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Über dieses Buch

This book offers the first international look at how script development is theorised and practiced. Drawing on interviews, case studies, discourse analysis, creative practices and industry experiences, it brings together scholars and practitioners from around the world to offer critical insights into this core, but often hidden, aspect of screenwriting and screen production. Chapters speculate and reflect upon how creative, commercial and social practices – in which ideas, emotions, people and personalities combine, cohere and clash – are shaped by the practicalities, policies and rapid movements of the screen industry. Comprising two parts, the book first looks ‘into’ script development from a theoretical perspective, and second looks ‘out from’ the practice to form practitioner-led perspectives of script development. With a rising interest in screenwriting and production studies, and an increased appetite for practice-based research, the book offers a timely mapping of the terrain of script development, providing rich foundations for both study and practice.




Script development is one process of many in the production of a screen work. It is a creative, commercial and social practice in which ideas, emotions, people and personalities combine and work within the practicalities, policies and rapid movements of the screen industry. It is experienced in multiple ways depending on the scale and stage of the project and the production culture within which it is practised. As such, we might suggest it is a process that resists both definition (Batty et al. 2017, 2018) and delineation (Taylor 2015), because the elements of the practice—drafts, revisions, feedback and so on—may continue into other erstwhile discrete aspects of production. With the rise of new forms of digital technology, new kinds of script development are also being facilitated: online, for new and networked platforms, and for transmedia story worlds, all of which are challenging traditional notions of script development and are opening up new possibilities for practice.
Craig Batty, Stayci Taylor

Looking into Script Development: Theories on Practice


Originality and Authorship in the Development of the Screen Idea

This chapter examines whether, in screen idea development, we are right to focus on individual authorship as the source of originality in a situation that is observably a group activity. We usually default to the idea of a single author, working within (and sometimes against) the rules of the game. We admire a writer’s ‘voice’, vision and talent, and think of group work as feedback designed to perfect that, to polish it up in ways suitable for production. It seems as if we still lean towards the notion of an inexplicable Muse inspiring the Artist, who then crafts it on to the page. The Artist’s Genius is then measured by the size and novelty of their contribution to the Work. Simple, no? Unfortunately not. In this chapter, I discuss how we can recognise at least two views simultaneously—crediting the individual, alongside the centrality of creative group work—if we see the same thing as if through different lenses, offering different perspectives. I refer to the power of groups to create new work, something more than the sum of their individual parts, emerging through their collaboration as ‘sparks’. What shapes this is the ‘doxa’, or the received wisdom about screenwriting that defines the screen idea and becomes the common discourse during development. In this chapter I present an original survey outlining the Western orthodoxy (based on the doxa) in the form of a manifesto. I make two suggestions: firstly that we might reconsider ‘originality’ as being a practical engagement with, and ‘re-writing’ of the orthodoxy; and secondly that we might avoid the rigidity of linking authorship to certain roles, by considering on a case by case basis who might be thought of as ‘le Responsable’.
Ian W. Macdonald

How Government Institutions Shape Script Development: Comparative Case Studies of Screen Australia and the Danish Film Institute

This chapter presents a discourse analysis of publicly available documentation from two national screen funding bodies, focused on how they conceptualise script development. State funding agencies play significant roles in the screen industries, ecologies and practices of many nations, especially the development of feature films in smaller countries like Australia and Denmark. This analysis traces the language and frameworks embedded in public documents around feature film script development—which includes funding—as a means to better understand the cultural logics and industrial values they reflect and legitimise. By offering a comparative analysis of the discourse presented by Screen Australia and the Danish Film Institute (Det Danske Filminstitut; DFI), this analysis explores the differences and similarities in how script development processes are discursively imagined, justified and practiced.
Cath Moore, Radha O’Meara

Script Development and the Post-Socialist Producer: Towards a Comparative Approach to Cultures of Development

