Unknown spaces and uncertainty in film development | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1759-7137
  • E-ISSN: 1759-7145


This article examines a discovery-driven process to script development as opposed to a formula-driven one. It is an investigation into the uncertain nature of the creative process in general, and the all-pervasive quest for certainty in film development in particular. Development strategies that value a discovery-driven process are few and far between, as are strategies to explore the gaps, or elisions, within a screenplay where subtext thrives, yet these are transformative spaces that invite an active and creative response. In this article I engage in practice-based research as a writer/director and as a teacher, and investigate two particular areas of film development. The first is early-stage script development where ideas are still struggling to find form; the second is latter-stage script development where a screenplay is refined in order to create spaces where others might respond imaginatively. I advocate risk taking, and the use of unconventional models, in order to create new spaces for students to explore their creativity, and I examine the ‘unknown’ and the ‘uncertain’ as active spaces, both for a screenwriter developing new work and for those who engage creatively with a screenplay as it transforms into a film. I argue that gaps or spaces within a screenplay offer opportunities for directors, actors, key creative crew and eventually an audience to actively participate, and that a development process that values the unknown offers the screenwriter a gateway to adventure and innovation. Screenwriting textbooks rarely enter the unknown and uncertain spaces of creativity yet, as many artists (albeit working in less-expensive mediums) seem to know instinctively, it is within the interplay of the known and the unknown, of passion and reason, and of logic and intuition – that creativity lies.


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