The question of how to be a unique screenwriter crosses every writer’s mind from time to time. It drives more fear and panic in writers starting out than any other question. Especially when they come across the idea that there are no new stories, just new interpretations.
So why is there a Hat in this article? Well, I am going to use my hat as a way of explaining how you can be a unique screenwriter.
Background before the unique twist.
I was in Melbourne visiting my son and we had headed out for the morning to the Queen Victoria Markets for some food and a look around. I wear a lot of hats, the best way to protect a shaved head from the sun, and there is a milliner (hat maker) at the market I like to visit. He makes a lot of custom hats and has a great collection of SteamPunk stuff. He had a really nice top hat, Stiffened leather, felt covered with a purple lining. This was a hat straight from the 1800’s in style and construction.
Bring an idea into a modern context.
So as much as I loved the top hat it was never going to work in a modern context. So I looked at everything I liked and gave it a modern twist. The brim was amazing and had a slight dip to the front and back. I assume for rain when umbrellas were not as common or cheap. The construction was solid and well made.
So the thing that aged it was the height of the hat. I looked at normal fedoras and other hats that work in a modern context. The height of those hats is approximately 3.5” so I had him make me a tophat with a 3.5” height.
By doing this simple change I moved the top hat from the 1800s into 2020. I had also made a unique interpretation of a classic. Perhaps the only one in the world.
How can we do this with a story?
I hear plenty of despair from people that feel that they have nothing new to say once they realise storytelling is the oldest form of communication and all stories have been told in some form. They fail to see the Hat.
Let’s look at an old story. There is a 1700 story from Finland about a Wizard King. He marries a mortal. She is scared of his power. She makes a deal with the fairies to protect her child in return for wealth.
There are some twists and turns about the daughter falling in love with a Prince from a rival kingdom. It ends up that the fairies come good and block the King from leaving his land, therefore, protecting the daughter.
The story revolves around the King being paranoid about his non-magical wife, driving her away. His need to control things, especially his daughter, driving her away and this leading to him losing everything he holds dear. His kingdom was still wealthy and powerful. But he stays at the border using all his magic attempting to break the fairy spell. He let his kingdom rot obsessing about the one thing he couldn’t control.
You could move that into politics, the daughter is a young candidate that an old political influencer is trying to control. Or it drug gang, nearly beat for beat. Or big pharmaceutical trade and the magic is a cue for something.
How to be a unique screenwriter?
Look at the core of the story and move it to new worlds. These worlds are like spice. India does not cook with rabbit. So imagine an Indian rabbit curry. That is another metaphor for the point I am making. Genre and world are the herbs and spices for screenwriters. Combine them in interesting ways to create your own film cuisine.
Experiment with some old stories you like. Find the story at the heart of the story, why you like it. Is it the theme, the relationships. What can you take and make your own?