I'm currently writing a feature with a large cast, does anyone have experience working in ensemble and any ideas on advice on how best to help balance out character arcs and screen-time etc?
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Hi Oliver, it's actually as simple as you mentioned it. It's just about balancing. I'd recommend just checking out some ensemble films like Clue, Big Trouble, Rat Race, Smokin' Aces, Pulp Fiction, and see where they go wrong and where they go right. The key thing is just to make sure every character is important to the story in one way or another.
What brought/brings your characters together?
I dug up some things I found when I was writing one, I think they'll help you. Especially since there's surprisingly little written on this format. If there's a vanguard in this space, it's definitely Linda Aronson, btw. What she had to say in the article below was invaluable to me. - Good luck with your script!
Each characters from your ensemble should have clear goals and be well defined from one another and each should have a reason to be involved and serve a different purpose from one another.
Thanks for the notes y'all!
Write them separately. If you have 20 characters, write 6 pages from each characters point of view. Each should be like a short story where they have a short backstory and interact with the other characters. But there better be an overall story arc that links all the other stories together.
They're hard to write well, harder to execute with actors and hardest to schedule for production . Especially if you plan on making the movie yourself with a limited budget & Time.
Go watch an old film - Bad Day at Black Rock; and learn how it was done then. Then watch a recent film titled Last Vegas to see how it's being done now.