Don’t let great ideas get in the way of the learning
Everything starts with the script. The narrative or story, and the concept or theme, can be obvious. Sometimes they’re open to interpretation and occasionally you get a blank canvas. Most importantly, you have to be careful that the narrative and the concept support the learning and don’t interfere with it.
One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced screenplay writers make is to try and shoehorn scenes in to support their great narrative idea. When that happens, the learning moves aside. The writer pursues their ideal path to satisfy their inner Shakespeare, rather than always putting the learning first.
The same can be said for the concept. It can be great to have an instantly recognisable pop culture figure to help the learner relate. But if that reference starts to take over, the poor old learning takes a back seat yet again. The moral of the story is to let the learning take centre stage and do its thing, then use all the tools at your disposal, like concept and narrative, to help it shine.
Once you’ve got the learning front and centre, there are a few tricks and techniques you can use to really show it off. One of the easiest to implement is repeating for recall.
A good script should include several references to the most important points in your learning. So, repeating – or partially repeating – the visual at those points helps learners remember the previous instances in the course. Doing this can help make the learning easier to understand and can help reinforce it, too.
On-screen text (OST) can be useful in a similar way. Just be careful not to use too much of it.
Finally, the camera can help punctuate the action and work with the voice-over to draw the learner’s attention to important points. For instance, using fast zooms and camera tilts on the main character to create drama when something important is said.
The devil is in the detail
Once you know where you’re going with the narrative, it’s a great idea to research your concept. Little things like famous lines from a film, or props that can immediately identify a well-known character, can be invaluable. That kind of detail will add an additional layer of quality that will separate it from the crowd.
Ever heard of a MacGuffin? It’s usually a prop or event that, in itself, is unimportant. But in the context of the screenplay, it motivates the characters and is essential to the plot. Like the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings, or the philosopher’s stone in the Harry Potter film.
This isn’t just a device that helps develop the plot and characters. It can get you out of a writing hole as well. There’ll always come a moment when you get stuck. The plot peters out. The main character is at a dead end. Maybe you have a gap in a sequence of shots that you just can’t fill. More often the MacGuffin can offer a solution and keep the ball rolling. Like the light bikes in our Staying Safe Online course. They help to carry the story and bridge the tenuous link between the film Tron and the dangers lurking in our online world. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the trailer below.