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Between the Cracks: Theme, Screenwriting and Visual Structure

Crawford, David Neill


David Neill Crawford


This research explores the manual approach to screenwriting and finds that the element of theme is not examined with the same analytical focus as other primary elements, plot, character and story. Its properties remain mysterious and discussion of it arouses controversy and disagreement. Following Edward Said’s notion of ‘delimitation’ and what Steven Maras has called the ‘discourse frame’, the project takes an experimental and innovative approach to researching what is known about theme that is intertextual in its design.
Literature from outside the field is used to connect theme to what Mehring identifies, from inside the field, as ‘the Art experience’. Discussion and analysis of ideas that surround the ‘author’, ‘style’ and ‘poetic quality’ show that an affect-driven method is capable of reframing the screenwriting process. Derrida’s post-structuralism recognises a process where forces shift from internal to external space and helps to demonstrate the movement of theme travelling between feeling and reason in a reflexive framework.
Pasolini’s semiological investigation into film language and the intermedial status of the screenplay are used to further identify the characteristics of theme and show how it is able to crystallize within space delimiting events in a screenplay. The process is illustrated by examples: Monet’s series of paintings of Rouen Cathedral, Mallarme’s poem A Throw of the Dice… and Scott and Bryant’s screenplay for the film Don’t Look Now. The conclusion shows that the affect-driven method described calls for a screenplay that is a new kind of ‘blueprint’ capable of capturing and making explicit what Pasolini Identified as a ‘Language of Film Poetry.


Crawford, D. N. (2016). Between the Cracks: Theme, Screenwriting and Visual Structure. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Jun 11, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 13, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jan 24, 2020
Keywords Screenwriting, theme, intertextuality, affect-driven method,
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