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Being Original, Is It Absolutely Desirable
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You, the writer are expected to show originality in the ways that your scripts are written. You are encouraged to learn your trade in whatever direction, be it:
• Looking on to TV and films
• Reading texts
• Attending writers' courses
What the above is saying is that the acquisition of pre-script writing knowledge is fine but what is not fine is using that knowledge so gained directly into your script. You are expected to submit a script that is unique and original.
Support for the operation of originality comes from both sides of the filmic world, that is, from:
1. The directors/producers
2. The film-going public
The producer and the director demand it. Failure to submit a script that lacks originality means failure of the script writer's career.
The big question here that needs an answer is how extensive is the dire need for originality for after all, we are programmed in fixed ways to expect certain endings of films:
In Rom-coms, the expectation here is that the ending must be happy.
In Westerns, the baddie will inevitably be killed.
In gangster movies, the baddie will be tried and put to death or sent to prison for very extended periods.
Such endings of films are to a great extent fixed but still at the same time the audience being so sophisticated has demanded that when they go to see a movie, they do expect that they would be seeing something new, something that they have never seen before.
The above examples or film genres also find themselves snugly within the three act plan. Unexpected and different end-results often conflict with the audience's pre-programmed expectations be they, happy endings, death or imprisonment of the antagonist.
The big question is how far originality would carry in the face of audience expectations and director's demands and is it really necessary?
The answer upon looking back at recent histories of the film is negative, that is, that, it is not really necessary. To- be original or not- to- be original is the question that must be answered.
The consensus is that it is not absolutely necessary for that gem of originality to be there for success to happen to the screenplay writer. It is okay to borrow ideas and formulate and convert them to your own personal use.
After all Sylvester Stallone when as the screenplay writer of the Rocky movie, did just that. As he famously said one day when interviewed in London, 'I looked at and studied Muhammad Ali's films, borrowed ideas and within three days penned the Rocky script which grossed $250 million'.
This three act structure also makes it very difficult to manoeuvre along originality lines. This structure does not allow for much originality within since basically what transpires within the three acts follows the same directions more or less.
What however can be argued for is not so much the one- off- the -peg, never- to- have- been- used- before story line but you must impose your you-ness into your script. This takes the form of giving voice to the characters and what you're submitting is YOUR script with much of your your-ness written all over it.
Originality is the demand, always sought after by the directors/producers. Failure to be original has always spelt the death of the screenplay writer. I have questioned the need for originality in the light especially of audience expectations.
I have also based my questioning on the three-act format that is expecting original story-lines while at the same time desiring that their interplay conform to the demands of the three acts which yield the same outcome every time depending ofcourse on the genre.
I have also argued that being original meant the imposition of the writer's stamp, imposing his voice and his himself-ness, his personality on the script.
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