The study examines how Czech screen producers approach screenplay development as a collaborative practice. It provides new interpretations of qualitative data collected for an industry report on feature film development, commissioned by the Czech State Film Fund. Based on more than 60 in-depth interviews with key Czech producers, screenwriters, and directors, the report shows how the typical business model of Czech film producers limits possibilities for more systematic screenplay development and for longer-term production strategies. Development is described as a critical point of the Czech film production system, responsible for the weak performance of Czech films at international festivals and on foreign markets. Screenplays are underfinanced, underdeveloped and producers approach their projects one by one, without any strategic continuity. They leave their screenwriters in precarious working conditions, are not used to attending international workshops, and do not discuss their scripts with competent script editors. As will be discussed, the main reason is that their business model is based not on selling films to audiences, but on producing itself.
Petr Szczepanik

Cultural Difference in Script Development: The Australian Example

This chapter provides a case study of script development in Australia. It examines the nexus of the development practice of feature screenwriters and the script development culture of Screen Australia, the federal funding agency. The study is based on a survey of agency documents as well as interviews with key agency executives and 22 of Australia’s most successful feature screenwriters. The criterion for judging the writers’ “success” is based on box office returns; the writers interviewed wrote the 20 films which attracted the largest audiences for Australian films between 1994 and 2013. The interviews illuminate the writers’ creative processes and provide critical insights into how creativity can be undermined by applying a narrow, prescriptive definition of script development. The study also highlights the tensions between global and local influences on screenwriting and development, demonstrating the continuing strength of an Australian-specific form of cinematic narrative despite the ubiquity of Hollywood’s classical model and its promotion by Screen Australia.
Glenda Hambly

Complicating Cops and Criminals: Racial Politics in the Classic Network Crime Drama

In the US system of broadcasting, television writers work within a set of constraints that include a desire to appeal to large audiences, satisfy the needs of advertisers, and navigate a storytelling act structure necessitated by commercial interruptions. Television storytelling has traditionally used clearly defined genres to ensure that programming will appeal to viewers, and so the codes and conventions associated with each story type provide additional limits for writers in the medium. These factors remain relevant in the present day, but they were the most pronounced during the classic network era that began in the late 1950s and continued into the 1980s. This chapter explores the development of a script for the crime drama Ironside, written by Sy Salkowitz, a prolific television writer from this era whose archived papers illuminate how a story idea moved from an initial inspiration to a completed episode. Like other writers of the time, Salkowitz strove to engage and surprise the viewer, even as he relied on formulas of network television.
Caryn Murphy

Telling Stories About Yesterday’s Hero for Today’s World: The Script Development of the Chilean TV Series Heroes (2006–2007)

This chapter addresses the ways in which screenwriters create the persona of the anti-hero in the Chilean TV miniseries Heroes (2006–2007), a six-part historical series about Chilean national heroes, currently used as educational material in Chilean schools. In the writing of this celebratory series, the key challenge was to create engaging characters who could be perceived as national “heroes” in the context of a contemporary series, when in fact, their historical actions were those of “un-heroic” real people, people an audience would consider to be “anti-heroes”. To consider this challenge, the chapter traces how the screenwriters of Heroes created the character of the hero/anti-hero as both protagonist and antagonist. In the chapter, firstly we outline the situation the writers were faced with in researching and recreating the real-life characters of Bernardo O’Higgins, José Miguel Carrera, and Manual Rodríguez. This includes the challenge of delving into the psychology of characters who were by present-day standards prejudiced misogynists who mistreated women, ordered murders and fathered illegitimate children whom they ignored, and presenting them as heroes, particularly when the target audience was school children. We distil these as a means of considering the creation of the anti-hero in the script development of Heroes.
Carmen Sofia Brenes, Margaret McVeigh, Alejandro C. Reid, Alberto N. García

Nordic Noir with an Icelandic Twist: Establishing a Shared Space for Collaboration Within European Coproduction

This chapter explores script development and writing within the context of European coproduction. Through a case study of Icelandic crime drama Trapped (Ófærð) (2015), it examines some of the challenges and opportunities of collaborative screenwriting within this cross-nation context, which is subject to shifting geopolitical and economic realities. The chapter presents particular methods adopted by those involved in the development of stories and scripts, including the Icelandic story creators and showrunner, the German executive producer, the French script editor and the British screenwriter. Based on interviews with these participants, the chapter provides an in-depth account of the script development process, investigating the motives, actions and experiences of the production companies and individuals involved. It draws on Eva Redvall’s notion of the screen idea system to examine the way in which a viable field of possibility was established to allow the project to move forward. Key to this examination is Star’s concept of the boundary object, through which the genre of Nordic Noir and the show’s screenplays can be analysed as process of creating a “shared space” situated at the boundary of the habitual spheres of practice of those involved.
Rosamund Davies

