Screenwriting & Political Narrative

The Caretaker’s Suite and Boiler Room of a New York Hotel, 1950s (1/12, 2016) – Darryl Audette


Application of Screenwriting Technique to Political Narrative

John Fraim

Over the years, methods of storytelling have changed to reflect the technology of their time. The most advanced form of storytelling is screenwriting. Its methods and techniques are used to write the greatest stories of our time from literature to films. While there are a number of “schools” of screenwriting, all screenwriting is concerned with the flow (and change) of images, emotions and actions through story narratives.

Screenplays are key parts of the entertainment industry, but an interesting new development is their increasing use in the business world. The book StoryNomicsby Hollywood’s leading screenwriting guru Robert McKee is evidence of the growing interest in using screenplay technique to create business stories. Another leading book in this area is Building A StoryBrandby Don Miller. Unlike McKee, Miller is not a screenwriter but a businessman. Both books represent two of the best-sellers in the new “collage industry” of the application of screenwriting’s storytelling methods to business. They are certainly not the only ones as more books crowd this business niche every day.

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Behind this is an interesting change in the application of stories from personal experience to brand-building. The story form is being appropriated into the creation of business narratives. This is an important change. Throughout history, stories have been used to communicate experiences rather than create brands. Today, they are increasingly being used to create business stories related to branding.

The application of screenplay storytelling techniques to the entertainment industry is of course the original purpose of screenplays. Their expanded application to the general business community evidences a new trend. With their growing application from entertainment to business it seems likely they will soon find an application to the government industry. In effect, the application of screenplay techniques to politics seems a natural evolution.

Here, we need to distinguish between political screenplays in the entertainment industry and screenplays used to create political narratives. Certainly, politics in screenplays play a powerful role in shaping popular opinion. Yet, the true (and perhaps ultimate?) power for screenplays is not in the creation of political films but rather in the construction of political narratives. Political films are products of Hollywood. Political narratives are products of Washington DC.

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The application of screenplays to government (the public sector) seems to initially fall into a few major areas. One, is the application of screenplays to political parties. A second is the application of screenplays to political candidates. A third is the application of screenplays to political causes. A final application is the use of screenplays in national and global politics.

When stories create the context of culture rather than the content, they become a medium rather than messages in this medium. This is when they will reach their true potential. Whether they will do this or not is still yet to be seen. Whether they should do this or not is also worthy of extended debate.





One thought on “Screenwriting & Political Narrative

  1. John I totally agree with your concept of screenplays , very interesting. While I was growing up the theme was
    patriotism and bravery to our country and fighting evil. Barbara

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