How to become a successful screenplay writer in Nollywood

The script is a very important aspect of every successful movie. Not that hiring good actors or top quality digital equipment if not essential too but the fact is that the foundation of every good movie is in the script. If the story is interesting and intriguing in the script, the next level is to get good actors to interpret it and top quality equipment to record and display to the audiences. A bad script is an unlikely source of an interesting movie. This is why it is very essential to understand how to write a very good script, the features of a good script, and what a script should have to ensure money being spent in producing the movie will not end up a waste due to poor patronage.

The screenplay writer, also called scriptwriter or scenarist, is saddled with the responsibility of writing screenplays or scripts on which films, television programmes and video games, are based. If you want a career in script writing you need to understand what you should include in your movie scripts to make them marketable.

The movie industry in Nigeria popularly called Nollywood, is among the biggest in the world. But the industry is accused of churning out classless movies with predictable uninteresting plots. There are a few cinema movies with interesting contents. You can actually be a unique screenplay writer in Nollywood if you have the secret to writing captivating screenplays that will leave lasting impression on the audiences.

Among the very essential features of a great screenplay are great characters, engaging plots, compelling stories, and intriguing concepts, including brilliant dialogue, spine-tingling suspense, edge-of-your-seat action, and endless laughs. However, the single most important element that screenwriters should strive to have in their screenplay is Catharsis. This feature has been described as the highest level of excellence a screenwriter can attain within their screenplay.

According to routledgetextbooks.com, catharsis comes from Aristotle and literally means “the purging of pity and fear.” This is primarily achieved in a script where the protagonist is being forced to face his/her fears. This is a way to make the audience to undergo catharsis (have a cathartic response) to the drama. This is why catharsis is the top priority of any good screenplay. Good movies need to make the audiences feel something: laughter, sadness, or fear. One of the ways to achieve catharsis is suspense. You can also look at catharsis as the healing of emotional wounds from the past. Find a way to inject this in your script.

Whether you are an aspiring scriptwriter in Nollywood or any other movie industry in the world you need to read the article below written Ken Miyamoto posted on Screencraft to understand what Catharsis is and how to feature it in a script.

What Is Catharsis?

It’s a term that has been prevalent in Hollywood in recent years. You can even find it as a grading category in film and television industry script coverage.

The word catharsis derives from the Greek word katharsis, which is directly translated as “purification” or “cleansing”. The traditional Greek definition refers to the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear — often attributed to tragedy.

Aristotle used the term as a metaphor in Poetics, the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory. There is an ongoing debate about what he truly meant when he wrote:

“Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude… through pity [eleos] and fear [phobos] effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions.”

In today’s cinematic interpretation, catharsis can translate as the feeling we feel after the resolution of the story and the protagonist’s overall journey.

Have you ever watched a movie or read a screenplay that stayed with you afterward? You walk out of the theater or close that script and feel truly changed or affected somehow.

Maybe you went to see La La Land and truly identified with the two protagonists and their desire to see their dreams come true?

Maybe you watched Good Will Hunting and truly identified with Will’s struggle to overcome his inner demons?

And sometimes the catharsis you feel has little or nothing to do with you personally, but the script was so well written that you somehow felt placed within the shoes of the protagonist and felt their own catharsis by the end of the film as they either achieved what they had been striving for against all odds or felt some relief from their struggles amidst tragedy.

That’s the magic of an amazing screenplay and movie, leaving the reader or the audience truly touched, affected, and sometimes changed — catharsis.

Any script or film can tell a good story with an interesting plot and some compelling characters. But not every script or film can truly leave a lasting mark on that reader or that audience.

Cinematic Examples of Cathartic Moments

One of the most cathartic moments in the history of film is present in Field of Dreams.

Ray (Kevin Costner) has spent the whole film searching for the meaning behind the voice he hears in the fields, telling him:

“If you build it, he will come.”

Each vision, message, and journey further into that rabbit hole of fantasy and intrigue guides Ray down a path that eventually leads to his estranged father that had passed away many years prior. Ray thought he was helping various characters through his journey, but in the end, he was really helping himself reunite with a father he had rejected long ago.

This led to the cathartic moment of finally experiencing that simple pleasure he and his father had tragically never really shared.

The audience was left in tears. The cathartic moment of witnessing that moving experience through the eyes of Ray can still make even the gruffest man cry. Whether it’s partly what we bring into the theater — our own baggage — or having been so drawn into the character of Ray through an amazing screenplay, we’ll never be able to fully define. However, the script tackles universal emotions and life events that everyone can relate to — love, longing, loss, regret, and estrangement.

In The Pursuit of Happyness, we’ve watched Chris (Will Smith) struggle to raise his son amidst homelessness and poverty. The brilliant man he manages to get the opportunity of a lifetime to start a life-changing career. While struggling to succeed, he’s equally struggling to raise his son in the best way he possibly can — teaching him to never give up on his dreams.

By the end, Chris manages to see his own dream come true.

Once again, the audience is left in tears. The cathartic moment of witnessing a character like Chris finally achieve his goal after a harrowing journey through homelessness, poverty, and the constant haunting of hopelessness left a true effect on audiences. Some related to his story through their own personal struggles while others lived those struggles through the eyes of Chris and were moved as they watched his inspiring reaction to life-changing news.

How to Create Cathartic Screenplays

You have no control as to which individual reads your screenplay and what “emotional baggage” they bring to the read.

However, you can inject those universal themes and emotions and use them as a wide-spread net to catch as many prospects as you can. You can transcend cliches, tropes, and standard stories in whatever genre by layering them with emotion.

A hero may be trying to save hostages from terrorists in a towering building, but deep down he may be seeking the love of his life — his estranged wife — despite the regrets that life can often cause between two people that love each other.

A little boy may be trying to help an alien escape the clutches of government agents trying to poke and prod him, but by the end, he’s forced to say goodbye to the best friend he has ever had.

These universal emotions need to be injected into your screenplay.

It’s not enough to just get characters from Point A to Point B amidst Conflict One, Two, and Three. Your story has to involve different levels of content. The plot keeps moving things forward, but without the emotion and themes — whether it be sadness (drama genre), fear (horror genre), love (romance genre), survival (suspense thriller genre), exhilaration (action genre), or even hilarity (comedy genre) — your script is lacking.

You need to search for the cathartic elements of your concept, story, and characters.

What are the themes and emotions that will leave the reader and the eventual audience with that cathartic feeling of being utterly relieved that the protagonist has achieved their goals, that they’ve found some peace, or even better — that the reader or audience has somehow attributed what the characters went through to their own emotions, to their own context of their own lives?

That’s the single most important element to any screenplay. You want that reader to experience that cathartic feeling when they close your script. You want it to stay with them.

That is what will get your scripts passed up the Hollywood totem pole. That is what will force a Hollywood insider to be passionate about your script, to the point where they feel it’s important to get made — and that they’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Spread that net wide and choose emotions and themes that will offer you the highest hit percentage. And know that you can accomplish this in any genre and any type of cinematic story — big or small.

Finally!

The masterpiece above on Catharsis written by Ken Miyamoto is what you need to write very captivating screenplays that with leave a lasting mark on the audiences. As a scriptwriter or screenplay writer in Nollywood or other movie industries across the world you have to make yourself marketable with knowledge of how to write captivating scripts. This is why you should learn how to write scripts that have Catharsis in them. This will ensure such scripts will lead to production of very interesting classic movies.

(Screencraft.org)

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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