Looking Out from Script Development: Practice into Theory


Sympoiesis and Scripting Urban Terror: Decomposition of a Writing Under Duress

The ‘script development’ turn in screenwriting scholarship moves us from textual concerns with the screenplay, towards establishing critiques of the social, cultural and communicative everyday worlds within which scripts are composed, written and imagined. This approach draws attention to the highly located and defined creative and institutional practices through which scripts are written. However, practice-based approaches to script development—while deeply descriptive of their specific cases—risk an anthropological privileging of the local and a myopic disregard for the transnational and global discourses that have become increasingly central to theorisations of contemporary culture. Building upon a long-term and multi-sited ethnographic study of script development practices in urban Nairobi, this chapter explores how the detailed ethnographic writing-up of specific and localised practices can in fact form the basis for broader interrogations of contemporary global culture. Presenting a narrative of the scripting of a humanitarian aid-funded feature film about urban refugees in a social context of police brutality and terrorist attacks, I argue that the everyday practices of scriptwriting can lead us into deeper critical understandings of the contemporary globalisation of ethics and its securitisation of global society. I propose that far from being just another way of thinking about screenplays, the ethnography of script development can itself become an experimental and performative critical practice that opens deeper political questions about acts that script social and cultural life at the threshold of personal experience and global politics.
Joshua McNamara

Script Development and Social Change in Papua New Guinea

Theoretical debates in communication for development and social change have focused on best practices for creating meaningful and culturally relevant content, egalitarian methods of participation, and establishing sustainable structural support for ongoing media and communication enterprises. This chapter focuses on a detailed description and analysis of screenplay development as an illustration of how participation, community engagement, collaboration, facilitation, feedback mechanisms, stakeholder involvement and social change concerns were brought to bear on a creative media process in Papua New Guinea. Specifically, the project was designed to produce a screenplay and provide writers with skills for ongoing film production projects. Weaving together story development with alternating emphasis on content and process, the chapter attends to the structures put into place to nurture and develop a cinematic narrative that explores the theme of gender-based violence. I argue that focusing on a difficult social issue requires a careful balance between expert input and trusting young Papua New Guineans to write from their own experiences, and that this creates a dynamic, culturally specific type of script development.
Mark Eby

Storytelling for Our Own People: A Reflection on Script Developing with the Māori Filmmaker Barry Barclay

Māori filmmaker Barry Barclay (1944–2008) is recognized internationally as a foundational figure in indigenous filmmaking. A director of both documentary and drama, he was also a skilled screenwriter. At a time when very few features were written or directed by indigenous filmmakers, he was arguing strenuously that control of indigenous image-making should be in the hands of indigenous people themselves. Barclay sought to centralize te ao Māori, or the Māori worldview, in principle and in his practice. This chapter discusses Barclay’s writing process on the feature It Was Darkness (1997), and shows it to be true in many respects to what Margot Nash premised when she wrote of the “uncertainty, risk and entering unsafe territory” that is implicit in a process that places creative discovery above commercial concerns. Despite the conventional genre to which It Was Darkness belonged, Barclay’s approach to theme, structure, character and setting displayed an originality and fidelity to his own philosophy of filmmaking that was rare in New Zealand cinema at that time.
Christina Milligan

So Much Drama, So Little Time: Writers’ Rooms in Australian Television Drama Production

For more than 30 years, fast turn-around television drama in Australia has been one of the largest employers of screenwriters in the country, yet its script development methods remain opaque and under-researched. Through a case study approach that draws on qualitative interviews, this chapter analyses the script development models commonly found in Australian serial television drama. It focuses in particular on the ways in which screenwriters experience creative agency when participating in script development processes. Central to serial drama shows such as Home and Away and Neighbours is a highly industrialised script development model, which at first glance appears to rely on rigid and tightly managed hierarchies and processes. However, power relationships in this system are complex, subtle and at times unstable. Building on recent critiques of creative labour in British television production, we argue that script development processes in Australian television serial drama operate in several distinct, and often contradictory, ways. Through this case study of creative agency in script development, we contribute to knowledge of the screenwriter’s place in this significant segment of Australian television production and employment.
Noel Maloney, Philippa Burne

