD YOU.

I was an artist-in-residence at the 2017 VR Action Lab where I created NO EASY ANSWERS, a VR anti-bullying project, in collaboration with Google, Harmony Labs, and Screenwriters Colony. It has been translated into several languages and is used by Google Daydream in schools around the world.

I’m currently developing YOU ARE FOREVER, YOU ARE EVERYONE, an interactive narrative sci-fi VR experience with the support of the Tribeca Film Institute.

I am also the ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF DIGITAL STORYTELLING at OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE in Los Angeles where my teaching and research are focused on expanding how we tell stories and who gets to tell them.


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Now on Kickstarter! UNCONDITIONAL (or Berznosacjiuma In Latvian) is a short film that tells the story of an English man that moves to Latvia with his wife. Shortly after they have their first child, she passes away. He decides to stay in order to raise his child as close to how he and his wife intended. With this, come the struggles of single parenthood and living in a foreign country.