As an artefact, the screenplay extends beyond film and television into other screen media, such as web series and video games. It’s a vital component in the screen-making process, the culmination of a series of additional documentation starting with premise and outline, through treatment and step-outline, to screenplay. All screen media needs a story. The screenplay fulfills that need. But what exactly is the script? Is it a technical document, or an autonomous literary work?

What my reading has shown me this week is that there is considerable debate around what constitutes a screenplay. Osip Brik says ‘the script is a system of cinematic images and devices’ that is ‘purely and simply a memorandum to the director indicating the sequence of scenes and episodes’ (Brik 1974, cited in Nannicelli 2013). Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) argues that screenwriting ‘is not an art form, because screenplays are an invitation to others to collaborate on a work of art.’ Dudley Nicholls says it’s ‘the composition of original material specifically created for screen’ (Nichols 1943, cited in Maras 2009). It’s also often referred to as a ‘blueprint’ for a film. Blueprint, invitation, memorandum, original composition: I think each of these definitions are, in some ways, equally valid and show some of the ways in which screenwriters and filmmakers view the script.

In order to write a screenplay that truly works for the screen, I think you also need to have a good understanding of film grammar.  So I would agree with Schrader again, that as screenwriters we are also ‘half a filmmaker’. For me it’s this wonderfully cinematic fusion of words and imagery within a screenplay and the visceral effect it can have upon an audience that I find so fascinating and enjoyable to work with. A screenplay is also a text that requires a considerable amount of creative collaboration in order to bring it to the screen. So I really like the notion that the script is an ‘invitation to others’ to collaborate on a project, because that is probably where the magic really happens in the filmmaking process, where one idea sparks another and then another, and so on, until what was initially the spark of a screen idea becomes a unique, standalone work of art.



NANNICELLI, Ted. 2013. A Philosophy of the Screenplay. New York: Routledge.

MARAS, Steven. 2009. Screenwriting: History, Theory and Practice. London: Wallflower.