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Set Design: does your story have enough ROOM?

See what I did there?? It’s the way I tell ’em 😉

So I’ve just been at London Screenwriters’ Festival, where I spent two hours doing a live script edit, looking at pages from writers’ screenplays and working through various craft elements and what they can do to make their work stand out in the spec pile. Suffice it to say: I spent A LOT of time talking about scene description with screenwriters at the event. Why? Well, it’s simple – there’s two things screenwriters generally do when it comes to scene description in their spec screenplays:

i) They write TOO MUCH scene description and are far too detailed about what’s in a scene, especially regarding what’s in a room (ie. a character’s home), as if that stands in for telling the story or revealing character (nb. it doesn’t!).

ii) They write TOO LITTLE scene description so their spec screenplays effectively become chains of dialogue in particular and often highly theatrical, with characters “entering” and “exiting” and “pausing” all over the place.

There is perhaps this belief that it’s all about the screenwriter’s vision for the story at spec script level and certainly, if a writer wants to show off their super-duper skillz as a calling card/sample script then WHY THE HELL NOT (as long as it’s remembered that scene description is not *just* about describing *stuff*, but SCENE ACTION!

So that’s why I was thrilled to receive this infographic from Oldrids & Downton, which (despite sounding as if it’s from a Julian Fellowes screenplay!), actually breaks down twelve iconic pieces of furniture from TV and movies: it reminds us writers that if we want to make a sale and get our screenplays produced, we have to leave ENOUGH ROOM for others to put their stamp in too – and not just directors or producers, but others like set designers too.

So, remember: a writer’s job is to tell the STORY; the set designer’s is to provide the iconic imagery. Enjoy!


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