Creative Instruction

Beyond storytelling, the screenplay is a map for actors and filmmakers. The screenwriter conveys creative instruction through action elements in the script.

The Exercise

You’ll need a partner.

Partner A is to instruct partner B how to put on a shoe (preferably one with laces). To do this, partner B must take off one of their shoes. They are also to pretend that they have never seen a shoe, don’t know what it is and don’t know what its various parts are or do.

Partner A needs to explain the process of putting on a shoe. Partner A should do this verbally and without pointing at the parts of the shoe. Every part of the explanation should try to be clear, verbal and effective enough to get partner B to get that shoe on.


How can language create and shape action?

What If?

It’s been said that a writers’ main tool is the question, “What if?” With this simple query, we can explore any ordinary event’s limitless plot possibilities. Your task: Get a copy of today’s newspaper. Read 5 articles with our question in mind. What if she stole the money? What if those soldiers were plotting something? What if that man was lying? Write out one movie idea for each article you read.


Acknowledging our fears can release their grasp on our work.

The Exercise

A mind map is a visual display of images and words that flow from one to the next. To create one, draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Write your topic in that circle. This is the center of your first hub. A hub is a collection of related words, thoughts or ideas. Thinking about the topic, brainstorm items around it. Then, grow your mind map by making any of the other words a hub and expanding on it.

Create a mind map that centers around the topic “my fears”


What does fear look like in my writing life?

Combine The Two

There are two kinds of movie dialogue: Expository Dialogue & Action. Expository dialogue says something about your characters, and the who, what, why, how and where of the movie you’re writing. Action dialogue is what moves the plot forward. Your Task: Combine the two. Write a page of dialogue between two characters that exposes them and moves them to the next scene.

Feedback: Out Loud

The first time I had my screenplay read out loud, I immediately knew many of the things that had to change. Try it! Your Task: Get hold of a finished screenplay. Get a group of people (at least 2 others). Assign parts to each person and read the screenplay out loud. Finished? Now, have each person do a 10-minute freewrite answering the following questions: What are my impressions of this work? What do I wish was in it? What am I glad that was included? Share.

Tarrantino Exercise

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

1.Open the phone book Yellow Pages to two random pages, and select two businesses. Move two characters from Point A to Point B by whatever means you invent. Invent a good reason for the journey. Reveal that intent skillfully. If it’s huge, understate it. If it’s trivial, exaggerate.

2. Pick one of the following topics and write a dialogue scene between those two characters, exploring and disputing the topic fully.
a. Standard shift vs. automatic transmission
b. Leaf blowers
c. Teeth
d. Class seating on airplanes
e. Vegetarianism
f. Paying for cable TV
g. Burning CDs
h. Any other mundane topic in the world.

As in every good scene, use the interchange not only to explore the issue, but in doing so, reveal who the characters are, individually and in their relationship to each other.

3. Orchestrate part 2 into part 1 and write a sequence of scenes.