The Queen’s Gambit – How to create Netflix’s most-watched TV show – 10 lessons from the screenplay

In this Screenwriting Interview we go behind the scenes of the writing process from the series creator and screenwriter Scott Frank and lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy. The Queens Gambit is now Netflix’s most-watched scripted limited series, with 62 million households…

The Queen's Gambit - How to create Netflix’s most-watched TV show - 10 lessons from the screenplay

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In this Screenwriting Interview we go behind the scenes of the writing process from the series creator and screenwriter Scott Frank and lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy.

The Queens Gambit is now Netflix’s most-watched scripted limited series, with 62 million households watching in its first 28 days.♟👏🏼

Based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 book about a young chess prodigy – TQG follows Beth Harmon, an orphan-turned-chess prodigy who learns the game from the janitor in her orphanage.

Anya Taylor Joy shines in this seven-episode mini series. What are your thoughts on this show? 💭📺

Here are 10 screenwriting tips you can learn from The Queen’s Gambit:

0:00 – Intro

1:17 – 01 – “The Queen’s Gambit was a book I just loved and I didn’t think anybody would make it. I was shocked that Netflix was dumb enough to do it.” – Write what you love, you never know what will be successful.

2:13 – 02 – It took 30 years, 9 rewrites, and series of directors interested to get The Queen’s Gambit finally made. If you love the material never give up. If it doesn’t work as a movie, add new elements to it and rewrite it as a tv series.

3:50 – 03 – “Endings are very much a function of beginnings. Deliver an EMOTIONAL PAYLOAD at the end because that’s what the audience really wants. Not just exhilarating, but something that’s emotional on top of that.”

5:00 – 04 – “I firmly believe that every character has to be in the GREY AREA. They are not all good and they are not all bad. And I think that’s hugely important. Your good guy needs to be complicated and your antagonist needs to be complicated.”

6:33 – 05 – “There are three things that get old fast – grief anger and drunkenness. Usually, the anger is fake, because it’s built off of some fake conflict. But if you have real characters then there can be REAL CONFLICT. People are not behaving just because the script said so.”

7:37 – 06 – “I realized that you had to contextualize each of these chess matches in some sort of emotional context. You had to understand what the stakes are – not just about winning and losing, but for her personally.” It’s always about EMOTIONAL STAKES!

9:20 – 07 – If you have a character who is not very communicative or affectionate, you must create some trait which will make the viewers IDENTIFY with her. With Beth we care about her because we know she’s TRYING, we know that she doesn’t want to be alone.

10:13 – 08 – 90% of directing is casting. Discuss your character with your possible casting choices. If you know you need a peculiar character, whose face will be in a lot of close-ups choose someone with unusual facial features, who can do a lot with her eyes and her facial expressions.

11:44 – 09 – Encourage your actors to voice their point of view and give them “their take”. Be in control, have your vision, but involve the actors in the creative process. They will feel valued and you might get surprising spontaneous performances from them.

12:52 – 10 – Create character change through cinematography. First set SPECIFIC RULES for your story world. For example, your rule is: never use a handheld camera. Then at the end when you break that rule and use handheld it will say something about your character.

16:04 – EXTRA TIP – Scott Frank talks about THREE MOST COMMON SCRIPT PROBLEMS:
1. there is no character,
2. the tone is all over the place,
3. the third act doesn’t work.
He offers the solution: “Whenever I’m stuck 99% of the time it’s because the characters aren’t good enough.”

17:50 – Outro

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