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Writer’s Purpose

Lesson 5 from: Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

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Lesson Info

5. Writer’s Purpose

In this lesson, we’ll determine your purpose. What is it that you want to say with this work? You’ll learn how to clarify that message and embed it in your screenplay’s core message and premise.
Next Lesson: Story Design

Lesson Info

Writer’s Purpose

Yeah, we talked about the power of story, we've talked about some key concepts that I want you to understand for what is the document you're actually writing and how does it fit into the context of actually making a movie or making a Tv show. And we talked about story analysis which I think is really a solid tool for understanding how things get from idea to page to screen, beat by beat moment to moment. Now I want to talk about writers purpose and I don't mean why you write, Although I want you to answer that question for yourself. I mean the central point of your story. What is the premise? You might hear this premise, you might hear at a central point, you might hear this corn message, you might hear it in a business context as key takeaway. What are you trying to say? What should the reader come away knowing what should the audience leave the theater knowing understanding feeling about the human condition. What is it that you want to communicate through this work earlier, I talked ...

about how when you're at a cocktail party or you know the dinner table, you tell stories to prove a point. I want you to think about your screenplay as proof of your point and I want you to be clear about what your point is so that your screenplay can be clear about how it's proving that. So what do I mean? Let's take a look at a couple of examples 1st Titanic. The classic my heart will go on. Okay, what is the core message of that movie now, you could talk about it in a number of different ways. But for me, the core message of that movie is love conquers class, Right? It's not just that love is incredible. You could talk about love in 14 other different ways without a sinking ship and a rich woman and um an artist. But these characters that story that ship, they all come together to tell the story of how love triumphs over class. Now, you could probably break that down in a couple of different ways. But let's use that as our example. Let's look at Wizard of Oz, Wizard of Oz, what's the core message of Wizard of Oz? What's the key takeaway? What do I leave the theater? Or leave the screen knowing feeling? Understanding about the human condition? It's a line in the movie, there's no place like home. Right? So, you can talk also about how friends make the journey, Better friends make life's journey better. They all dance around the same central point. But for your work, I want you to get clear about exactly what your central point is. Another example. Life is beautiful, fantastic movie, right? About a man and an italian man and his young boy who are in the concentration camps and he sort of creates this whole theatrical mirage so that his child doesn't know the pain and suffering that's going on around him. What do you leave the theater knowing feeling understanding about humanity, right? For me the central point or the core message or the key takeaway or the premise here is that um no matter how dire the circumstance you can survive, life is beautiful is actually the premise there, right, life is beautiful because in our deepest, darkest moments we find a way to survive. You could write those up in a sentence anyway, that you want for your work. I want you to get clear about one sentence. Let's dive a little bit deeper into titanic, So titanic. Like I said, the premise here, the core message, the key takeaway. Love conquers class. If you didn't get that premise down to three words, you've got a great, great jumping off point to understand how you're gonna build your story, get it down to a sentence, that's all I'm asking you to do, get a clear sentence about what your movie's about, what people should take away from it. Now, love conquers class means I, as the writer believe that love conquers class. Therefore I want to write a movie that proves that love conquers class and I'm gonna write this movie and set it on the titanic. Maybe James Cameron said this, maybe he didn't write to prove that love conquers class. So you want to think of your premise as the thing that you are proving and you can't write anything until you're clear about what it is that you want to say as the artist as the writer, wow, Love really does conquer class, which is exactly what people should leave the theater or leave the screen knowing and feeling, wow, they did a great job with that movie. I really understand that Love can conquer class, right? My big fat greek wedding kind of the same thing. Love triumphs over the differences in ethnicity, right? The movie is a love story and there are ethnic characters and those things are in conflict with each other. And we leave after seeing the journey of the main character. Knowing that love triumphs over ethnicity for titanic, that love can conquer class. Now, when you look at your premise and how it works throughout the rest of your film, remember you're trying to prove that point, right? So it's just like a mathematical proof for those of you who are nerdy back in high school like me, right? What is it you're trying to prove? And then let's show your work, the show your work is your screenplay. That's the proof of the thing that you're trying to communicate. So let's take a look at titanic in titanic. Jack believes that love is more important than class, right? Jack can't comprehend why Rose wouldn't leave her her fiance and be with him. He doesn't see class as an issue. That's not a problem for him. He doesn't care that he doesn't have a lot of money, He knows that he loves her and that presumably she loves him. So Jack is the character that represents one point of view on that premise, right? Love conquers class. Jack actually believes that premise, Love does conquer class. So in a way Jack is the vehicle for that message from the writer. Now you've got the opposing message, right? Hockley believes that class is more important than love. It doesn't matter that she loves him, he's not wealthy and therefore they shouldn't be together, she should remain my fiance and marry me. Class is important. So what do you see throughout the movie? You see these contrasts between when they're in the upper class deck and dining with tuxedos versus where the working folks are down in the bowels of the ship having this raucous party, You're constantly seeing the contrast between the two classes. Jack is of one world. Um and Jack is I'm sorry Jack is of one world and Roses of another. Hockley represents the idea that class is more important. Jack represents the idea that love is more important and Rose must make the decision and so she is this character who's you know, frustrated by this decision, the entire movie, should she live the life that she has been um asked to live by her family and her society and her status or should she give that up for the love of this artist, This man. All of that comes from premise, right? Because the writer has said, I want to write a movie proven that love conquers class. Now I have to develop characters that can play and interact and be in conflict with each other in that conversation, let's take a look at your story, let's pause for just a second and get clear about your core message. I want you to get it down to one sentence. Maybe your core message is parenting is more difficult than people think. Now you've got to write a story that presents what people think of parenting, what you think of parenting, exactly what parenting and the experience of parenting is for you. What does that look like? Is that a comedy? Is that a drama? But that's your central point as the writer, pause this video if you want and do some writing about exactly what you want to communicate in this story. Why are you telling it? What do you want people to leave knowing feeling understanding about humanity Because they saw your movie or your tv show now in Team Marco when we were writing the script for this movie we knew we were writing a movie about screen time and kids and their obsession with it but we had to come to this clean and clear sentence so that we understand our premise and where we landed was life is about more than just what's on your screen. Life is about more than what's on your screen. I'm reading that from the screen as I talk to you about it right? Life is about more than what's on your screen. So the movie is the proof of that point from us as the writers and then me as the director and so we had to create our characters to support and conflict with that point. So in our film, Marco believes that life is about everything on his screen. He loves his games, he loves his ipad, he loves exactly everything that happens on that tablet. And on his video games, interestingly, his father only communicates with him via text. So the man that you know, whose love and support and validation he wants is coming to him through that screen, which sort of explains at the beginning of the movie, why he is so obsessed with it, but he but he's looking to that screen, he believes his point of view on our premise is that life is about what's on your screen and then we have no no who's the opposing force that believes the opposite. He believes that life is about what's off of a screen, interpersonal relationships in the physical world, being outside, playing games with your friends, they have different viewpoints on friendship, they have different viewpoints on screen, time and technology, they have different viewpoints on what it means to be a family and their relationship evolves over the course of the movie, ultimately, because of no nos presence in Marco's life Marco learns and sort of finds a happy medium, right? So that by the end of the movie, he believes, okay, the screens are not going anywhere, but I've also got to engage in these traditions and games that have been around for centuries because they make life deeper and richer. So you don't always have to set it up as a triangle like Jack Rose Hockley, I believe, I believe I have to decide who to believe, right? That can feel different in every script and different in every movie. My point is I want you to find characters that represent that premise and then find characters that oppose that premise so that you can have them battle out in the movie and that the movie can ultimately communicate whatever it is that you want to communicate.

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