Guest Blog: Screenwriting with Michael Lengsfield

Posted February 29th, 2016 by Matt Turner

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Michael Lengsfield is a Screenwriter, and Scriptwriting Lecturer at the University of East Anglia. We spoke briefly with him about teaching the craft, developing your writing process and the (free) online course he is launching with FutureLearn.

Scriptwriting is a very distinct form of storytelling. To explore it further, we’ve put together a free online course that is a great introduction for beginners, but also for people who have been writing for a while and want to push their craft further.

The basics are established in a series of short articles, and then a breadth of opinions and approaches to scriptwriting are shared in several video panels with industry experts who have all been there, done that.

Four of us animatedly discuss each topic. Alongside me are two UEA alumni: Molly Naylor is the co-creator of After Hours, and Tom Benn is a novelist who has just written a screen adaptation of his first novel. The fourth panellist is Christabelle Dilks, who brings a wealth of experience in film and television from Channel 4 and the BBC.

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There are some really intriguing differences of opinion between the four of us in the panel discussions. It was even surprising to us that we diverged as much as we did! We came in thinking we would all be in agreement. For example, Tom has an unusual approach to building a scene which left the rest of us speechless. He seems to do it backwards – but the writing he produces through this process is brilliant.

When it comes to writing first drafts, we provide a workflow that will really help learners. But should you write a treatment? Two people on our panel say treatments are “like a bad short story”. Another loves them. Me? I’ll tend to write a short synopsis. We each have our own process.

I think that’s what this course will help people with the most. It will help learners to develop their own process that works best for them. Throughout the course, we try to avoid saying “this is the only way to do it” as there are a lot of different ways to get to that final, golden script.

There are just so many templates and models for screenwriting. My advice? Use a model to help build your story, but don’t write a script to match a model.

One final thought for aspiring screenwriters: try to read good scripts! Start with a film that you know, then select one that’s a complete mystery to you. There’s a wide selection posted on The Blacklist.

An Introduction to Screenwriting begins today (29th February.) Find out more and sign up at Future Learn. You can also follow Michael on twitter.

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