1st Edition

What’s the Story? The Director Meets Their Screenplay An Essential Guide for Directors and Writer-Directors

By Peter Markham Copyright 2021
    202 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    202 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    A structured perspective on the crucial interface of director and screenplay, this book encompasses twenty-two seminal aspects of the approach to story and script that a director needs to understand before embarking on all other facets of the director’s craft.

    Drawing on seventeen years of teaching filmmaking at a graduate level and on his prior career as a director and in production at the BBC, Markham shows how the filmmaker can apply rigorous analysis of the elements of dramatic narrative in a screenplay to their creative vision, whether of a short or feature, TV episode or season. Combining examination of such fundamental topics as story, premise, theme, genre, world and setting, tone, structure, and key images with the introduction of less familiar concepts such as cultural, social, and moral canvas, narrative point of view, and the journey of the audience, What’s The Story? The Director Meets Their Screenplay applies the insights of each chapter to a case study—the screenplay of the short film Contrapelo, nominated for the Jury Award at Tribeca in 2014.

    This book is an essential resource for any aspiring director who wants to understand exactly how to approach a screenplay in order to get the very best from it, and an invaluable resource for any filmmaker who wants to understand the important creative interplay between the director and screenplay in bringing a story to life.

    Acknowledgments; Introduction; PART A — The Approach; 1 What’s the Story? 2 Premise; 3 Theme; 4 Genre; 5 World/Setting; 6 Cultural, Social, and Moral Canvas; 7 Tone; 8 Structure; 9 Passage of Time; 10 Character; 11 Narrative Point of View; 12 Introduction of the Protagonist and Main Characters; 13 Key Images; 14 Opening Image, Frame, Shot; 15 Closing Image, Frame, Shot; 16 Endings; 17 The 5-Step Creative Analysis of the Screenplay; 17.1 A brief summary of the scene; 17.2 The journey of the protagonist; 17.3 The journey of the audience; 17.4 The turning point of the scene; 17.5 the function of the scene; 18 The Director’s Statement; PART B — The Case Study — CONTRAPELO Screenplay by Liska Ostojic and Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer; 19 Screenplay; 20 CONTRAPELO Case Study; 21 CONCLUSION; Index


    Peter Markham is a creative consultant, teacher, author, and former directing head at the American Film Institute Conservatory. His alumni, award winners at major festivals, have notable careers in film and TV. Prior to teaching, he was a director in the UK, and worked with filmmakers including Anthony Minghella and Martin Scorsese.

    "Peter Markham is a passionate, rigorous, devoted, and (most importantly) mischievous teacher. I cherish my time as his student at AFI, and count myself fortunate to now have this comprehensive guide to refer to."

    Ari Aster, writer-director of Hereditary and Midsommar

    "Peter Markham taught me at AFI. With each class I fell deeper under the spell of 'point of view.' To see it as a secret passageway into the heart of any story. He approaches directing as a strengthening of skills by which you are able to do the hard work of externalizing what’s on the inside."

    Zal Batmanglij, Co-Writer, Director, The OA

    "Still applying the lessons I've learned from Peter Markham at AFI, I'm grateful to have his knowledge and passion bottled up in a book on directing, to be shared with everyone."

    Asaph Polonsky, Writer-Director, One Week and a Day, Gan Foundation Award — Cannes International Critics’ Week 2016.

    "An extremely well-researched treatise on a vital aspect of the directorial process, this book teaches directors how to understand, and think deeply about, the fundamentals of the script prior to stepping onto set."

    Greg Takoudes
    , Director, Producer, Writer, and Adjunct Professor of Film Studies at The New School, New York

    "Peter Markham's lessons continue to leave an imprint on my understanding of filmmaking and my choices as a writer/director. His unabated thirst for knowledge, thorough film analysis, and emphasis on narrative point-of-view have strengthened my approach toward storytelling. The time I spent in Peter's classes helped me find my voice."

    Asher Jelinsky, Student Academy Award Winner 2019