Skip to main content

Story Design: Setting

Lesson 7 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

7. Story Design: Setting

In this lesson, we’ll dive into story design and into the ten fundamentals of all stories. You’ll learn how to identify those fundamentals in your story and in others, as well as how to think about and develop the specific fundamentals of the screenplay you are developing.
Next Lesson: Story Design: Hero

Lesson Info

Story Design: Setting

first story, Fundamental is the setting. Where does your movie take place? Yes, Super basic, but really significant. Where does the story take place? I'm going to give you for each of these five questions that you can answer or ask an answer to help you flesh out and develop each of these fundamentals. There are about 20 questions for each of them that you could answer. But let's start really, by laying out the basics here, right? So where does your story take place? Why does it have to take place here? The form of the content should be married, right? The setting of a story should be the Onley place in the world that this could possibly take place, right? There's sort of this interesting tension I think in in storytelling in Hollywood about should we make things very specific or make them very universal. And if you talk to a lot of executives, they will tell you well, let's make it universal so that it appeals to everybody. And then, if you talk to, say, theater directors who have a l...

ot of experience with, they will say the more specific the Mawr universal. I tend to believe that the more specific something is, the more people can actually relate to it because they understand that specificity in their own life. So for Team Marco, we set it in my hometown where Bochy the sport is very popular because of the high concentration of Italian Americans. Now, I wanted to tell a story from my hometown. Yes, as well. But I had to answer the question. Why is this story set in this particular place? What does this setting off for the story that no other setting can offer it. So you wanna ask all about this place? Ask yourself all about this place so that again you deepen it. You develop it. You get more clarity around the setting of this story. Devil wears product. New York City, Yes. Fashion industry. Yes, more specifically, Runway magazine. And he works that runway magazine, right? And all of the drama and comedy that unfold happen in and around Runway magazine. So you can sort of take a larger setting and narrow it and narrow it if you want, but get really clear about why you're set specifically there. Put it through all your senses. I say this with a lot of my work and a lot of the writers that I work with put it through all of your senses. What does that mean? It means this particular setting. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it feel like? So if you look a team Marco, for example, what does it look like? It looks like the beautiful borrow of parks that Staten Island is in New York City that few people know about. What does it sound like? It sounds like men in their eighties and women in their forties and kids. It's a family borough. This particular place has the sounds of an urban area. It sounds like Busses and subways, but it's also suburban, so it has a particular sound. It has a particular smell, has a particular taste In our movie, we use the Italian cookie, the rainbow cookie that tastes a certain way. What does it feel like to be on Staten Island as this young boy as this grandfather? Those air, all part of that setting and those are all communicated in the script. So for you think about? How does your setting look? Sound, smell, taste and feel not only for your audience but for your main characters and for for your other characters in the movie or the TV show for is your main character who were gonna learn, um, as hero, which we'll get to next. Is your main hero in sync with the setting or in conflict with it so super important, right? Are they in sync with the setting? Do they fit in there? Are they comfortable? Or they constantly in conflict with the setting with the people with the weather, with the architecture, with what's on the street, what they're hearing and smelling and tasting and feeling important things for you to know both about your setting and about your main character. And fifth, what are the rules of this place? Meaning, How do things work here? How does society work here? How does power work here? How does money work here? How do relationships work here? How does love work here? How does church work here? Answer those questions so you can dig deeper into what are the rules of this place. And what are the rules that your main character your hero has to follow to survive and thrive in this particular setting. Let's take a look at the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games, as you know, is an action movie. It's Y A for a young adults on bits, you know, it captured the imagination of the entire world. Put the Hunger Games through these questions. Where does the story take place? Story takes place in PanAm, this version of America that super dystopian in an unnamed future or there's no year to it. And in PanAm there are District's, some of them more successful than others. There's the capital, and this is how this whole world works. It's all organized around this new nation. That's where it takes place. Why does this story have to take place there? Well, this is interesting, because this is what you'll often hear in the industry as world building, right? The writers created this world. They built this world because this world was a great place to tell their central point, which is you can always rise up against the powerful if you're smart and creative, or you can always rise up against the powerful. If you band together in revolt again. Your premises can always be described a couple of different ways. But at least the writer needs to have a clear sentence about that. Right? So this world of PanAm is the perfect place for that kind of revolt. So we've gotta build a world that's ripe for revolt. In order for Katniss to be the revolutionary that we want her to be in the story. The setting is key to this movie. Put it through all the senses. Okay. What does this look like? Well, District 12 looks really gray and drab. E the capital looks really glitzy and glamorous. What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does this feel like? You have the feeling, the same feeling. You have a handmaid's tale of oppression. You have the same feeling there. That that this government control that this system is crushing the souls of the humans that air in it really, really important to know about that setting hunger Games four is your main character in sync with the setting or in conflict with it. Katniss is in conflict with this setting, right? This world does not align with her values and the things that she holds dear. She has to go do this stupid thing called the Hunger Games to save her sister in order to just live and survive really, really, really important to understand how the main character, the hero feel about the setting and fifth, one of the rules of this place. So there are a lot of rules in worlds that are unlike ours, right? And if you're writing about a world that's unlike ours, meaning America 2020 or the World 2020 you've got to spend some real estate or some space in your script explaining the rules of the world. Is this world magic? I have to know that in the script is this world run by demons. I have to know that in the script Is this a world like small wonder back in the eighties, where she put her hands together and time would freeze? I need to know what the rules of this world are. So for hunger games, I need to know that once a year they have this competition. It's called the Hunger Games, and there's one person from each district that's called as tribute that has to survive the Hunger Games so that they have a champion who could be celebrated in the capital. I need all of that laid out so that I understand the rules of that game. So setting a super important, I want you to think about it. Mawr and with respect to your story, spend some time with the story worksheet. Spend some time just with a blank piece of paper and do an hour or a page. However you know much work you wanna put into it to describe the setting of your story. What is it? Why is that unique? What's important about it? What are the rules of this world? Is the character of the main character in conflict with it or not? Put it through all the senses and, you know, do some really good solid writing on setting so that you could be really clear about this fundamental

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Case Study Films
Story Analysis Template.xlsx
Sample TV Scripts
Story Design Worksheet
Story Fundamentals Worksheet
Seed to Script Process

Ratings and Reviews

Carlos Sandoval

Just a great way to start on your path to screenwriting. A clear and concise class with a friendly tone and humor. I think it is important that a teacher has actually worked in the field. Kudos.


Perfect for a beginner or actors who need a better understanding of what is and why is. Info packed and FUN too!

Asem Nurkina

I took this class last year. And after one year of working with presented tools (story design worksheet, story fundamentals workseet, seed to script process) on different projects I can say that it is very powerful and useful course I ever taken. I can strongly recommend this detailed screenwriting guidance by Julio Vincent Gambuto.

Student Work