photo via Go Into the Story
Real conflict is critical to getting your script past the first round of readers in a competition. All competition specs have an idea and an intent. Few of them deliver an emotional experience of that intent because writers avoid the serious conflict it takes to build an inevitable crisis.
Conflicts need to be a cage match. A dirty fight, a power play, a catastrophic failure of the plan. Spec writers tend to get squeamish about running their characters through that mill, or they hold them to finishing school codes of conduct that prevent the conflict the story needs to keep escalating.
Common cheats in place of serious conflict are:
- Wimpy arguments. Squabbling is as annoying to read as it is to listen to. To ramp your argument into real conflict, take the gloves off. No Queensbury Rules, no Geneva Convention, no therapeutic fair fighting techniques. Speak unvarnished truth. Hurt relationships, not just feelings.
- Toe stubbing. Busywork obstacles are inconveniences, which are dull to read. To create suspenseful obstacles, make them costly enough for the protag to consider giving up. If he fails, he could lose his house, his life, his livelihood, his dream. Build big risk in.
- Resolution. Prematurely resolving unfinished business with an apology or a compromise lets out all the tension. Keep the fires burning hot beneath those grudges. It’s emotional jet fuel.
-ANNIE LABARBA @annelabarba
Welcome to NYWIFT, Aisha Amin! Aisha is an NYC-based writer and director. As a director, her work expands across narrative, documentary, and experimental forms to tell authentic stories built from real experiences. Her past film projects have explored and highlighted overlooked communities particularly in New York City, including formerly incarcerated mothers and communities struggling with the presence of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Amongst her directing, Aisha is an emerging screenwriting and was selected to participate in Cine Qua Non’s 2022 Screenwriting Lab. She is a 2022 recipient of NYFA’s Tomorrowland Grant and a 2021 recipient of the NYFA Women's Fund grant. She was a recipient of the 2019-2020 Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Film Center where she directed two short documentaries. She is also a recipient of The Shed's Open Call Fellowship where she expanded her film practice to installation art. Aisha spoke to us about her favorite styles of storytelling, the intersection of narrative and documentary, and her latest projects.READ MORE
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Welcome to NYWIFT, Victoria Duncan! At age 12, Victoria began making films, struck by her power to engage an audience using her imagination. This led her down an exciting path to SNL, The Blacklist, The Sinner, Vice, and branded content for huge companies like Wells Fargo and Amazon, just to name a few. Her LGBT+ ballet film I Am Enough was adapted for the stage and performed at New York City’s iconic Lincoln Center. She is currently working on the screenplay for a feature film. Victoria walks us through her incredible journey, from her childhood favorite movies to presenting a piece to the United Nations.READ MORE