The Four Different Types of True Story Scripts

There are four different types of true stories that #screenwriters can research, develop, and write. And each of them comes with its own freedoms, restrictions, constraints, and benefits.

A THREAD (content from @KenMovies)
“Based on” a True Story:
The characters, storylines, and most scenes are primarily based on actual occurrences. There are creative liberties taken for sure, but most of the depictions within the script are based on what actually happened and how it happened.
Films like Schindler’s List, The Right Stuff, Lincoln, 127 Hours, and Apollo 13 are excellent examples of screenplays that did their best to depict the actual true stories.
The story presented in the movie or series is as close to what really happened in real life as possible while allowing the screenwriter to structure a cinematic, dramatic, and compelling narrative. That is what sets this type of film or series apart from a documentary series.
“Inspired by” a True Story:
Offers screenwriters more leeway w/facts, allowing you to take the story and mold it into the best cinematic experience. Sometimes the screenwriter or studio wants to focus on certain elements and will use those focused elements to dictate the story.
You may want to:
Focus on the hilarity of the true story.
Focus on the drama of the true story.
Focus on the action of the true story.
Focus on the horror of the true story.
Whatever the case may be, using the “Inspired by” tag allows you more freedom.
In The Pursuit of Happyness, writers took the central core of the true story used it to launch a fictional cinematic story w/a few facts mixed in. The lead protagonists were real but the events and other characters were often fictional or highly accentuated versions of the truth.
“Based on” True Events:
Here we forgo the true story tag and, instead, focus on a true event — which basically means that you’re taking a historical event and creating a story out of it using primarily fictional central characters.
Names, people, locations, and happenings may be made up within the historical event’s confines as a setting. To enhance the true story aspect, you can populate your story w/historical figures & events — usually using them as figureheads to legitimize your telling of the event(s).
Everyone knows the historical event of the Titanic sinking. And while there were plenty of real-life people James Cameron could have written a “based on a true story” script with, he chose to focus on the event itself while allowing him the freedom of using fictional characters.
This allowed him to have full control over characterizations, mini-events within the historical event, & the overall narrative of the story he wanted to tell.

Cameron was wise enough to use real-life characters throughout the screenplay to legitimize the story he wanted to tell.
When you’re “basing” a script on an actual event, your primary goal is to represent that event as accurately as possible — albeit by using primarily fictional characters.
“Inspired by” True Events:
These scripts take a true event and tell a cinematic story with nearly all fictional characters and fictional macro events.
Top Gun was inspired by the true event(s) of a flight school called U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School — or TOPGUN — formerly based at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego. The movie was inspired by an article entitled “Top Guns” published in California Magazine.
No characters within the film are based on real people. They are all fictional — as are the events portrayed in the film. But the story and characters were inspired by the true events of the school.
Go forth and be inspired to write your True Story; whether it's "based on" or "inspired by". Just make sure you're using the right tag 🖌

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