From fact to fiction: a reflexive analysis of how screenwriter and subject intersect in the transformative process of authoring a modern biopic
AuthorBentham, Michael Richard
AffiliationFine Arts and Music Collected Works
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-05-07.
© 2019 Michael Richard Bentham
The choice to work within the fictional frame of the biopic genre gives the screenwriter powerful representational tools to vivify character. But the tension between historical fidelity, and narrative fiction, raises important ethical questions. What responsibility does the marketing phrase, "based on a true story" place on the shoulders of the socially responsible screenwriter who is essentially writing a fiction? This practice-based enquiry responds to these questions by challenging the pervasive expectation that writers of historical and biographical fiction defend their truth claims on the methodological terms of the historian, and offers an alternative to a media studies proposal to cross-fertilise screenwriting practice with media ethics. By reframing the conversation away from empirical notions of historical fidelity, and consequentialist models of ethical evaluation, a significant methodological issue emerges, one that stems from a profound misconception of filmmaking practice that views the making of moving images as the non-reflexive application of mechanical skills. To counter this misconception, a working definition of filmmaking methodology is articulated, where mise-en-scene is shown to operate as a core reflexive strategy. This definition is intended to open up a conversation, and contribute to a better understanding of how filmmaking practice, of which screenwriting is a part, can generate and disseminate new knowledge in a range of forms and genres, including the biopic. Defining filmmaking as a creative practice also provides guidance to scholars, irrespective of discipline, who wish to engage with filmmaking as a rigorous methodological approach to conducting their own enquiries.
Keywordsbiopic; filmmaking; screenwriting; mise-en-scène; creative practice
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