Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Dr Renee Newman

Abstract

This creative practice research explores the concept of an identifiable screenwriter’s voice from the perspective of screenwriting as craft, proposing that voice can be understood and described based on its particular characteristics. Voice is understood to be the authorial presence of the screenwriter, whose mind shapes every aspect of the text. This presence is inscribed in the text through the many choices the screenwriter makes. More than this, the research argues that the choices made inflect the text with a cultural-national worldview. This occurs because of the close association between voice and personal (including cultural/national) identity, and because of the power of textual elements to signify broader concepts, ideas and phenomena belonging to the actual world.

The thesis includes an original feature film screenplay evidencing a particular Australian voice, and an exegesis which describes voice and national inflection more fully. The practice research began with the interrogation of voice in a previously-existing screenplay which, though an original work written by an Australian screenwriter – myself – was described as having an American voice. Voice and its mechanisms were then further investigated through the practice of writing the original screenplay, Calico Dreams. Theories of voice from within literary theory, and the concept of mind-reading, from cognitive literary theory, acted as departure points in understanding voice in screenwriting. Through such understanding a conceptual framework which can assist practitioners and others to locate aspects of voice within a screenplay, was designed. This framework is a major research outcome and its use is illustrated through the description of voice in the screenplay, Calico Dreams.

The research found that screenwriter’s voice serves to unify and cohere the screenplay text as an aesthetic whole through its stylistic continuities and particularities. Through the voice, the screenwriter also defines many of the attributes and characteristics of the film-to-be. A theory of screenwriter’s voice significantly shifts the theoretical landscape for screenwriting at a time when an emerging discourse of screenwriting is developing which can enrich understandings of the relationship between the screenplay and its film.

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