Have an idea for a screenplay? Take the first step with the Work Your Logline worksheet!Get it
Get it

blog

Do Screenplays Need Theme? STC Podcast Episode 3

 

ADVANCE YOUR STORY

Writing a screenplay? Pitching a project? Start with the Work Your Logline worksheet. Enter your email address below and get it delivered straight to your inbox!

100% privacy guaranteed.
by Naomi in screenwriting
screenwriting podcast save the cat

On today’s episode Jose and I talk about our favorite examples of Theme Stated beats in movies.

What is theme, anyway?

I like to think about theme as a story’s organizing principle. Sometimes it’s a firm takeaway, like “Being over-protective will surely chase your child away and into danger.” This approach to theme is more of a thesis statement where the writer is expressing a distinct point of view, which is perfectly okay in my book.

And sometimes a screenplay’s theme operates more like a thematic area that’s explored in the story, like “The things parents do for their children.” This kind is less value-charged, and that’s okay too. A story that uses this approach can make us think about and form our own takeaways.

But with either approach, the theme serves as an organizing principle. It helps guide the writer in creating a story that will convey the desired theme. And having that organizing principle in place helps the audience receive and understand what the writer wants to convey.

Screenplay Theme Screenwriting

Does your screenplay need theme?

That’s a trick question. In the episode, Jose and I both agree that theme is important. It’s what gives your story meaning.

We all naturally seek meaning in stories, whether we’re conscious of it or not. We try to understand what a story is telling us about the way the world works.

So your story is giving out thematic messages, whether you intend them or not, simply because audiences are trying to understand what it is you’re saying. People are assigning meaning to your story anyway, so you (as the storyteller) might as well use that opportunity to be deliberate and intentional about the message you send.

But sometimes worrying about theme too early in the writing process can actually get in your way. My best advice is to think about what you want to say with your story, but don’t feel like you have to lock it down before you start writing.

You can start with a thematic area that interests you. It can be as broad and general as makes sense to you right now — sacrifice, the toll of war, the good of the one vs. the good of the many. And then, as you develop your story, you can narrow in on your point of view, your take on that theme, what you want to say about it, etc. Like every other aspect of your screenplay, it doesn’t have to land on the page fully formed. You can hone it over time.

In the episode, Jose and I also talk about a few common mistakes that writers may encounter when working with theme. And if you’re curious what our personal favorite examples of theme are, we get into that too.

Do you have any go-to movies you use when thinking about or discussing theme? I’d love to hear about them. Tweet them to me!

Save

Save

 

ADVANCE YOUR STORY

Writing a screenplay? Pitching a project? Start with the Work Your Logline worksheet. Enter your email address below and get it delivered straight to your inbox!

100% privacy guaranteed.