Scriptwriting workshop with Sydélia Guirao: a more complex profession than it seems
Sydélia Guirao proposes a very interactive workshop, lasting over two hours, for an eager audience of writing and audiovisual amateurs and professionals. The line-up: how to write the scenario for a series or fiction, for multiple distribution means (television, satellite, digital…) and channels (via various means of diffusion: television, mobiles, smartphones, applications…). A complex problem at a time when a two-fold mutation is taking place: regarding patterns of consumption of audiovisual by the public, as well as in the content demanded. A genuine cross-media approach must be thought of from the early stages of the scenario by developing the project across several media, thus offering more opportunities to strengthen
From the very introduction, the tone is set: ‘When a scenario is written, it is important not to forget that then it is a question of above all selling it! Hence the very marketing aspect to the approach that must emanate from the content of the scenario,’ cautions Sydélia Guirao. Indeed, one of the major constraints is to respect a harmony between the style of writing and the final post-production version. This is therefore the main challenge when writing a scenario.
The ‘Literary Bible’ is the reference document which summarises the project content, while serving as a basis for the production, whether a series or a work of fiction. The idea for writing a scenario generally comes from a story or from characters. The title, the project catchphrase, the proposed format, the target audience, a short résumé of the concept and the main characters are presented through several themes. It involves presenting an overview of the main theme of the project, the general characteristics of the characters and their relationships, the recurring decor, as well as the universe unique to the ambiance of the project. Any specific particularities (sound effects, language, visual or musical) should be made evident, to be as clear as possible for the producer and director, without encroaching on their respective spheres of activity. The tone is also a common denominator to all aspects of the project, in the presentation as well as in the content of the scenario. Then come the details about the structure of the story, the basic outline of the main events that punctuate the scenes, developments, or even ruptures in the narrative framework (flash-back). When writing a scenario for a series, the dramatic arc is the most critical part to write, so as to provide the maximum information necessary to understand the framework of the story, the development of the episodes (intrigue, relationships between the characters or the facts) until the episode cliffhanger, leading into the next one. It is important to enclose a minimum of 3 to 5 pitches (a résumé outlining an episode), accompanied by at least one episode synopsis.
The scenario itself consists of the story detail, the path of the characters, links between scenes and the chronology, etc. The introduction reveals the characters and their characteristics, as well as the starting-point of the initial plot. The development presents the main objective of the protagonist, followed by second objectives that enable this initial objective to be reached. Or how the objective is thwarted by a ‘but,’ that involves an action in response, enabling a review at the end of the episode, or film. Generally, the sequence of actions intensifies, revealing more information around the main characters and the intrigue in general.
In spite of the complexity of the content required by serious scenario writing, this approach is not only reduced to a marketing and financial aspect. Sydélia Guirao’s experience and career clearly show how authors of scenarios convey creative projects in line with the legacy of the 7th art, cinema. Committed to encouraging audiences to dream and be entertained behind a screen, of any form!
Sydélia’s advice to scriptwriting project bearers
Even if training plays an important role when working as a screenwriter, it’s really only through practice that experience is gained, by working alongside other professionals and, if possible, bringing your own scriptwriting projects to fruition. It is important to acknowledge the stages between the writing and the ultimate broadcast of the works, but it is also a means to see the project through, beyond the scriptwriting. There are several grants and bursaries to support authors with their projects. An involved and unrelenting approach must be adopted, without being overcome by emotional involvement in the projects undertaken, that will often be passed from one hand to another between the different players in the production. Training is also important: reading is necessary, particularly authors of best sellers that have been adapted to cinema and writing of course (novels, fiction, tales…). A style shared by these authors can be distinguished. It is necessary to capture the intuition of writing and understand their writing, while subconsciously assimilating the keys to writing.
I worked in audiovisual broadcasting, and I was curious to know about the screenwriting profession. It’s true finding out what the profession really entails is impressive, the detail required to produce a scenario and its content, you don’t expect it to be so demanding!
It was a real eye-opener for me as I’m not from the audiovisual world. I was eager to find out about this profession and this world and that led me to participate in this workshop. Maybe with a project in mind, I could take into account the reality of the profession, the steps to respect to produce coherent content. I didn’t necessarily expect that marketing played such an important role in developing a scenario! I’m going to put it into practice at the Writing Marathon! It’s an opportunity to test myself in a real situation and to be supported by professionals!
Lucile Bambridge / FIFO