The Theme of a Screenplay

May 2nd, 2012 by Ron


By the Script Blogger

Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.

The theme is at the heart of whatever message, moral, or commentary the story may send or the author hopes will be interpreted regarding the concept.


Identifying a story’s main theme—for example, “deceit”, “fear”, “death” or “love” —does not inherently involve identifying the story’s thesis or claims about the theme or its definitions, properties, values, or significance.

Like a moral message, themes often explore historically common or cross-culturally recognizable ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly.

The theme is sometimes confused with the ‘Concept’, whereas one is the mechanics of the story and the other is purpose of the story. The difference between the two may not be broadcasted to the audience but it is a difference certainly the author should know.

As a writer, if you have the chance to pitch your script in a face-to-face meeting with a producer or executive, don’t be surprised if you are asked, “What’s the theme?”

You may also be asked, “What’s the tone?”

Understanding what you have written and being able to explain it in a short concise manner is as important as having an outstanding different and original story, presented in a structured, correctly formatted document.

For your information ‘The Tone’ is the voice that strengthens the genre of the script and identifies the emotional ride the writer hopes the audience will be taken on, on seeing the finished production.

Many new writers have a flash of an idea for a script, that in reality is really just the glimmer of a concept for one or two scenes, whereas producers and executives are looking for a total package.

Which should include a great story, amazing characters, stimulating dialogue, all wrapped up in a concept that presents an identifiable theme with a strong tone; structured in an entertaining well paced motivating screenplay.

Examine your latest screenplay, the tone should be apparent within the first couple of pages and the theme introduced by page five and confirmed in the last five pages.


6 responses to “The Theme of a Screenplay”

  1. TQ says:

    The Theme of a Screenplay is a great post and you do a well written job of writing unique info.

  2. TL says:

    The Theme of a Screenplay is a nice blog post and you do a complete job of posting detailed information.

  3. Mark Gilvary says:

    Great Post As Always Ron!

    Hope You Are Doing Good.

    Best Regards,


    *PS: I’ve just tried clicking On Your “Outlining Your Screenplay” Post
    and it does not appear to be accessible at the moment. I thought that I should let You know.



  4. Len Burns says:

    It’s good for us that someone of your stature is willing to give your time to write gems of screenwriting wisdom that we all can share.

    Many thanks Ron. Greatly appreciated.

    Regards – Len Burns.

  5. Ron says:


    It hasn’t been shot yet; it was postponed until later this year. I will believe when I see it.

  6. Peter P. says:

    How’s your movie coming, Ron? Should be wrapped by now, right?