What is your theme?
In the first five minutes of a well-crafted screenplay, someone (not the main character) will pose a question or make a statement that is the theme of the movie.
It won’t be overly obvious, but more conversational—an off-hand remark that the main character will not get at the moment, but will be impacted by the statement later.
THIS STATEMENT IS THE MOVIE’S THEMATIC PREMISE.
A good screenplay is an argument posed by the screenwriter, the pros and cons of living a particular kind of life, or pursuing a particular goal.
What is your argument? What are you posing in your screenplay?
Throughout the screenplay, your argument must be laid out, either proving or disproving the statement—looking at the pros and cons from every possible angle.
No matter what genre you are writing, your screenplay MUST be about SOMETHING.
Declare: I can prove it, and then write your proof!
Typical theme examples:
- Two heads are better than one.
- Love lost
- He who gets the gold makes the rules (Blank Check)
- The triumph of the human spirit (Schindler’s List)
- Life is short (The Last Song)
- Loneliness and isolation (Lost in Translation, Finding Nemo)
- Love and death (Love Story, The Notebook)
- Ugly duckling transforms into a swan (Miss Congeniality)
- Romance is better the second time around (It’s Complicated
A theme is the functional equivalent of glue that holds all of the elements of your story together. No matter what’s happening with your characters on the surface, there’s a common thread running beneath that unites them and–through the development and escalation of events–infers your premise that crime doesn’t pay, love conquers all or absence makes the heart grow fonder.
What theme is running through your story?