My Great-Uncle’s Life Would Make An Amazing Movie… Or Not?

fountain pen on calligraphy handwriting

Many of our clients come to us with scripts based on the life stories or memoirs of someone in their own family, or themselves. These stories are mostly of people who aren’t famous or well-known to the public, they have a story “that must be told/ would make an amazing movie/ telemovie/mini-series…”

My first question to these writers is: WHY do you think this would make a great movie? Followed by: WHERE is the central conflict? WHO is the antagonist? WHAT IS THE ENGINE driving the story? Then, WHEN is the story set? Life doesn’t often follow a three-act structure. And many writers aren’t aware how hard it is to dramatize a real life story or how expensive it is to produce a script spanning several decades in the past.

Unless the protagonist lives alone in a cave for the duration of their life, biopics and memoirs are expensive to produce. Every location, prop, costume and vehicle for every character needs to be realistically re-created often for several different periods. So unless the character is very famous the story better be dramatically compelling, and ideally confined to just one or two crucial periods in their life. If you are compelled to write a true life drama, family memoir or biopic think about whether you can make it dramatic. Or not.

My colleague Scott McConnell the Story Guy’s article will help you decide.