Thursday, April 26th, 2018

J.K. Rowling’s first original screenplay is an immediate success

Posted on December 10, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Arthur A. Levine Books

By: Katie Harris, Free Press Intern

J.K. Rowling does it again. The woman who wrote all seven Harry Potter novels has recently come out with another masterpiece, titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay, which served as the screenplay for the recent film, and fans around the world may be a little surprised that she has written a screenplay. In case some people haven’t read or seen the movie, Fantastic Beasts is a story that takes place in New York in 1926, where the main character, Newt Scamander, believed his stay was going to be brief. When he loses his magical case filled with fantastic beasts and they escape, the citizens of New York are endangered. He then goes on an adventure to find his magical case and recover his fantastic beasts with the help of unlikely individuals.

Most fans of books that turn into movies want to reread the book to familiarize themselves with the story before they see the film. What makes reading a screenplay different? First of all, a screenplay allows for fast-paced reading because it gives the reader a chance to see what goes on in each scene of the film. Secondly, it breaks down, character by character, what the actor is going to say or do in the film. Lastly, it defines film terms that people may or may not know. At the end of the screenplay, Rowling provides a glossary of these film terms, which is super helpful to those who aren’t familiar with film terminology. All of these terms are used to determine which actions, shots, gestures or voices will be incorporated into a scene.  

This helps not only the actors, but also the directors and producers of the film. Some of the terms used in this screenplay are easy to follow. The abbreviations are always capitalized. For example, the abbreviations INT or EXT determine if the scene is going to be located inside or outside, which is then followed by a description of the scene taking place. The term O.S. can be misunderstood for “on screen,” but actually stands for “off screen.” It is an action that takes place off screen or dialogue that is spoken in a voiceover. So readers (who aren’t familiar with these film terms) should keep this in mind.

There are some minor differences between reading a British screenplay and an American screenplay. The wording can be hard to understand at first, especially when read aloud. Once the reader becomes used to reading the British language, they will understand the language faster in future stories. Another difference is the format that Rowling uses. Even though most of it is the same in the American screenplay, such as the separation of dialogue between characters and film terms, there seems to be a lengthier description of a scene or a character. It’s great that there is more of a description, but there are some parts of this screenplay where this style shouldn’t be used at all.


Overall the Fantastic Beasts screenplay is worth reading, especially for those who are fans of Rowling’s work. Throughout the screenplay there are a few Harry Potter references that fans will like. The book is a little on the expensive side (22 dollars), but it’s cheaper if bought on Amazon or Google Play. This is Rowling’s first screenplay, and we should expect more work like this on  upcoming films based on her novels. Should we look forward to this? Yes, absolutely! This screenplay and film are a prologue for Harry Potter. Whether you are new to Rowling’s work or an avid fan of magic and fantasy, you will love her debut screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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