How Reading Screenplays Enhances Creativity

Until Diablo Cody won an Oscar for writing Juno, I didn't really know anything about screenplays. I had read several stage plays before, like Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun. But once I realized there was this whole other world called screenwriting, I started snatching up every movie script I could find. I read the screenplays to movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Sense & Sensibility, and The Queen.

As I began to read screenplays, I began to think more visually. This is because a script only includes what can be seen or heard on film. No interior monologue, no feelings, no inner turmoil. If it can't be shot by the camera, it can't be in the script. This is because screenwriters show us the story rather than tell it. 

Eventually, I wrote a couple scripts of my own. During this process, I started paying attention to people's facial expressions and to body language. I noticed the trees and the wind and the pedestrians and the bicyclists. I studied architecture and paintings and animals and the blue sky. I began to see the world in a new way.

If you've never read a screenplay before, it's an excellent way to enhance your visual creativity. Even if you aren't an aspiring screenwriter, I'd encourage everyone to read one. Some of the benefits of reading scripts include the following:

  • An entire script can be read in an evening.
  • Screenplays show rather than tell stories.
  • Familiarity with screenplays helps us identify good film writing when we see it.

Next time you have a free evening, pick out one of your favorite movies and get the companion script. Follow along as you watch the movie and see how the writer communicated the story through visual prompts and dialogue. (Many screenplays can be downloaded for free at Daily Script). 

As you enter into the world of screenwriting, I hope you'll comment your thoughts and experiences below.