Defining the Beats in the TV Sitcom

The sitcom is distinguished from drama or soap opera by having what is described as a ‘closed’ or ‘circular’ narrative structure, wherein the plot returns to the original stasis. In my book, Situation Comedy, Character, and Psychoanalysis: On the Couch with Lucy, Basil, and Kimmie, I analyse character behaviour to argue that the protagonist, in their attempt to dispel or deny the incident that has triggered the story, shapes the narrative in a way that reflects the ‘entrapment’ of the show’s characters. While I argue that the sitcom begins with character, I extend that premise in this chapter to posit that the comedy emerges from the character’s reactions (in the form of actions) to events that threaten their sense of self, and this is articulated at an early stage of script development—through the creation of a beat sheet. In the chapter, I critically examine a beat sheet from one of my own sitcom pilots, At the Bar, to explore how story beats inform the shape of the narrative in this comedy genre.
D. T. Klika

Subjects of the Gaze: Script Development as Performance

What is enacted by putting ourselves in the picture? What is enacted by choosing to be the subject of the gaze? In this chapter, we outline our approaches to script development in relation to our respective projects, arguing for expanded notions of screenwriting and the screenplay. The first project, The Iris Opens/The Iris Closes: Le Silence #2, is at once a translation, a writing through, a critique, and a reimagining of French writer and director Louis Delluc’s post-production scenario for his Impressionist film, Le Silence (1920). A tale of love, deception and violence, described as ‘a daring montage of different temporalities’, its modernism develops from Delluc’s attempt to narrate memory mimetically. Part of a practice-based research into expanded screenwriting, iterations of the script operate simultaneously as screenplay, intermedial essay, critical texts, literatures, and performance and reading scores. The second project, One in a Million Girl, tells two stories: a fiction, featuring the scenes for a proposed feminist musical, and process, where the author’s reflections and creative history are presented. This ‘fictocritical screenplay’ shows how the creative and the critical, the practice and the process, the author and her characters can speak to each other in a multi-layered form that engages readers with the screenplay’s thematic and academic origins.
Emma Bolland, Louise Sawtell

The Promiscuous Screenplay: A Tale of Wanton Development and Loose Authorship

The highly standardised and industrialized models dominating script development have left little room for esoteric meanderings in either screenplay form or content. Having recently completed the independent feature film You can say vagina, which employed highly unorthodox development and writing methods to generate content and performance, I am happily reminded that there are many ways to skin the cinematic cat. This project has also generated in me a proselytising urge—not to gather disciples for a particular ‘new way’ of developing screenplays, but rather to urge some old-fashioned rule breaking and rebellion. In this chapter I outline what, for this film project, was a flexible and generative mode of working outside of the commercial system, employing both alternative technologies (mechanical and organic) and unconventional content generation strategies. I affectionately describe this method of working as ‘promiscuous collaboration’—collaborative practice that is wide ranging in its artistic liaisons and often indiscriminate when it comes to authorship.
Siobhan Jackson

Room for Improvement: Discourses of Quality and Betterment in Script Developments

In this chapter, we explore the notion of improvement as it relates to script development discourse and experience. In an attempt to open up debate for further conceptualisation and theorisation, we draw on two distinct datasets: script development guidelines from Federal and State/Territory screen agencies in Australia, and interviews with script development professionals. Screen agency documents were collated and analysed in 2018 for their explicit or implicit directives towards improvement, including analogous concepts such as betterment, quality and success. These were then considered in relation to 14 interview transcripts, the results of which were themed into groups. The interviews were conducted with industry professionals from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US in 2017, who have worked in a variety of script development roles across these countries, including as screenwriter, script consultant, script editor, story editor and storyline writer. This rich and diverse dataset is useful for comparing lived experiences—of both developing and being developed—with the discourses espoused by screen agencies.
Craig Batty, Stayci Taylor


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