As screenwriters, we tend to look at a story from the author’s point of view. Step back a moment and look at your story from the actor’s point of view. You may be surprised at how your viewpoint may change.
Probably the biggest problem with most screenplays is that the characters are flat and only exist to move the story along. Such flat characters are one-dimensional and never grow, change, or do anything interesting. From a screenwriter’s point of view, that’s okay because the main focus is on the main character anyway. However, that’s exactly the wrong way to look at it.
Every character must be interesting and every character must have a goal. Not only does this make your story more interesting, but it also makes your story more attractive to actors as well.
Think of all those A-list actors just dying for the next screenplay that will catapult their careers to stardom. They want to play an interesting character. If your script has a great story but boring characters, guess what? Nobody will want to play in your script. If major actors pass on your script, guess what? It probably won’t get made.
So look at your script from an actor’s point of view. Actors love characters that grow and change so they can express all sorts of emotions. No actor wants to play a single, flat role so your character must exhibit a wide range of emotions from elation to despair and everything in between.
Remember, this applies not only to your main character but to all your characters as well. Every character has a goal and that’s the first thing every actor looks at in a script is “What’s my motivation?”
If your characters don’t have any motivation other than to conveniently advance the plot, then your screenplay needs more work. Remember, every character has a goal and to keep your theme unified, every character’s goal should be similar to the main character’s goal.
For example, “Finding Nemo” has Marlin trying to find love with his son. His son is trying to prove himself by growing up. Dory, who is helping Marlin, is trying to find someplace where she can belong. Ultimately, all three characters are searching for acceptance.
Now imagine if these goals were completely unrelated. Suppose Marlin wanted to find his son, his son wanted to blow up Sea World, and Dory wanted to find buried treasure. Suddenly all these diverse goals seem more like three different movies. When all characters search for the same goal, it emphasizes and illuminates the main character’s goal that much more.
Think of those lousy karate movies where the hero simply wants revenge on some evil kung fu master who defeated the hero’s teacher. The whole movie revolves around this single goal and none of the other characters seem to have any goals of their own. As a result, all the fancy karate action scenes just seem empty and pointless. That’s what happens when you don’t have enough interesting characters striving to reach their own goals.
If you always think like an actor, you’ll always look for interesting roles where you can express yourself. Actors are basically narcissistic and want to be in the spotlight, even the ones in minor roles, so give each role a chance to shine in the spotlight. This will not only make your story stronger and more interesting, but it will also increase the odds that an A-list actor will read your script and say, “That’s the one I want to star in.” When that happens, your screenplay will magically get made.