What is your "message" script?

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  • What is your "message" script?

    Hi everyone,
    I know many of us writers feel that screenplays should convey a message to the populous to either bring something to the forefront to encourage discussion or to give a suggestion on how to help fix a problem, etc. (Some writers do not feel this way, but most of the writers I know and have talked to feel a message is important in a script)

    So I wanted to ask those here to let us know what message you have in a script you have written or would like to put into one that isn't written yet.

    I'll start...I have a script written that deals with military vets and ptsd and the fact that many cannot get the help they need. (I worked with vets in the past and learned some stuff from them and their stories) I feel it is a shame to ask people to go fight for us/this country and then when they get hurt (physically and/or mentally) they come back and are almost just thrown away. Not everyone, but many. I know it is getting better to some degree but there is a lot of room for improvement.

    So what message and/or subject is your passion to get out there?

  • #2
    Re: What is your "message" script?

    my stories tend to have older people in them as major characters. not so much a message they bring, but a feeling...what they regret, what they're still trying to get done in the last minute of the fourth quarter of the game, what they fear, old fears they had, old yearnings, old loves, that special picnic on a sunny riverbank sixty years ago, what they miss, etc.

    always have found older folks fascinating. if can get them to talk in a rocker on some old front porch, they have the best stories. settle in, turn off your stupid phone and listen.

    old folks tend to point a lot when telling a story, has been my experience. when they point, and not at you, but just pointing out at something (it is actually like they are pointing at their own soul), pay special attention. like, i had an old feller/salesman tell me once to never pay much attention to what a person says they want, pay attention to what they touch. people touch what they really want. then try to sell them that, he said. those old folks know some things. and once they get to know you, they also ask good questions...about you.
    Last edited by AnconRanger; 09-09-2017, 08:33 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: What is your "message" script?

      Darth, that's not really your message. That's the setting. Your story is about a vet with PTSD who comes home to find out his government has forgotten him and many people don't appreciate what he did. What's the message in that?

      If we stop taking care of each other society crumbles....

      That's a message.

      Bravery is often rewarded with ignorance....

      That's a message.

      The message or theme is part of the writing process for me. It helps me figure out what the subplots are about or should be about and what the dialogue exchanges between characters should be about. I have heard here though from some working writers that they think nothing of it. Then again Billy Wilder used to write the theme on a note card and tape it to his typewriter to constantly remind him of what he was talking about.

      Up to the individual. Can people pull a theme off in a script? That's a different story. Theme is one of those things in the writer's tool box and when used appropriately it can make a beautiful piece of art, and when not used correctly will make a total cheeseball piece of art.

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      • #4
        Re: What is your "message" script?

        i try not to overthink this sort of stuff. it could blow my last brain fuse.

        SPOILERS-

        but like in PLATOON, Barnes and Elias are both true warriors, on the same side, but not.

        the ending--Barnes lets Elias die and Chris Taylor then ends up killing Barnes in the last big battle the platoon is in before Taylor leaves on a chopper.

        message in that movie to me? war ain't a western. or action movie. or drama or comedy, etc. war is a horror movie.

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        • #5
          Re: What is your "message" script?

          I'd agree with the points Cyfress made. A message or theme needs to go deeper than "this film is about something that is bad".

          It takes nuance. My first script was a preachy mess because I was basically attacking the subject from one point of view. Nowadays I try and make it more balanced. Rather than spoonfeed a message I want people to think and come up with the message themselves. There's no reward in being given answers.

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          • #6
            Re: What is your "message" script?

            This also depends on genre as well. Does Dumb and Dumber need a 'message'? No. Could be dig into the narrative and find one? Yea. You can say that the theme to Dumb and Dumber is 'Any idiot knows friendship comes before money and women.' Did the writer think one moment about that message? No. So, themes can be pulled out of any material that is cohesive in its telling, but doesn't necessarily have to be planted there by the writer.

            To me uncovering this message or theme is a discovery process. I never know what this theme is when I start, but I uncover it along the way.

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            • #7
              Re: What is your "message" script?

              Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
              This also depends on genre as well. Does Dumb and Dumber need a 'message'? No. Could be dig into the narrative and find one? Yea. You can say that the theme to Dumb and Dumber is 'Any idiot knows friendship comes before money and women.' Did the writer think one moment about that message? No. So, themes can be pulled out of any material that is cohesive in its telling, but doesn't necessarily have to be planted there by the writer.

              To me uncovering this message or theme is a discovery process. I never know what this theme is when I start, but I uncover it along the way.
              I think you answered your question. For me, sometimes the dramatic theme is evident from the start, and sometimes it uncovers itself as the story develops. I contend that stories with staying power, those with enough energy for us writers to carry them through to the end, must have a dramatic question/theme rooted in human emotion. Otherwise, we're left with plot - moving parts in space without any reason or purpose.

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              • #8
                Re: What is your "message" script?

                That question or struggle rooted in human emotion is the difference between a cohesive script and a disjointed. The writing that brings your eye down the page triggers questions in your mind. In classic dramatic structure the writer is tasked to carve out the MDQ that will be argued the rest of the script. I so rarely read a script that that tries to set up a question in the first 30 pages. All they wanna do is show disjointed scenes that display character.

                Theme has to have a balance. Too much and you have a MOW or Soap Opera, too little and the reader will miss it completely.

                I guess to answer the OP's question. I have a script I am working on (although not lately) where the hero is a guy who gets no respect from his community, people think he is a joke. At the Act 1 Climax he rises to the most respected person in the community. The first half of Act 2 discusses his love affair with his new found respect, the 2nd half of Act 2 discusses the pitfalls of being a respected man - it can also make you a targeted man. In the end the hero is exposed as a fraud and respect turns to ridicule. At the climax, in his defining moment, the hero wins the respect of the community.

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                • #9
                  Re: What is your "message" script?

                  I think if you set out to write a script "with a message" it will end up "on the nose" or "preachy" or over the top. I think every story you write will include your beliefs, but stories should be about people -- let your message be a natural part of the story. (My personal opinion.)
                  STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                  • #10
                    Re: What is your "message" script?

                    Message is the wrong term. It makes it sound propaganda-ish. Theme often offers more than one 'message'. If you were writing a script about love. In it would be references of how great live is, and other references or examples of what happens when love goes wrong. What happens when someone falls in love with possessions? You can answer an infinite number of questions within the theme itself. Writers really should stay neutral and not offer a hardline message to the reader. The reader should be able to get there on their own because of the story.

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                    • #11
                      Re: What is your "message" script?

                      Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
                      Message is the wrong term. It makes it sound propaganda-ish. Theme often offers more than one 'message'. If you were writing a script about love. In it would be references of how great live is, and other references or examples of what happens when love goes wrong. What happens when someone falls in love with possessions? You can answer an infinite number of questions within the theme itself. Writers really should stay neutral and not offer a hardline message to the reader. The reader should be able to get there on their own because of the story.
                      Point of view - that's the word. I know I must feel a human being behind the words on the page or the images on the screen. Human experience expressing itself without intention.

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