“Sound-Conscious” Screenwriting: Considering sound as storytelling tool in the screenplay


This essay considers issues relating to how sound has been treated historically by screenwriters, and advocates for a more “sound-conscious” screenwriting practice. From my own position as a screenwriter and educator of student screenwriters I begin by looking at common assumptions about the use of sound in screenplays and explore the challenges of including sound as part of a screenwriting practice; then I develop a framework by which screenwriters can identify different categories of sound in order to recognise potential for using sound as a storytelling tool within screenplays. This leads to an analysis of two examples of what could be defined as sound-conscious screenwriting, The Conversation (1974) and A Quiet Place (2018) and the framework is also applied to a sample of recent unproduced screenplays. I conclude with thoughts about how ‘sound-consciousness’ can be encouraged through the pedagogy of screenwriting.

Author Biography

Ben Slater, Nanyang Technological University

Ben Slater’s many writings on film include Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore (Marshall Cavendish: 2006). He’s been a script editor for several acclaimed films and written two produced feature films Camera (2014) and Malam (2021). He’s taught screenwriting at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore since 2010.