Writing for Theatre vs Writing for Film: Know the Difference

Good storytelling is at the heart of every great script, whether you’re writing for theatre (playwriting) or film (screenwriting). Besides, history has shown us that arts and theatre can coexist with movies as they use different modes of storytelling.

The trick is to make subtle changes and adjustments in writing while switching between playwriting and screenwriting. Know these differences to become an effective scriptwriter regardless of the medium.

Varied Dependence on Dialogues and Images

Both theatre and film rely on audio-visuals like dialogues, images, sound effects, etc., but their dependence varies. A movie has a wider scope for adding a series of dramatic images. After proper editing, such images help the movie have the desired effect on the audience. Moreover, you can easily cover the actor’s subtle facial expressions or body language in films through close-up shots.

On the other hand, a play heavily relies on dialogues. It’s up to the playwright and the acting prowess of the actor to have an impact on the audience. In fact, a general theatre discussion topic among artists and writers revolves around how to make a dialogue delivery more effective.

Thus, you must focus more on creating the right scenes when you’re writing a movie script. But, when writing a theatre script, you need to be more descriptive with stress on dialogues or monologues.


Plays have less choices in selecting locations. Even if the play is at a theatre that offers a range of customisation, you can’t experiment much with the location. On the contrary, there are no location constraints while filming a movie. A director can shoot a film across geographical locations, depending on the budget.

Thus, when you’re playwriting, you must aim for minimum or no location changes. However, if the theme of the play demands location changes, then write the scenes in a way that you can make the changes quickly while the play is underway.

But you have more liberty to experiment with multiple locations while writing for a movie. It’s also why a standard screenplay typically has more scenes than a playscript.

Number of Actors

Just like locations, the number of actors in a play is very small compared to a movie. A movie can have a large number of actors depending on the scene. For instance, if the scene is in a public place, then many additional actors would be needed to fill up the background.

Thus, a play gives you the liberty to write more dialogues for the actors involved in a scene. In movies, you might have to rely more on images to reveal the character.

Additionally, consider joining an online discussion forum on scriptwriting where you can gain from other writers’ experiences. You can consider hosting such discussions on a social networking platform dedicated to having the likes of such conversations.

For example, the Khul Ke app is a great social platform for artists, writers, and directors to come together and indulge in meaningful discussions related to movies, television, and theatre. Moreover, the RoundTable feature of the app allows you to create moderated discussions around exciting topics of your preference.

If you’re a good storyteller, then switching between playwriting and screenwriting shouldn’t be a big task for you. After all, at the heart of all modes of entertainment lies creativity. So, aim to become a bankable scriptwriter first, and the writing process will follow.

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