Kenneth Lonergan’s inside-out approach to screenwriting

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Whereas the teaching of other forms of writing, such as writing a novel or poem, is less prescriptive with a specific form a writer should adhere to, writing a screenplay tends to be dictated by prescribed ideas on how to form a story in acts and to respect specific turning points. These principles are obviously useful for many as they continue to be established in how-to guides, are regularly used in development meetings, and are a regular staple of teaching at Higher Education because they are easy to teach. However, the dominance of these principles is antithetical and not utilitarian. Screenwriter, playwright, and director, Kenneth Lonergan is one of the few writers who was taught, and developed, an approach to writing whereby he allows the writing to dictate the structure. This paper examines Lonergan’s process in writing his three feature films You Can Count on Me (2000), Margaret (2011), and Manchester by the Sea (2016) and to what effect, if any, this approach has on the final work. The aim of the research is to develop further knowledge about this less known practice of developing screenplays from the inside-out and to establish what benefits this anti-analytical approach have to beginner and established screenwriters. This, in turn, could help alternative approaches to teach screenwriting at Higher Education and align principles of structure alongside arguably more helpful approaches to developing a story for the screen.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2021
EventScreenwriting Research Network Conference 2021: Pushing Boundaries - Online
Duration: 31 Aug 202117 Sept 2021
Conference number: 2021


ConferenceScreenwriting Research Network Conference 2021
Internet address


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