Clive Frayne's How-to-guide on Finding and Fixing the Flaws in Your Screenplay

Jun 06, 2020

Clive Frayne came into Sunday night spreading some amazing encouragement and knowledge in a session I will refer to as the “Economics of Screenwriting”. 

This session gave us some prime points to streamline our process and minimize unnecessary rewrites. Learning to analyze scripts this way can become essential in conducting informed conversations with producers or executives and tackling issues from the root - all of which will result in a smoother timeline and reduced frustration. Instead of offering specific solutions, it will present you with opportunities. 

The first thing Clive made clear was that character and plot are so interconnected that you can’t take away one from the other without it turning into a different story. Brilliant, right? Well I’ve compressed the rest of his amazing insights into a practical guide.

Of course, if you watch the full session you’ll get a deeper understanding of each concept. I advise you to not only watch it, but keep it handy since you’ll probably want to revisit it throughout different projects. 

What is magical about his technique is that by removing the subjective opinions you’ll be able to find out what actually made it to your script pages, understand the weakest story points and identify patterns intuitively to make sustained creative decisions. 

See the magic? It allows you to be objective, even with your own scripts! Now let’s get started. 

How to do a practical script analysis*

1. Dive right into your script and analyze it. Make notes on what made it onto the page. No opinions. No judgments. Create two types of information: 

  • What do I learn about the characters in this page?
  • What happened on this page?

2. Transfer your analysis information into a Color Coded** Spreadsheet 

  • Character information will help you spot the underdeveloped characters and the gaps they might have
  • Through plot information or individual character arcs, you’ll be able to answer questions like: Is your character engaging enough? Is he driving the story? How consistent is their presence throughout the film? 

3. Create your Color Coded Overview and find out where characters and plot are underdeveloped. 

* You can find a downloadable version here (Pg 9-13): shorturl.at/JPWY8 

** The color code used for the spreadsheets and overview is the following: 

  • Red: It doesn’t show on the page, regardless of whether it’s on the writer’s mind 
  • Yellow: It exists but isn’t really being exploited as it should be 
  • Green: The information is on the page actively. 

How to diagnose the problem in your story in 4 simple questions: 

  • What is your story about? You should know it by heart, that means you made a conscious decision about what your theme is and it will shine through.
  • What idea is your film selling to the audience? Where do you stand? What do you have to say about the theme?
  • How is your protagonist’s vulnerability exposed? Does the plot actually test your protagonist?
  • Is this story unique to these characters? This place? Are characters interchangeable? If they are, you have a disconnection - meaning your characters or the setting are just navigating on top

BONUS: When watching the session, Clive will also give you the tools to measure how much of the script you should be rewriting based on the problem you are facing. 

Optimize Your Script Development by Making it Process Driven 

  • Have a clear idea. Understanding that the idea is not the plot. 
  • Determine your theme and find in an interesting way to explore that core human experience 
  • Construct your compass logline
  • Portray a visual fictional world 
  • Develop your characters, understand them. 
  • Find the character arcs for each person and knit your plot with them 
  • Spot your writing challenges, and don’t worry about them: they are the easiest to fix! This is technique, it can be improved. 

My favourite takeaway was Clive suggesting that structure shouldn’t be your only tool in the box, because sometimes what makes films feel too long is the absence of emotional engagement. So even though his excel driven process might seem intimidating and structured, it will - refreshingly - allow you to have more space and freedom to explore the core emotions and ethical journeys that keep audiences invested. 

Keep learning from Clive: http://clivefrayne.co.uk/


Triana García Simón is a TV writer and producer based out of Mexico City & Los Angeles. She has previous experience both as a freelancer and in a Studio environment. 

She loves being on set, but also behind a desk. Before studying a Master’s in TV writing, Triana worked in Hispanic Content Development at MGM Studios. She’s passionate about bringing a diverse approach to Latinx representation in TV. 

Twitter: @trianagarcias 

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