character building blog

Character building in Filmmaking – 5 tips to build the perfect character for your next film to #MakeTheCut

Anjum Rajabali, HOD Screenwriting quoted in WWI Virtual Academy’s Certificate Program in Screenwriting – “The most interesting and the most important element in your screenwriting effort will be your character”. A character tells the story through his or her experiences in the film, which is directly proportional to the viewer’s experience hence making it a crucial part in a scriptwriter’s journey to developing the script. However, writing a remarkable character is easier said than done.

We have previously spoken about the steps to visual storytelling, today let’s explore Character building in filmmaking:


What is Character Building?

Character building is the process of creating a character of fiction by fueling it with emotional depth so that the audience can relate to it. The traits of a character can be distinguished as the fundamental characteristics – meaning the central goals and motivations, and the transformative experiences that shape the character as the story advances.


How to build the perfect character for your next film to #MakeTheCut:

1. Build your character from your premise
A premise is a character in a situation, which serves as a guideline not only for the character itself but also for the plots, sub-plots, and secondary characters. Get clarity on how you want the script to go, figure out the dramatic aspects of your story, and build your character from there by asking what are the qualities that your character would require in order to fulfill these tasks. Having a clear premise will make your task easier by 50%.


2. Create your character’s personality
Once you have the premise in place, start building the personality of the protagonist. To bring the most out of the character, it is important for you as a scriptwriter to step into your character’s shoes and think as he or she would. You can use character archetypes to build the foundation for your character, and from there go underneath the visible layers of the character, for example, his beliefs, psyche, fears, and so on which will reveal themselves as the plot proceeds.


3. Define the antagonist forces
An antagonist force could be as important in a film as a protagonist at times. This could be a person, a situation, or the flaws in the character itself that the protagonist gets to overcome or fight against in order to rise as the Hero with the progression of the story. The greater the struggles, the more chances for you to interestingly develop the character of your protagonist and antagonist further.


4. Create curiosity around the character
Create curiosity around how the character would respond by creating situations aligned with your character’s persona. This helps in discovering traits of your character that were untapped when the character first came into existence, whether in the writer’s mind or in the audience’s viewpoint.
This gives more life to the character, giving it a strong personality as various hidden facets of the character are brought to life as per the situation’s demand. For example, in Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, the protagonist has a major character flaw. His fear of heights brings about a series of events that lead to highlighting various other dimensions to him, also contributing to the key dramatic elements of the plot. As the different facets reveal themselves, the plot piques the audience’s interest in knowing about the character’s next moves.


5. Discover your imagination
While you do want the character to be believable and realistic, understand that it is your imagination, your character, and your plot. Reveal different layers of your character’s personality, beyond what’s visible on the surface. Use your imagination to make your character interesting.

Dive deeper into the nuances of character building and translate your passion for storytelling into films that leave a lasting impact. Learn more about our Online Filmmaking Programs here.