Filmmaking is a privilege and a pleasure. However, it’s not easy. Screenwriting, and in particular writing film characters, can be very difficult at times. Inspiration for films can come from anything: an image, a piece of music, people on the street, etc.
Other films are a natural source of inspiration. I’ve just watched the film ‘Nine’ again (having not seen it since its release in 2009) and I was intoxicated by the fantastic performances from Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Fergie, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman – and especially the always-amazing Daniel Day-Lewis!
Inspired by Day Lewis’ troubled character Guido Contini, I wrote a list of the following questions to ask myself when writing film characters:
- Who is s/he in this story?
- What is s/he hiding?
- How does s/he perceive her/himself differently to how everyone else perceives her/him?
- What is s/he trying to resolve?
- Who does s/he love?
- Does s/he love her/himself?
- Is s/he a giver or a taker?
- Who does s/he hurt (repeatedly)?
- How does s/he hurt her/himself or detract from her/his own quality of life?
- What stops her/him being the best s/he can be?
- How much disrespect does s/he tolerate?
- Does s/he show disrespect for others?
- Who is the friend who tells her/him the absolute truth?
- What inspires her/him?
- What is the darkness inside her/him?
- What haunts her/him?
- What causes her/him stress?
- How does s/he atone for her/his sins (or mistakes)?
- Is s/he a good liar?
- What does s/he lie about?
- What lies does s/he tell her/himself?
- What qualities does s/he look for in a lover?
- What qualities does s/he look for in a spouse?
- What motivates her/him?
- What is s/he most proud of?
- What does s/he fear?
- What is her/his ultimate dream?
- What is her/his perception of true love?
- What does s/he aspire to?
- What’s unique about her/him?
- What’s quintessential about her/him?
I hope these questions help you to write fascinating, compelling characters in your screenplays.
Great lines are also inspirational and I’d like to leave you with this absolutely superb line from a song in the film, sung by Guido’s betrayed wife Luisa Contini (Marion Cotillard):
“Long ago. Someone else ago.”
What inspires you when writing?
Leave a Reply