Questions In FilmmakingThe ability to question everything is an integral part of filmmaking.  Questions need to be asked in order to develop stories and personalities for characters, which portray them in an authentic and meaningful manner.  There is, however, no need to obtain definitive answers to all the questions, as this will make the structure and characters very rigid.

Questions are asked to make you think, daydream and ponder about what the possible solutions may be.  In this way your characters and stories will become multi-dimensional and interesting.  If you think in terms of solutions, it is possible to come up with more than one.  Remember, if one solution doesn’t work, you can always try another one.

The process of finding solutions is fluid rather than static.  By looking at things this way, you keep the doors open for change, whereby you make a choice and commit to it; but if it doesn’t work, it is ok to change your mind.

Possible questions to ask about characters.

The questions listed below are designed to open your mind about the many different facets of characters, which are valuable to think about when you are building your characters.

The list is not a definitive list that you need to sit down and come up with the answers to before proceeding with your film.  Instead, consider all of these elements in relation to your characters and it will expand them greatly and make them interesting to the audience.

Tip: If you think of these questions in relation to yourself as well as to your characters, you are more likely to use these questions to think in a way that creates depth and ensures that you end up with real, believable characters.

  • What values does the character possess?
  • What drives her?
  • What are the character’s interests?
  • What makes her vulnerable; is it possible to hurt her and how?
  • Does she have anything to lose?
  • Whom or what does she trust?
  • Are there underlying things going on that the character is not disclosing?
  • Is there an unpleasant truth lurking in his background?  If so, can he face it or is he afraid to, and why?
  • Does he make mistakes? What sort of mistakes; big or small?
  • What are the consequences of his mistakes?
  • What are his hopes and aspirations?
  • What is he afraid of and why?
  • What is he intelligent about; how does he use it?
  • What are his blind spots?
  • Is he self-aware?
  • In what way is he creative?
  • Is he protecting himself from painful memories?
  • What makes him laugh?
  • What makes him happy?
  • What makes him sad?
  • What would make him cry?
  • What is his financial situation; is he rich or poor?
  • What defines him as a person? Is it his job, his family, his hobby?
  • What are the problems that exist in his life? small and big; short and long term?
  • What is the most significant thing that has ever happened to him?
  • What effect did this have on him?
  • Who does he admire?
  • Who admires him?
  • Will he change and grow within the movie; how will he develop during the film?
  • What is happening in the first scene?
  • Is she doing anything that she has never done before?
  • How does she feel about this?
  • Is she lying to herself about anything? If so what and why?
  • What are her demons?
  • Does she have secrets?
  • What are her secrets and why does she keep them?
  • What does she think would happen if her secrets were revealed?
  • Is she fulfilled in her life?

You can see how  looking at all of these questions  will help to make the character authentic and multi-dimensional.

The use of mysterious lines

Mysterious lines are lines where the meaning is not immediately clear.  This may be due to the way the sentence is structured, or to the use of little known words or of language from the past.

A good example of this can be found in productions of the works of Shakespeare, where it is necessary to take the language used and translate it into modern English language in order for the actor to know what exactly what he is trying to portray.

When Hamlet uses the famous line, “to be or not to be, that is the question”, he is in fact having an existential crisis. Therefore, the scene needs to be very emotional.

It is the director’s duty to ensure that an actor knows the simple meaning of the words so that he can put the right emotion and action to them; rather than the actor just thinking that he is reciting great poetic language.

If language is mysterious, feelings and emotions of productions must be accurately evoked, otherwise the audience may be at a loss as to know what is going on, and will quickly lose interest.