By Tom Cartier
Screenplay + Biography= Screen-Plography.
In movie form they’re known as bio-pics, and throughout the history of cinema, Hollywood has always had an insatiable appetite for them.
But before going any further, a disclaimer alert…
I would never condone anyone trying to sell a film based on someone else’s life without first securing their rights. When shopping a project on the open market, always secure the rights first.
However, if you’re just looking to make a big splash as a screenwriter or simply trying to get read, by all means. So long as no money changes hands, and the project is used strictly as a calling card, this can potentially work as a strategy that’s launched many a career.
First and foremost, the basic story should be about someone who has done something extraordinary. The origin story of George Washington. Ted Kennedy’s ordeal at Chappaquiddick. The tale of how Francis Ford Coppola created his masterpiece The Godfather against all odds. All three of these ideas are scripts, currently making in-roads in Hollywood for the writers who created them; and all are great examples of what I consider to be Screen-Plographies.
The key to it all is composing that perfect mix of personality and story, that flashpoint where truth and fiction collided to evoke something spectacular; a world where the truth actually did become stranger, and more arresting, than fiction. Oftentimes, it’s about telling the story of how a given person achieved fame, changed the world or made history. But just as frequently, it’s about that uncovered gem, that little known chapter in a well-known person’s life that’s absolutely riveting.
Being a household name certainly helps, but it is by no means a prerequisite in this genre. Most people immediately know McDonald’s, but do all of them know exactly who Ray Kroc is? Probably not, and yet one of the biggest screenplays in Hollywood right now tells the story of how he helped launch the very idea of fast food.
A final advantage to drafting this type of script is that the facts surrounding the people, places, plot-lines and sometimes even the dialogue are known, by and large. Theoretically, at least, there’s already an ample amount of information available to draw from. For example, we all know that Jesse “The Body” Ventura was a professional wrestler before he became a governor. For the most part, his journey – from brawler to statesman – can be researched and dramatized.
Despite this available information, this is not to say that writing a Screen-Plography is easy. Far from it. It is merely a format that’s based on events that have actually happened and can be analyzed. Sometimes there are multiple biographies offering different depictions and interpretations of these same events. If research is a passion for any writers out there, translating the perfect cinematic narrative behind these types of stories can be incredibly rewarding.
If you’re interested in developing this type of script, Voyage Media can help. The experts in the Professionals Program have exactly the kind of experience that can get not only get you noticed by Hollywood, but well on your way to a successful and rewarding career.