Second Light Script Lab

  • 18 September 2012 - 20 October 2012

FACT hosted an intensive three day Script Writing Lab, presented by First Light and delivered by The Script Factory. 24 emerging script writers, producers, filmmakers and directors between the ages of 18-25 took part in an intensive three day course to develop and support new talent. Hosted at FACT, and working with First Light and The Script Factory, the group were visited by Frank Cottrel Boyce, Nick Whitfield and Martin Wallace to discuss their experience and careers.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a three day Script Writing Lab. My main aim was to pick up as many tips as I could for all the young filmmakers I work with. It was so good that I came out with loads of advice but I was also buzzing with ideas and personally inspired to reinvigorate some personal projects.

I do not write screenplays (yet), I like writing Children's stories and although this training was based around scripts, it concentrated on character and structure of stories. Whether it is a novel, a play or a script, a good story is a good story!

So for all of you screenwriters/filmmakers/producers out there, here is some of what I picked up on this ace course. This is of course subjective-advice from professional script writers and script developers, take from it what you like!


  • You should start with an intriguing character or story or situation not necessarily a meaning- saying that, you should know your meaning - what you're trying to say.
  • Stories are necessary in our lives. They help us make sense of our world.
  • Stories are only real if they have conflict in them.
  • You must have cause and effect that lead to a conclusion.
  • You must answer the questions you raise and invest in people's need for logic-otherwise your work is pointless.

Make sure you know your audience. This will affect your writing.

Also, ask yourself, is your idea best suited for film or TV?

When we watch television, we may be easily distracted but we are much more focused when we watch something in a cinema. 


  • Character(s)
  • World/Time
  • Action

Your ideas need to be complete before you write the script and you should be able to write a synopsis. It doesn't mean it will stay that way but you should know your complete idea. This will help you when writing your script as a plot with action and clever lines won't work if it is lacking in meaning and theme.

The premise is your take on the theme. For example, in Little Miss Sunshine the theme is family politics and the premise is as long as you're together as a family, it's OK.

CHARACTER(S) - Put your characters IN a situation. e.g. Do not put a claustrophobic character in an open field.

SITUATION - Think about a dramatic situation. eg. Room on fire, baby crawling to the edge of a cliff.

CONFLICT - There are three types of conflict, internal / between people / nature-animal etc.

ACTION - How is this present in the beginning / middle / end

RESOLUTION - There must be a resolution.

POINT OF VIEW - Where are you coming from? Who is telling the story?

GENRE - Study films in your genre and borrow structures. Don't be afraid to do this.

If you have trouble with your ending, it could be because you haven't constructed something at the beginning.

Dialogue should….

  1. Give information
  2. Set tone/style
  3. Reveal character
  4. Create sense of reality
  5. Push the story forward


Ask yourself-is it a 1, 2 or 3 character story?

In some films, we (the audience) know more than the characters. But in others, we find things out as the character does eg. Four Weddings and a Funeral. Work this out before you start.

Remember: You are trying to flush out a characters truth. You can do this by putting them in certain situations.

You should always be asking yourself, why is this character doing this? What is going to happen to them?

Be careful that your characters are 3D.

1D - Appearance.

2D - Manner and characteristics.

3D - Where they are in the world and the connections they make.

Make sure you know whether your character is going to change as a result of what happens to them. eg. Seth Rogen's character in Knocked Up BUT they don't have to change eg. James Bond.

CHARACTER - is their tension / their problem

CHARACTERISATION - is basic values, manner etc.

You should master your character's tension / problem first. This is much more important than characterisation.



  • SYNOPSIS (a summary of what happens in your film)
  • PREMISE (your take on the theme)
  • PACE



  • Make sure you are getting hold of and reading other people's scripts and screenplays.
  • Check out the skillset website job profiles-look at their skills and qualifications. Where are your gaps?
  • Do not dismiss other forms of writing, writing for stage for example could get you work and therefore you are more likely to get taken on by an agency.
  • Make sure you have several ideas in your head and you practise telling people about them in a clear and concise way-you never know who you may end up in a lift with!
  • Write a year plan. Treat your writing like a business.


Once written, you should send your work to producers, independent production companies and maybe actors that you admire. Agencies cannot make money until you do, so they are unlikely to take someone on who has nothing published/produced.

Also look at, Media Program of the European Union, BFI, Shooting People, Creative England.

Distributors like Momentum, Fox Searchlight, they want to acquire films at script stage.

Be ready to answer these questions..

  • Who will watch it?
  • Will they get press?
  • Is it well-known?
  • Is there a hook?
  • Will it create audiences through word of mouth?



The film industry is risk adverse. A lot of films are adaptations of things that have already succeeded in other mediums eg. TV, book, famous people's lives.

Check out the UK Film Council low budget and micro production film report 2008

Take a peek at these websites.

(most of these are low budget films-they may be harder to find.)

71 Fragments of a Chronology of Change (1994)

The Last Tycoon (1976)

Ten (Iran) (2002)

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2011)

Kill List (2011)

Borrowed Time (2012)

Red Road (2006)

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

Small Creatures (2010)

Skeletons (2010)

Kid on a Bike (2011)

Under the Mud (2006)

The Source (2011)

Millions (2004)

24 Hour Party People (2002)

Blue Velvet (1986)