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Cinematic Scriptwriting

Kathryn Millard

This special issue of Scan explores cinematic approaches to writing for film and television and explores the place of ‘story’ in the movies. Are ‘story’ and structure everything?  How can the unique qualities of cinema as a medium be brought more into the writing and filmmaking processes? What does it mean to write for the screen? After all, not only is cinema currently going through an era of substantial and far-reaching transformation, but in our digital era the very notion of writing itself is shifting. Lawrence Lessing is just one who claims that we now write with images and sounds just as much as text (Koman 2005).

One of the many starting points for this issue was a symposium organised by the Department of Media and the Australian Screen Directors’ Association at the Museum of Sydney in April 2006, which featured a presentation by film critic and scholar, Adrian Martin.  Cinematic Scriptwriting aims to contribute to contemporary debates about writing and the cinema, looking back to the history of the medium at the same time as we look forward to new possibilities and new directions. The writers for this issue have drawn on their research practices as filmmakers, directors, designers, screenwriters, visual artists, film critics and academics to contribute to an expanded and ongoing discussion of cinematic writing.

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Adrian Martin suggests caution in positing digital technologies as the portal to a brave new world of independent filmmaking. In Kind of a Revolution, Kind of Not he considers  a range of  inventive strategies for creating ‘cinematic thrill’  in case studies drawn from past and present.

Kathryn Millard turns the focus on script gurus and popular psychology in evangelising Story and Structure. She considers writing as cinematic improvisation in the work  of filmmakers including Chaplin, Wenders, Wong, Winterbottom and Van Sant. [Requires Flash Player v.9]

Alec Morgan reflects on the writing and development process for his soon to be released feature documentary Hunt Angels. How do we write with archival materials in the digital age? 

Alex Munt considers Kiarostami’s approach to cinematic writing and specifically, Ten and the idea of the ‘Open Screenplay’. He also looks at the possibilities of the ‘modular script’. [Requires Flash Player v.9]

Maree Delofski examines the tensions between written documents and their realisation as documentary films. Looking to examples from the work of Australian filmmakers, including Kriv Svenders, Tom Zubrycki and Rosemary Hesp, she asks: How can ‘writing’ best serve documentary?

John Grech takes a scholarly look at the screenplay and its narrative meaning.  The screenplay as it is received, used and interpreted by its audiences.

I would like to thank the contributors to the issue, Alex Munt and Steve Collins, and Richard Harris and the Australian Screen Directors’ Association. 


Koman, R. (2005) “Remixing Culture: An Interview with Lawrence Lessig”, O’Reilly Network,, accessed October 23, 2006