Using a Screenplay Theme to Attract a Movie Star

1Every screenwriter who sits down to his copy of Final Draft and begins typing a screenplay has the ambition of writing a great screenplay with an outstanding and memorable lead character.  Good ambition.

But many screenwriters don’t realize that the most critical reason for doing this is that you need to create characters that will attract major stars to want to play the roles.  Brad, George, Leo, and Julia all have their choice of films to star in and characters to play.  What will make them choose your script?

A great character for them to play is one of the key elements for attracting a movie star to your film.  Attracting a movie star is a key element in getting your script made into a movie.

What does it takes to create a character like a Scarlett O-Hara, a Gordon Gekko, Erin Brockovich, or a Forrest Gump?  Let’s take a look at how the use of the theme can get you on the right track.

It starts with the concept of your script.  You either come up with an idea for the story itself, or maybe you think of how a given character could handle a situation.

Or it might be the theme that you want to look at first – what topic do you want to explore in your screenplay?  Whatever you choose, make sure that it inspires you, and you’re clear about what inspires you about it.

Many times screenwriters start writing a screenplay with no real idea of what they want to say.  I know this because I’m a script analyst and of the thousands of screenplays I’ve analyzed, many of the screenwriters could not readily articulate what they wanted to say.  Of course, they were sharp enough to know they needed to get feedback, so this is not bad, it’s simply what I’ve observed.

The truth is that even if you don’t know right up front what you want to say, by the time you get into your rewrite mode, you should be pretty clear so that you can start to craft your screenplay in that direction.

Once you have the concept and idea of what you want to say, then you begin to expand on it.  Look at each of your main characters and storylines and how they can go to further heights through a powerful portrayal of the theme.

Each major and supporting character’s situation should contribute a perspective on the theme.

Let’s take a look at George Clooney’s 2011 film “The Descendants.”  The theme is about family.  We see this first reflected in his character as he realizes that his family unit has broken down by his being too busy with work.  His learns that his wife was having an affair – breakdown of the family.  The older daughter, played by the amazing young actress Shailene Woodley, curses her comatose mother and disrespects her father (George) – yep, breakdown of the family.  The external plot of a massive land sale is also a family matter – the descendants.  In the end, George sits with the two daughters on the couch and they watch TV.  The family is together again.

The point is that the theme emerges in all of the characters, which helps make the story great.  Make sure that your main character has an arc that reflects this theme, meaning they start out and don’t understand the lesson, the point your story will make. Then at the end, they get it – but it was a lesson hard learned.

This will put you off to a good start in using the theme to create characters that will attract major stars.


By the way, a little side note…. I send a congrats to Smart Girls actor client Lono Woodley, who is Shailene’s Woodley’s father in real life!  Check out the movie if you get a chance.  Really amazing!

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