Q&A: The Three Cs of Screenwriting with Jenna Milly

Ever wish you could crack the dreaded Hollywood creative executive code? What is he or she looking for in a feature-length script? Never fear, we have some tools for you. Using the three C’s of screenwriting — concept, conflict and character — you can make sure your script has everything you need to get from page to screen with this new webinar by screenwriter Jenna Milly. Script sat down with her to get the details on exactly what she’ll be chatting about.

Script: What are the three C’s of screenwriting?

Jenna Milly: Conflict, concept and character. To elaborate, conflict is the drama your script must have to be interesting to the human condition. If you don’t have drama, viewers turn the channel, or in the case of movies, get up and walk out. Concept is important because not only do Hollywood creative execs want to love the idea, they want people — a lot of people — to go see the movie. The concept is the hook that gives potential audience members a tiny little nugget of what the story will be like (examples: Jurassic Park, Snakes on a Plane, Freaky Friday). Character is well, of course, the person who carries the story on his or her shoulders. If you have a strong character, your audience will rally and go on this journey with you.

Script: Why are the three C’s of screenwriting important?
Jenna Milly: Because without these three elements, you have less of a chance of having someone in Hollywood take you seriously. When a creative exec or a producer lobbies to a studio or a financier to put their money on the line to make your movie, they want to be sure these elements are in place, because then the investment has a better chance of making a profit.
Script: Investment to make a profit? I thought we were talking about the fun world of making movies…?
Jenna Milly: Unfortunately, or fortunately if your film is a huge success, Hollywood is a business. But like no other, each time a product (or movie) goes to market, there are very little ways to know if the product is going to sell. This is what’s so exciting and also so scary about becoming financially involved in Hollywood. If you’re an investor, and you want to put your money into a product that you know will sell, how can you guarantee the people will want to go see the movie? You can’t. But the best thing we can do as screenwriters is to try to work with this system as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you have to sell your artistic soul to write something you wouldn’t normally write, but it does mean we can all be a little smarter about our choices if we know where the buyers are coming from.
Script: What’s the best way to find out if you have strong Cs?
Jenna Milly: Ask your friends, family and fellow screenwriters to put it to the test. Does this story have a concept that hooks you? Are you supportive of the character’s goals? Do you feel tense or concerned when I tell you the story or when you read the script? If you start getting weak answers on any of these, it’s time to go back to the keyboard and make that element stronger.
Script: How can I make sure I have these three areas covered BEFORE I start writing?
Jenna Milly: Excellent question — take my online class to see the exercises we do to help prep that next story, so you don’t have to spend all your time in rewrites figuring out that either your conflict, concept or character needs some work. Join Jenna for The Three C’s of Screenwriting — Concept, Conflict & Character.

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