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Screenwriting with futurelearn

I’m doing a two week free screenwriting course with futurelearn.com. I know very little about screenwriting but there’s a significant ‘read across’ from playwriting. I’m now at the beginning of week two and we’ve been asked to analyse a screenplay. I’ve chosen Lee Hall’s Rocketman (the Elton John bio-pic). My answers are below.

List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.)

  • Elton hugs his younger self (Reg)
  • He goes into rehab (this has also been a framing device for the plot)
  • He is to play Madison Square Gardens but walks out
  • He has a heart attack caused by drug abuse
  • He rejects Bernie’s attempt to help him
  • He has a break up with his mother and step father
  • He marries Renate and regrets it
  • He has an HIV test (negative)
  • He enjoys sexual excess
  • Bernie asks for time out and he pushes him away
  • He plays the biggest gig of his career at the Dodgers’ stadium
  • He attempts suicide
  • He comes out to his family (they already knew). He’s determined no one else should know
  • He tries to reconnect with his father but there’s no connection
  • He buys everything in sight
  • Reid becomes his manager
  • He falls for John Reid emotionally and physically
  • He has a massive success at the Troubadour club in LA
  • He persuades Dick James to manage and promote him
  • He forms a team with Bernie Taupin
  • He approaches Dick James (music manager and promoter) but is turned down
  • He becomes a successful backing musician on tour and leaves the Royal Academy of Music
  • He plays a gig in a pub and becomes a performer
  • He passes the audition to go to the Royal Academy of Music
  • His father comes home but he can’t make him be affectionate
  • He displays a gift for the piano and ‘earns’ lessons
  • He yearns for his father’s affection

Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?

  • Elton/Reg wants success, acclaim, wealth, fame and experiences. What he needs is affection and self-worth. He only becomes aware of this during rehab.

Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious?

  • He is impulsive, creative, needy, self-sabotaging, self-destructive, lonely, a shy exhibitionist, emotional and demanding.

Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?

  • Outrageous, talented, full of fun and boisterous.

List any important physical characteristics

  • A tendency to put on weight. Hair loss. Energetic / hyperactive.