Writing Substance and Subtext

Room: Herringham H201
Time: Sunday 9:00am

with Janet van Eeden

Writing Substance and Subtext image

This session will explore how a screenplay can be written in such a way that it does not follow the standard hero’s/heroine’s journey structure of traditional Hollywood films, but instead reflects the essential characteristics of the protagonist through the use of motifs – or fractals.

You will examine how uncovering the protagonist’s underlying motivation allows the writer to create a fractal that resonates throughout the screenplay, and how this can add interpretative depth, substance and subtext to the narrative, even shaping the final form of the script.

Janet van Eeden will use clips from Saving Mr Banks to illustrate how to find a motif that dictates structure and will also draw upon a case study of her own screenplay, A Hyena in Petticoats, in which she found the perfect fractal for her protagonist, Mary Wollstonecraft. From this, Janet developed a table (which will be given to delegates during the session) to illustrate the structure of her script, taking it beyond the traditional three acts into a “hyper-structure”. Using extracts from this screenplay, you will examine whether the motif indeed adds substance and subtext to the narrative.

The theory discussed in this seminar is due to be published in 2020 as Screenwriting for Substance and Subtext: From Mise én Scéne to Misé én Abyme*.

*This is the literary term for “Fractal”.

Appearing in this session

Janet van Eeden

Janet van Eeden – Screenwriter, Educator

Janet is a screenwriter and Head of Post Graduate Studies at AFDA, Durban’s Film, Television and Performance School, which is one of the top film schools in Africa.
Janet van Eeden