Screenwriting : Screenwriting vs Playwriting by Jeremy Stemen

Jeremy Stemen

Screenwriting vs Playwriting

I have had limited success with playwriting. Nothing broadway bound. But I have had some success. And proud of it.

But my issue is trying to make it translate into Screenwriting. I have been hired on two occasions to write a screenplay, and I have issues working outside the 3 dimensions of a stage.

I also worry about the dollars spent on said project.

With a theatre, you only have to worry about what happens on the stage and the rest is left to the imagination.

Has anyone battled with this before? Is there an easy fix?

John Ellis

An "easy" fix? That depends on your definition of easy! :) I've tried a few short plays, and the difference I've found between plays and scripts is primarily descriptions. With screenplays, you need to be emotionally evocative with your action - using as little physical descriptions as possible, with as few words as possible. Then again, dialogue tends to be quite a bit different, too; a lot less expository. Easy...sure let's call it that! :)

Andrew Hilton

I read screenplays written by clients who are playwrights all the time and a common pitfall is failing to expand the scope beyond the conversation and dialogue. Often, these stories consist of talking heads. You need to build on your plot and your themes to infuse some visual spectacle into the narrative. Get the action moving outside the confinements of the stage -- the entire world and every location in it is your canvas.

Jeff Lyons

John--in theater there are literally no conventions on this, other than budget. Fewer scene changes mean less money for sets, props, etc. It's the same in movies or TV. That's why producers love single location stories. Full-length plays are usually under 100 pages ("Ice Man Cometh" was 3hrs long! "Hamlet" is 4+hrs) and the same standard applies to 1 page equally 1 min of stage time. But, the conventions are far less stringent than in movies/TV ... it's all about budget budget budget.

Frankie Gaddo

There are many great movies which were originally stage plays. I find writing in limited locations creates many strong possibilities for character development, interaction, and conflict, as you become more reliant on this to progress the story. I'm currently reading 'The Art of Dramatic Writing,' which is for play writers. I've never written a stage play, but I'm still enjoying the book very much as there's so much in common between the two mediums. My advice is to embrace your play writing skills in your screenwriting. Learn the obvious differences between the two: formatting, use of visuals, etc. And don't worry about the money. Worry about it as in don't go over the top with huge costly spectacles, but don't worry about it. Movies cost money to make, it's just how it is. They cost way more than conducting a play. Most good/great movies will always cost in the millions, it's just the way it is, don't sweat it, unless if there's some kind of stipulation in which you know what the budget is and you have to aim to go under. Otherwise, don't worry about it too much.

Myron DeBose

There are quite a few playwrights that have been successful screenwriters, Jeremy. I write single location stories. I believe it is an acquired skill but you should be up for the challenge. To entertain with a stage takes real moxie and creativity.

Jorge J Prieto

I love what many stage writers have done with their own work, as screenplays. Many of my favorite films have been adapted from plays. Ie: Steel Magnolias, Driving Miss Daisy, Trip To Bountiful, Brighton Beach Memoirs, On Golden Pond, even The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and most recently, Fences. I worked in live theater for 11 years, love it. So blessed to be here in NYC. Good luck.

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