Loading Events

Filmmaker Programming

Online FilmHouse Talk: Storytelling with Ruth Atkinson

6 Aug
Thu, Aug 6 at 11:00 am
SFFILM at Home


Please join the SFFILM Makers team for a workshop from expert story and script consultant Ruth Atkinson, who will unpack the process to establish the notoriously hard-to-pin-down “theme” by exploring the protagonist’s character arc and how these two critical elements of your script are inextricably linked. Writing a screenplay is like untangling a knotted necklace or solving a Rubik’s cube — it’s a puzzle with myriad ways to get to the last page. So how do you find the strongest narrative path and tell the best story possible?

Well, the only way out, is in. You have to go into the story and uncover the transformational arc and thematic through-line that gives you the spine of the story. One of the ways to do this is to clarify what your protagonist learns over the course of the story. This point of discovery, moment of awareness, or emotional pivot point is the heart and soul of your story. It tells us what the movie is about and points to the underlying theme.

The protagonist’s journey and how they change or grow (or not, in some cases) is the spine of your story. Knowing how to structure their journey and this all-important end of the second act turning point will help you craft a compelling character who undergoes a meaningful transformation that underscores the deeper themes your story explores. Ultimately audiences might come for the action, suspense, or comedy, but it’s this underlying emotional transformation that keeps the audience hooked through to the outcome and resonates with them long after they’ve left the theater.

This event is designed for filmmakers, and is open to current FilmHouse residents and grantees, and SFFILM members with the Filmmaker Add-On. Not yet a member? Join today!

Attendees who RSVP for this event will be sent a link via email one day in advance to register for the online session, which will be conducted with Zoom. We recommend that you download and install Zoom on your computer or mobile device in advance, and set yourself up with a free account. Attendees will have a chance to participate in the Q&A by sending in questions privately to our moderator. Registration closes around one hour before the start of the event — be sure to register early!

Learn more about how to use Zoom and attending our virtual events here.

Speaker Ruth Atkinson

Ruth Atkinson is a Los Angeles-based script consultant and story editor with over 25 years of experience in the film/television business. Atkinson has story edited and consulted on many features and short films that have won awards and been distributed internationally including Leo Award Nominee Indian Road Trip; Whistler Film Festival premiere Fall Back Down; TIFF premieres The Last Porno Show, Saf, and Regarde Moi (Look at Me); Egypt’s Oscar submission Sheikh Jackson; Berinale, Tribeca, & TIFF award winner 37 Seconds; Sundance and SXSW special jury award winner Emergency (short); Berinale & SXSW winner Liberty (short). Other credits include celebrated indies Jonas Chernick’s My Awkward Sexual Adventure, The Perfect Family starring Kathleen Turner, cult favorite Quentin Lee’s The People I’ve Slept With, New Zealand hit Predicament, and Matt Bissonnette’s Genie-nominated Who Loves the Sun starring Molly Parker and Adam Scott.

Atkinson is a screenwriting mentor/advisor for Film Independent’s Project Involve, Global Media Makers, and Screenwriters and Directors Labs. She is also a co-facilitator and mentor for the Whistler Film Festival Screenwriters Lab, held annually in British Columbia, Canada; and screenwriting mentor for the prestigious RBC Michelle Jackson Emerging Filmmaker Award in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Previously Atkinson was a story analyst for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs.