Story Structure There's no doubt about it, breaking into Hollywood as a scriptwriter is tough.
Thousands of scripts are sent each year, some don't get read, most get rejected and a few make it. If you want your script to become a viable commodity it has to have the following. A main character who is driven towards achieving a goal An opposition to your main character who will hold your main character back from achieving their goal A fight (literal or metaphorical) between your main character and their opposition An ending which answers the questions "Can the main character achieve his goal?" If your script can present such a story, along with a well thought out main character who the audience can relate to then you will all ready have the jump on most scriptwriters. Remember that once you have sold your script how it is presented and portrayed is all in the hands of the director and the actors. If you want the story in your script to shine then your structure must be solid. Think of the story structure as the framework and foundation of your scipt, from which you can create a wonderful piece of architecture. It doesn't matter how good the story idea, if your structure is weak then the story will fall flat. The Three Act Structure
Here is the story structure timeline that nearly every scriptwriter follows. It’s a simple formula, Act I is the beginning, Act II is the middle, and Act III is the end. Scripts are generally 100 to 120 pages. Each page, on average, equates to 1 minute of screen time. Of course some action-filled pages may take 5 minutes a piece while some pages loaded with dialogue only 20 seconds but it all evens out. One of the first things that producers check when reading the script is the length. If it is
under 100 pages then it appears that the scriptwriter doesn’t have enough material to tell a feature length story. Go the other way, over 120 pages, and the script is automatically thought of as cumbersome. Once you have a solid reputation as a scriptwriter you can get away with going over 120 pages but you should stick to these guidelines if this is your first spec script. The easiest way of keeping to this unwritten rule is to break your story into three acts. In a 120 page script the first act would take up one quarter (30 pages) of the script. Act II takes up half (60 pages) of your script. Act III takes the final quarter (30 pages) of your script. For more on how to structure each individual act, visit the pages below. Act I - The Beginning In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. He did this in the dark, which makes it even more impressive. As a scriptwriter you need to make an equally impressive start to your writing project if you want to create a masterpiece. In Act I you begin with a main character whose life is about to be turned upside down, and who’s going to be pushed harder than ever before. Pushed so hard that his outlook on life will change forever. The Ten Most Important Pages of Your Script The first ten pages you write in your script are without doubt the most important. You need to grab the reader there and then or else they will put your script down and move onto the next script in the pile. Elements of the First Ten Pages In the first ten pages you will want to setup the following: The Main Character Exactly who is your main character? What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses?
Does he live a jet setting lifestyle or does he life revolve around his desk job? Whatever sense of normality your main character has is about to be torn apart. Location and Mood Where does your character reside and how are the conditions? Does he live on the peaceful beaches of Hawaii or the cold, dingy streets of Philadelphia? Imagine if Rocky had been set in Hawaii, the movie just wouldn’t have worked on the same level. Genre By the end of the first ten pages it should be clear if your movie is an action flick, a romantic comedy, horror or other. The Premise The premise is the basic story. For example you could describe Rocky as the ultimate underdog getting his one shot at glory against the boxing world heavyweight champion. After the first 10 pages there are two more important plot points in Act I: The Inciting Incident So far the first ten pages have told the viewer of the main character’s life. Well now is the time his world is going to be thrown into chaos. A major problem occurs which the main character will have to resolve for their life to return back to normal. Your main character should have the motivation and will to achieve this goal by doing anything imaginable. Plot Point I Nearing the end of Act I, around page 25, another huge event happens - Plot Point I. Thus far the story has been driving along and now is the time a tyre blows and sends the car careering off in another direction. The event will test your main character and challenge them to answer “how far will you go to achieve your goal?” Act II - The Middle Act II is the longest act in the script and you should make it seem as long as possible for
This act is all about conflict and confrontation. nothing should come easy to your main character. Every time he takes a step on the path to reach his goal some force (inner or outer) will block his path. Plot Point II Towards the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III we come to a crisis point. Fortunately the midpoint of the script offers a lifeline to the scriptwriter. For this reason it is a good idea to have only one or two main characters in a movie. Your main character will come face to face with a whole variety of obstacles. The Midpoint Act II can be the hardest act to write as a scriptwriter. They’re sick and tired of all the obstacles being thrown in their way. Going against Adrian’s wishes Rocky accepts a challenge to a rematch from Apollo Creed. In Rocky II Rocky has been looking for a white collar job but has been unable to due to his lack of education. the obstacles steadily growing bigger and tougher. When you begin a writing project you often have a clear mental picture of the beginning and end of the script. Right now the main character in your script has had enough. but it’s how you get there that proves difficult. Here we have another turning point. Plot Point II. Anymore and you risk having characters become undeveloped and the audience not really caring about them since they don’t appear to be in any big danger. Their world is a dark place with only a small beam of light left.your main character yet as short as possible for the reader. Force the main character to take action in attempt to solve the problem created by the
. Plot Point II should: 1. often the introduction or death of a character which sharpens the focus of the main character on achieving his goal. forcing the main character to think quicker and grow stronger if he wants to succeed.
Your main character will save the day and resolve their problems in dramatic fashion.The End The clock has run out. Just a glimmer of hope or a torch being passed is equally satisfying. tougher. Scriptwriting is all about solving your characters’ problems and resolving their story. the final battle between right and wrong. You have to make sure that it’s the main character who saves the day and not some Johnny Come Lately bailing him out. especially if you are expecting to write a sequel to this script. 3. and stronger. However always be careful not to give your story the “yellow ribbon ending”. then your main character has achieved nothing. but even closer to him are several more obstacles. Time is running out for your main character to finish the job. Think of Rocky II when Adrian emerges from her coma to tell Rocky to win the fight. so the victory was all for nothing. He re-focuses on his training and becomes faster. so neatly the ending seems false. Focus the main character on their ultimate goal. it’s now or never for your main character. La Fleur counters with the revelation that he placed all the money White had
. Make the character (and audience) fully aware of the “ticking clock”. good and evil. This is where all the loose threads in the story are tied up neatly. Your character has to want to achieve to achieve their goal so badly that nothing will stop them. In Dodgeball the Average Joes team beat the team from Globo-Gym only for White Goodman to reveal that Peter La Fleur had already sold him the gym. By now your main character sees the goal in front of them. That does not mean to say that your story has to have a happy ending. 2. These will be the biggest obstacles of all but your main character has come too far to turn around and head for home now. The Climax The climax is the biggest scene in the movie. Act III .inciting incident.
it can be that simple. You want to deliver the backstory in snippets all throughout the script rather than in a couple of lumps. Much like character’s thoughts. Now go forth and get writing!
Perfect Plot Structure It doesn’t matter how good of an idea you have if you can’t find a way to tell the story. I hope this section on the three act structure of film scriptwriting has helped you greatly. Backstory The backstory is the character’s past which allows the audience to understand what the characters and story is all about. You can also use narration or flashbacks but some people believe this to be lazy scriptwriting. Blocks of backstory slow the script down and stick out poorly. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was sold purely on the idea “Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver”.given him and bet on Average Joes to win. This leaves Peter La Fleur with another money to buy a controlling stake in Globo-Gym and take back ownership of Average Joes gym. Exposition Exposition is the information in the main story thread with the audience need to understand
. As a scriptwriter proper structure will give you the ability to convert your idea into a captivating story. this information should be delivered through the characters’ action and dialogue. You need to get your basic concept over with the Hollywood executives. The Initial Idea Your initial idea should be able to be explained in only one or two sentences. Eventually the right person will hear the concept and green light the project. and make it easy enough for them to remember so they can discuss it quickly with anyone they talk to.
Dramatic Irony This is when. which the ups getting higher and downs going lower. Think of your story as a roller coaster. The tougher the obstacles the shorter the scenes should be until the story becomes almost claustrophobically tight. Obstacles The obstacles are the inner or outer forces that block your character from achieving their ultimate goal.completely. through conflict. The fear came from his childhood when his Dad died sailing with him. This is pace. show don’t tell. A story is just that. Try to deliver exposition dramatically. an emotional roller coaster. as a scriptwriter. They will grab the story and characters to turn them to a new direction. Turning Points The turning points are key points in a script that move the story along greatly. Remember the adage. Pace Read any script and you will see that the action intensifies the further the story goes. Every time the action seems to be settling down you need to throw that curveball to add a breeze of fresh air to the story. Think of The Truman Show where Jim Carrey’s character tries to take a boat out of the city but can’t because of his fear of water. you allow the audience to know something important that the character does not. You can liken the obstacles in a story to a snowball rolling down a hill. It could be your main character proposing to his girlfriend after you’ve just seen her romping with her lover or selling their most beloved possession to pay for a debt that has already been paid off for them. Climax
. The snowball grows larger and picks up more speed until it comes crashing down to the bottom of the hill.
to show them as real people with relationships and feelings. loss or staying strong. How To Work Your Subplot Correctly 1. Good vs. Your main character must fight their last battle. middle and end and will interweave with the plot in some way.In the movie Stranger Than Fiction. This gives the characters in the script a chance to be “human”. The subplot often involves a relationship of some kind. Many films contains several subplots but this can either cause or be because of a weak plot. The genre of the script you’re writing will have a big impact on the number of subplots you need. Just like the main plot the subplots will have a beginning. whether it be physically or emotionally.This is the biggest scene in the film. Subplots should be looked at as the sizzle added to the steak of the plot. Everything is right in the story world. Subplot While the plot drives the story. the focus being on the main plot. fulfilling life. the theme being love. The subplot was The Crow giving Eric Draven the power and guidance to act out his revenge.
. the developing relationship between Harold Crick and Ana Pascal takes up a significant portion of Act II and Act III. Evil comes to a head and all the loose ends in the story are tied up. Resolution The final scene of the movie. An all-out action movie will only need one or two. Your subplot will be a big part of the story . it’s the subplot that carries the theme of your script. your main character has a grown as a person and now “rides off into the sunset” to live a rich. In The Crow the plot is of a young man coming back from the dead to kill those who killed him and his wife.
slave driving orderly. It may help you to write out a few bullet points on your plot and each subplot. Weave your subplot into the main plot . then you need to assign each subplot to “B” story.Your subplot should have a beginning. and with no action having been taken against him. 3. This is extremely poor story structure. Parallel plots are TV devices. By the end of the movie she is by Happy’s side. Stick them on the adjacent wall in order of importance. If they don’t then they are subplots.
Storytelling In Scriptwriting
. 5. Never let the subplot steal the main story’s focus . 6. This is often because the scriptwriter has either done a poor job of weaving the subplot and plot together or has fallen in love with the dynamic and forgotten the focus of the film. 4. “C” story. The subplot should weave into the plot at crucial moments in the script.The subplot has to intersect with the plot at sometime or else it has no purpose. etc. The main story and subplot show two different perspectives . used because of limited time. One of the best examples of a poor subplot would be in the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore. middle and end and flow along nicely. they’re know as parallel plots. Shows like The Simpsons often have both parallel plots and subplots running at the same time. In Rocky.The main story should be the main focus. Some subplots start a film and are done before the plot begins .You’ll watch some movies and note that the plot doesn’t really kick in until Act II. Set your subplot apart from your plot . Your plot would be first.The subplot gives you a chance you show the reader events from a different point of view. with subplots adding flavor to the story. When Happy’s Grandma is taking into a home she is looked after by a mean.2. away from the orderly. Apollo Creed’s trainer was worried that Rocky might prove to be a tougher opponent than originally thought.
Maybe he’s just been diagnosed with AIDS or his life is crumbling around him. etc.com. You need a compelling story to allow your characters to develop and keep the reader (and eventually the viewer) emotionally involved. and you’re trying to achieve that goal by constantly writing. Always keep your main character on his toes. Make it nigh on impossible for them to achieve their goal and see how they react. he’s lost his wife. Constantly Challenge Your Character Your story should be set at the most crucial point of your character’s life. However this type of goal wouldn’t be very interesting to watch someone obtain. Just when things seem to be settling down throw a bigger obstacle at him.
. By constantly challenging your character you give them the opportunity to develop and improve their self by the end of the story. Whatever the challenge your main character should be going through emotional and/or physical hell. Right now yours could be to become a professional scriptwriter. Put him in the line of fire.As a scriptwriter it is the story in your script that really gets you noticed. reading www.filmscriptwriting. taking a scriptwriting class. Give Your Character a Goal Everyone has one major goal in life. A strong story will hook the agents and producers of the world into reading your script. There should be a point in the story where it seems the character will never be able to achieve their goal but then they pull out that little bit more and get the job done. By taking into account the four essential components of storytelling while writing your script you will be able to construct a vivid story that will certainly get you noticed by Hollywood executives. Instead give your character a goal which requires him to practically put his life on the line. while the characters will keep them into it. kids and job.
You know your story but
. These behavioural patterns/internal forces have plagued your main character’s life and during this story they will hit him hard. Maybe he will learn how to accept himself or how to share his emotions. The outer forces are often the “bad guys” but they can also be natural disasters. if you ignore the spine then your script won’t move. All those emotional hang-ups and neurosis that cause them to sabotage themselves. While you might have sub-plots the script should always be focused on your main character’s journey. But it is in beating these internal patterns that your main character derives true glory. They need to make the reader wish that they could step into the script and help your character fight against them. These are the physical obstacles holding your main character back. However it’s the internal forces that really hold back your main character. This is the spine of the story. One he is free from this emotional baggage your main character can finally walk off into the sunset and lead a happy. So hard it hurts. Conflict is represented by two forces. Outer and Inner Forces A story moves forward by conflict. complicated relationships or something else. inner forces and outer forces.Focus On How Your Character Deals With These Challenges Which challenges does your character deal well with? Which ones does he struggle with? How does he learn from these obstacles? Every scene in your script should be written around the journey of your main character.
The Opening Scene
So you’re sat down to write the opening scene it your script. fulfilling life.
Within a few moments you know exactly who the hero is and what the movie will be about. Like the dramatic irony opening the audience is placed in a position to predict what is going to happen. This is often used for doomsday and horror movies. You want to setup the rest of your script. the villain and exactly why they oppose each other. Then an event will happen which breaks the normality of your character’s life.This is the only beginning that won’t contain your main character. They might have just been given a million dollars. capture the mood of the story and hook the reader right away. Narrator . The narrator tells the story of the events which happened to the main character at a important time in their life.This opening takes place before your main story begins and anticipates what is going to happen later in the story. Foreshadowing . Here are several types of opening that you can use to start your film. a secondary character or just a stand alone narrator. Dramatic irony allows the audience to be in a superior position and sets up both tension and anticipation. A Regular Day .The narrator can be the hero. The Blatant Opening . None of these are mutually exclusive.In this opening you will put over the pace of life in a regular day for your main character.The script starts right along with the start of the story for the main character. one which they will need to rectify for their life to return to the way it was. or landed in a new country. True Beginning . intense opening will hook the reader and keep them flicking through the script. In this first ten pages of your script you will introduce the hero. The blatant opening works particular well for action films. Instead you give the audience some information that your main character won’t know and will soon affect his/her life greatly.aren’t sure of the best way to start it. Dramatic Irony . you can choose to mix and match certain elements from each type. a fast. The James Bond series are a great example of this type of opening.
. The B story has a narrator who tells the main story.
Conflict In Scriptwriting At the very core of every piece of film or television is conflict. At certain points in the story there’s a flash forward to the narrator who continues with his tail. Montage . where obstacles are pushed into their path to stop them acheiving their goal. Whether it's something obvious such as a person refusing to ever swim because their Dad drowned when they were a child. inner conflict is often the deeper. You need to think of each scene as a mini-story where your main character has a goal.
Inner Conflict Outer Conflict
Inner Conflict Inner conflict are the emotion hang-ups and neurosis that we all have.Flash forward . As a scriptwriter you have to inject conflict into your script to keep the action moving along so the audience will remain interested. which has already happened. The A story is the main story. The most important piece of conflict is always the conflict between the main character's success versus the failure of acheiving their ultimate goal. a collection of short clips accelerate through the information until the story proper begins.The flash forward has two stories running side by side simultaneously. In most scenes the character will be able to overcome these obstacles and achieve their goal with a few exceptions. the B story is of the narrator looking back.This is a great type of opening if you have a lot of information to get across before the main story begins. If everyone just got along it would make for a very boring movie. or something more subtle. Brought down to the basics there are two types of conflict. it doesn't have to be their ultimate goal. Then the speed of the story can slow down to a regular pace. Also known as a shotgun. In a matter of minutes you can explain years of your main characters life.
downs. complete with ups. that means that something has to happen in each scene to create some drama. Create A Captivating Scene I will teach you how to create a captivating scene for your script by following ten steps.hit them again with more conflict. The truly great scriptwriter will take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster.BAM! . with the end still 40 pages in sight.side of a character. Then just when the audience has settled down . When anyone one of those three elements change then the scene changes too. the conflict and tension seems almost impossible to top you need to ever re-write the scene to lower the stakes or provide a little relief from the conflict maybe with a moment of comedy or romance. A full screenplay breaks down into three acts. The more you know about scriptwriting. If you do this then the audience's emotions will be drained by the climax and then they simple won't care. Those acts break down into sequences.
. the easier it is to break a screenplay down. If you ever get to a point in your script where. they've seen it all already. Outer Conflict Outer conflict are the obstacles which confront your character and attempt to stop them acheiving their goal. These can range from the character's relationships to freakish zombie mutants. location and time of day. sequences into scenes and scenes into moments. As much as I have just harped on about the importance of conflict you shouldn't make every scene in your script a desperate fight to save the world from some impending force of doom. Inner conflict often hinders the character from developing as a person and acheiving their goal in less obvious way than a physical force. Remember that life is an eternal struggle and that is exactly what your main character's life needs to be to create an interesting script. A scene consists of camera placement (INTERIOR or EXTERIOR). A scene is a dramatic unit and should be treated as such. and maybe a few loopde-loops.
1. Whether it be to setup a stumbling block for later on or introducing a new character you should look at every scene you write and think “what’s the purpose?”. There are times when it is more appropriate to tell. When you write your screenplay remember that movies are a visual medium. if it’s backstory that’s important enough to bring up directly then it’s important enough to show. If you’re reaching the climax of an action packed scene then telling the reader makes events seem more sudden and gives them an instant impact.Here are the ten steps to follow to create a captivating scene. Every scene in your screenplay should work the story into the frenzied final showdown. Don’t have two characters discuss something they did recently. 3. Every scene should also move the story forward in terms of both the plot and character. while leaving a thread or two for the following scenes to pick up. so be as visual as possible. Walk and talk. You should also look to have your main character involved in every scene in some way. You should be looking to achieve something with every scene. By making sure your main character is involved there’s a good chance the scene will move the script forward in someway.
. Every scene should have a purpose and move the story forward. In a good screenplay you will notice that each scene connects and develops to the last scene. Look at the scene you’re writing and ask yourself:
• • • •
What is the purpose of this scene? Why do I need this scene? Does this scene reveal anything new about a character or the story? What is the payoff?
2. Don’t tell when you can show.
Cut the crap.” While it’s perfectly acceptable and even advisable to start a scene with a big event to grip the reader/viewer you want to save the biggest and best ‘til last. You create a lot more impact by cutting the first two parts and just having the character walking into his house and being confronted by the burglar(s). setback and some sort of conclusion while leaving a loose end for the next scene to take up. Pace your scenes. Don’t have dialogue just for the sake of dialogue and don’t have any unnecessary action scenes. Even if they’re just walking towards where the next scene is happening. While I studied scriptwriting (a process which is never ending) I was given a piece of advice which stuck with me. 6. 4.Avoid having two characters just idly chatting while nothing happens. You only have 90 to 120 minutes to tell your story. The closer to the story climax the quicker the pace should be. Have a character with a goal. driving home and walking into his home only to find that his house is being burgled then you’re showing too much. A good scene should stand alone as a dramatic using while tying into the previous scene and leading to the next. Think of each scene you write as a mini screenplay.
. A screenplay is a potentially real life situation condensed into a short period of time with all the dull parts cut out. A scene should have a beginning. during which you need to keep the audience’s attention. Don’t let your story lull by having 5 minutes of expositional dialogue with no action. If you have a character leaving work. Keep throwing obstacle after obstacle at your main character. “Never blow the world up in the beginning of the scene or you’ll have nowhere to go. 5. The best way to achieve this is to start each scene as close to the end as possible. The pace of a scene should also fluctuate depending on its position in the story. Wherever you have dialogue the characters should also be thrust into action. middle and end.
Each scene should work towards that character achieving their goal in baby steps. When you reach the end of the scene you should always aim to leave the main character with some sort of decision or imminent decision. Throw them a cliff-hanger. Sometimes the attempt will fail or not work as planned. 9. less exciting. that’s the job of the director. Other times they will succeed and be driven on to push towards their goal even harder. Finish the scene dramatically. Define an emotion or mood. Have a motivated conflict. You don’t have to shoe horn in a transition between every scene but if they come naturally. dissolves and other editing techniques to your script. That means that every scene should contain some sort of action in which the character attempts to achieve their goal. you could end one scene with the image of a clock at one location and begin the next scene with the image of a clock at the next location. Here I’m not talking about adding cuts. No matter how big or small it is conflict which drives a story forward. leaving your character frustrated and angry. In a screenplay every main character should have some sort of ultimate goal. For example. Even small. by all means add them. Perhaps the best way of creating a smooth transition between scenes is to finish on a certain image and then start the new scene with a similar image. This example would also help the audience understand any passage of time that has lapsed. 8. Humans are emotional creatures so treat your characters as such. This is how you add the twists and turns in a story that make it captivating. a reversal or a revelation to raise their interest level. Even the best of friends have small
. scenes should contain some level of conflict. Transition smoothly between scenes. Make the viewer lust after the knowledge of what is going to happen next. 10.7. A good transition allows the story to flow smoothly and can add a certain level of cohesion.
The way to do this is to ask yourself if the story and main character interest you. Try keeping this article open on your monitor as you write a scene and keep referring back to make sure you’re on course. produced and then postproduced the event is already at least a year or two old. Hollywood producers don’t like making movies about current news affairs. If you want to write about a character where a lot of the story is told through their thoughts then the medium for that is a novel. Always remember that film scripts are visual pieces which are action driven. If you follow the ten steps above I am confident that even a beginning scriptwriter can create a truly memorable scene. In contrast the conflict between two enemies will be much greater. Building Your Story After you’ve drummed up an initial story idea with a strong main character it is time to really build the story of your screenplay. You’ll want to be sure that your story is a visual one. This is because by the time a movie is written. If you want to write a story that is driven then dialogue then the correct medium is a play. Try to avoid writing a script about a current big news event unless you have an interesting twist or a unique angle on it. and action driven. The Story Itself
. with both characters willing to do anything to defeat the other. Yesterday’s news doesn’t sell at the box office. The first thing you need to be sure of is that your story idea and main character are both strong enough to carry a two hour movie. An interesting story and main character require a lot of work and research before they become marketable. If you’ve done very little background research then the answer is probably no.disagreements and you’ll find that even when two people have the same goal in mind they both have different ways to go about achieving it.
that’s when the passion you have for the subject carries you through. How The Characters Relate To The Story A great character is one that the audience can root for and empathize with.Just like I discussed in my “Create A Captivating Scene” article you want to start your story at the latest possible point. You need to iron out any plausibility flaws in your screenplay otherwise the story will be hard to believe. Thrust the audience straight into the action. Even if you’re writing a scifi screenplay there are ways of doing this. This is why so many movies are set in New York. You could have recognisable buildings “updated” for the future. then going to the bank only for a couple of criminals to hold the joint up then the audience will quickly grow bored. If your story starts off with a character leaving their home. The character’s life should be so tough that the audience feel bad for them and desperately want them to achieve their goal. There will be times when it becomes real work to write the next page of your script. You should also aim to set the story in a recognisable location. and impossible to “get into”. popping into a friends. This is why there’s the old adage of “write what you know”. If anything in your movie seems unbelievable to you then it will probably seem ridiculous to the audience. If your main hobbies are playing hockey and watching comedy movies then it’s a lot easier to write a comedy movie about hockey than a period drama. You achieve this by having horrible events and huge obstacles thrown at the character.
. The biggest thing to think about though is the plausibility of your story. You can cut a lot of that out and start the movie straight at the bank robbery. The audience will instantly sit up and take notice. It is very important that you have passion for the story you are telling. or load cities up with adverts for the latest popular media. Of course the easiest way to get the audience to identify with the setting of your story is to set it in an iconic city.
They’ll have achieved their goal and improved in many ways. If you need to use SFX then use them. or put them in a position where they have to achieve that goal. The basic premise behind the parallel storyline principle is to have multiple protagonists and/or antagonists who each go through their own story with some common thread between each of them. it is the foundation of your screenplay. they can probably find what they’re looking for in their home town. Parallel Storylines If you would like to write a script that will stand out from the crowd then using parallel storylines is a great way of doing so. physically and/or spiritually. If they go through absolute hell just to find that $5 bill they lost then the character is an idiot. One thing is sure. When parallel storylines are done right they can be extremely creative and very memorable. It is a technique Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery used to great effect in the hit movie Pulp Fiction. but try to do so sparingly. Consider The Budget If you’re a first time scriptwriter it is a lot harder to get a big budget screenplay produced. mentally.Because the character has to go through so much there better be a big pot of gold for them at the end of the story. Everything they have been through will have changed them for the better. The easiest way to do this is cut down on exotic locations. They could improve emotionally.
. You can either give them a bigger goal. A forty million dollar movie is a lot more likely to get picked up than a one hundred dollar movie. If you feel your character’s goal might be too small then there are two things you can do. at the end of your screenplay your character will have changed. While parallel storytelling can afford a scriptwriter to write a number of stories with less detail than the usual single plot and subplot structure there are several things to consider before you use the parallel storytelling method. A character probably doesn’t need to jet around the world. After you have finished your first draft try to trim any money eating scenes. Build your story up carefully. financially.
For more seeBuilding A Great Character. Using parallel storylines will mean that each main character will generally get less screen time than in a typical screenplay. Just as you need to make sure each character is fully developed you have to take the same care with each individual story. room to grow. This doesn’t mean you can get lazy when it comes to character development. a backstory. Once you have created several stories it is a good idea to write out the scenes of each story in bullet points onto 3”x5” cards. Pay attention to character development. Butch decides not to throw a fight he had agreed to with
. It can be a lot easier to show the audience what the theme of the movie is when you use parallel storylines as the theme is seen from a number of different perspectives. After Jules and Vincent escape a barrage of gunfire Jules believes that God has a divine purpose for him and decides to give up the goon business to help others suffering under tyranny. You need to come with a smooth transition between stories which doesn’t distract the audience from the overall story. a message to the audience. The smoother the transition the easier it is for the audience to keep in the flow of the film. an attitude. This is yet another way to bind each story together. This way you can easily find the best places for each story to intersect and the timeline in which each story is told. In Pulp Fiction the theme is redemption. Each storyline should be separate but have some common thread or event that bring them together. Each character still needs motivation. The overall story should have a theme.•
What exactly is the purpose of using the multiple storyline method? Don’t try to separate a single story into three or four just to use a new technique. etc. One way of doing this is to having one protagonist meet the protagonist of the next story and then simply follow them after the meeting. The last point helps with this. Each story needs a protagonist with a problem to overcome and restore the equilibrium in their world while gaining a new attitude.
While you don’t have to be precise. While that is true. A feature length film generally lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. help reign you in and turn out at least a solid story which viewers can understand. Therefore you have between 90 and 120 pages to work with. If you are telling three stories then they can each have about forty pages each. especially if you are new to scriptwriting. Magnolia. Breaking Up Time
. Good examples of such movies are Pulp Fiction. each story should also get a similar amount of pages. which some scriptwriters complain about. What Limits? If you wish to use limitations to your advantage then you first need to understand exactly what those limits are.
The final point is to assign a number of pages to each story and stick to it. Crash and The Hours. Having not learnt from his experiences Vincent winds up dead after waiting in Butch’s house to kill him. time. those same limitations can be a great help to you. Sin City. Each page of a script equates to roughly 1 minutes.Marsellus. This provides a good balance in the overall script. Embracing Structural Limitations When you look at the three act structure it appears to be quite limiting to your writing. These limitations basically hold your hand through the storytelling process and provide great structure even for those who have never written before in their life. The three act structure is like a paint-by-numbers kit for scriptwriters.
If you plan to write a script with parallel storylines then it is a good idea to read scripts and watch movies that use this method. The difference is that even though you’re following a set structure you still have plenty of room to stamp your own mark on your story. The first limit is also the most important. Writing is obviously a highly creative process but those limitations. Marsellus puts a hit out on Butch and only calls it off after Butch saves him from two sexual deviants.
have no more than 3 characters in a scene. this limitation helps you from going off on too many side stories and subplots with minor characters.Lets say you’re planning to write a 90 minute comedy movie. A common way of making this work is to have one protagonist and one antagonist. Anymore than that and it’s really hard to fit in enough development to make them a worthwhile character.
. each with a close friend or sidekick. there’s no need for huge block of overly descriptive narrative or long winded monologues. Basically you keep all blocks of dialogue to 3 lines or less. Remember you’re not writing a novel. and a maximum of 3 subplots. On average that means your scenes will be 2 minutes long. The Rule of 3 The “Rule of 3” is a simple limitation that you can put on yourself which will help keep your writing short and snappy. you might wish to follow the “Rule of 3”. Your main protagonist should appear in the vast majority of scenes. Character Limitations Even experienced script readers can have troubled keeping track of multiple main characters. That is why it’s a good idea to never have more that four main characters. That’s because the best scriptwriters use words sparingly. Layout Limitations If you’ve ever read a script before then you’ll know just how much empty “white space” there is. To make use of this. To keep your story ticking along you want to keep scenes between 1 and 3 minutes long. This really helps with keeping track of your story and character development. A simple bit of division shows that means you will have around 45 scenes in your story. In the planning stage of scriptwriting a lot of writers like to write out a brief description of each scene onto 3x5 cards.
it’s the only reference you really have after all. Writing Specific Genres: Comedy Comedy is a great genre to write for. The are 5 key considerations to make when planning and scriptwriting your comedy movie. That is why you should always make sure that your screenplay makes you laugh. I find there are four stages to learning anything with an element on creativity involved. 1.Now you know your limitations and how to use them your scriptwriting will improve immensely. along with action movies.
. Finally you learn what rules you should stick to stringently and which ones you can push the boundaries of. If you find yourself laughing as you write then you know you’re on the right track. When you start a new craft you try to do it by the book. Although writing is often hard work writing comedy tends to be a lot lighter experience. do at least moderately well at the box office and are enjoyable projects for actors to participate in. If you have a dry sense of humor don’t try writing a gross-out comedy. If you follow them you’ll have covered the basics needed to create a good comedy screenplay. Simply put: The more you write. Comedy films tend to be cheap to make. This experiment tends to lead to failure and a realisation that the book’s there for a reason. It is helpful. after finishing the first draft. Write Comedy That Makes You Laugh Scriptwriters tend to be their own biggest critics. it works. to take a week off and avoid thinking about your screenplay at all. and vice versa. the better you get. in the appropriate way of course. It is one of the few genres that is in constant demand from producers. After you’ve gained a little experience you start getting frustrated by the restrictions and try to rewrite the book yourself. Comedy writing also becomes a whole lot easier if you write a movie with a comedy style most like your own. It then becomes a lot easier to read through your screenplay subjectively after leaving this “breathing period”.
Deriving ideas from TV also hinders your progression in developing your inner vision. You need to build up to the punchline of a scene carefully. Even if the basic idea for your story came from a joke remember that you very rarely hear jokes in movies. Tease a few different punchlines and then hit the audience with a punchline they weren’t expecting. Jokes slow the story down and should be used very sparingly. about halfway through the project. but is perhaps most useful in writing comedy. or an expected punchline delivered in an unexpected manner. 3.
. The step sheet should act like a condensed version of your script. Instead your comedy should come from… 4. be a first rate you. Write down what happens in every scene in just a few sentences. If they’re a control freak put them in a situation where they’re bottom of the ladder. that the idea simply hasn’t got the legs to make a feature length film. Don’t try to become the writer of a feature length Friends-esque movie. Turn The TV Off…And Keep It Off! When you’re looking for ideas try to avoid plucking them from TV shows. they’re not to tell or explain the jokes. Keep the sentences brief. a very important attribute for a scriptwriter.2. they’re for story points and character points. Make A Step Sheet A step sheet can be used when writing any script. Character And Timing Instead of coming up with a hundred jokes to cram into your screenplay (most of which won’t fit with the story) think of a dozen or so situations that would be funny to put your main character in. otherwise it won’t get the big laugh the situation deserves. Forget The Jokes That might seem a totally absurd point for a comedy writer but it’s probably the most important of these five. Don’t be a second rate imitator. Timing is very important too. You tend to find. That’s not your own unique vision. 5. and surrounded by idiots.
empire or organisation which is lead by an evil tyrant who wants to mould the world in his own image. keep it funny. the type of which you can’t see anywhere else. Why is this? It’s because the genre of sci-fi allows you to transport the audience into a weird and wonderful world with a colourful cast of characters. Keep it snappy. Writing Specific Genres: Sci-Fi Science-Fiction movies account for some of the most memorable films of all time. 1. and when it captures the imagination a franchise (ala Star Wars) can make literally billions of dollars. To combat this force there is always a group of rebels with a leader who is honest and true. Evil. Sci-Fi has a strong cult following. Good vs. This is often focused in on as an evil government. Evil No other genre allows for such a black and white view of battle between Good vs.
. While it can be necessary to have an emotional scene try to keep it short and light or the comedy will get bogged down. evil and that good will always triumph. Like all genres there are some specific guides you need to follow and things you need to research. Before planning to write a sci-fi screenplay read through the following points and you’ll have a strong idea of the work you have in front of you. At the centre of most sci-fi scripts is the concept of good vs. --Comedy works best when you keep the audience in the mood. If it doesn’t either get rid of the scene or rework it.Each scene should advance both the story and character in a humorous way. That is why Sci-Fi scripts are often in mind for a big summer blockbuster.
. emotion breed. It’s most likely that the world in which your story is quite different from the world we live in today. Strange Bedfellows One of my favorite aspects of science-fiction is the ability to make friends and companions out of types of people/beings that you wouldn’t normally see together. mutant people and a corrupt government. Data is a robot who wishes to develop the ability to have emotions and become more human. Who’s in power? What is the political system? How is law and order kept? What’s the economy and currency? Where are we. You might have a race of ignorant. Take Data and Worf from the Star Trek universe. an aggressive. Worf a Klingon. alien beings. violent and untrustworthy aliens but it can be an interesting twist to have a member of this race be an intelligent thinker who is extremely loyal and a friend of your main protagonist. an alien planet or in a starship? 3. A Brave New World To write a good sci-fi screenplay you have to have a strong ability to “world build”. they just have a different idea of how to go about it. 2.These “total opposites” are often bonded together by a shared characteristic or belief. Aliens Are People Too! If you’re going to have various races of aliens within your story world then remember that not only do they possess certain characteristics intrinsic of their race but they have individual personalities too. There could be space travel. It could be that they both wish to save the world. This can lead to conflict between the leaders of the alien race who see this outsider as an abomination of the species who must be dealt with while the main protagonist might lose confidence in their loyalty after a failed mission. On the other hand it could be a gloomy post nuclear holocaust future with little food. Earth. 4. There’s so many directions you can take this in and details to think about. matter transporters and worldwide unity. which means he often has to quell his temperament to be acceptable crew member.
makes it a lot easier to write an action-based screenplay. It’s fun to watch too opposites interact. Even Sci-Fi Has a Budget A lot of the appeal of sci-fi is the explosions and the wild and wacky scenery but try to take into consideration that if you want to sell this screenplay then someone has to pay for it.
. eh? Writing Specific Genres: Action Action movies are thought to be the “bread and butter” of the movie industry. but not so big that it can’t be topped later on. adding to their profitability. You can help trim the potential budget of turning your screenplay into a feature length film by using locations more than once. Also with the increasing popularity of home-theatre systems. 5. you’ll come up with the next blockbuster franchise. Give a man a little violence and a lot of explosions and they’re sold. Start Fast Begin your script with a big action scene. once you know. keeping the number of main characters down and not cramming in scene after scene of expensive CGI. Remember me when you do. action movies DVDs sales have increased greatly.Worf and Data are often put together as part of the “away team” who explore strange planets and vessels. Follow the tips below and you won’t go far wrong. Every summer there’s a fresh wave of action movies and for good reason. There are a certain amount of conventions that. Hopefully these ideas and concepts will help you in writing your sci-fi script and maybe. just maybe. they’re consistently popular at the box office. This immediately grabs the attention of the audience and helps keep them gripped when you setup the story of the film after the opening scene. --Of course you still need to follow the tried and tested guidelines of structure. the differences of opinion they have and the type of conflict this can create.
This initial scene often takes the form of a chase or shows the hero of the story bringing in a low-level criminal before the introduction of the main villain. Reversals of Fortune In the Scriptwriters Network Newsletter, William Martel wrote: “The key to good action scenes is reversals…It’s like a good news/bad news joke. The bad news is that you get thrown out of an airplane. The good news is you’re wearing your parachute. The bad news is the rip cord breaks. The good news is you have a backup chute. The bad news is you can’t reach the cord. Back and forth like that until the character reaches the ground.” What this does is add suspense to the scenes which is a key element of action films. This also shows the resolve and will of the character. When nothing quite goes to plan it takes a lot of heart to stick to something. Keep It Simple Stupid People don’t go to action movies to think, so don’t make the plot so intricate that it becomes hard to follow for the average movie goer. This is a simple one to gauge as, once you have finished your screenplay, you can hand it out for a test read to a bunch of trusted friends. If they can follow the story then you’ve done your job. Personal Motivation Give your main character a reason to be as deeply entrenched in the action as they are. You can’t get much more personal than threatening the lives of members of your main characters family. This is the type of motivation required to push an ordinary person to do something extraordinary. In the original Die Hard movie, John McClane’s wife is amongst the hostages being held at gunpoint. That is the situation it takes to turn McClane from a regular cop into an action hero. Love Interest
This one isn’t a must-have, however a love interest help humanize your main character, be used as the personal motivation (see above), and help keep the interest of female viewers. An excellent quality for an action hero is they’re not actually that good with women. This can either be through shyness, insecurities, lack of understanding of the opposite sex or something else similar. What this does is make the action hero like nearly every man in the movie theatre, well meaning but with the flaws of a human. No-one is more dislikeable to the male audience than the “perfect” man. Constant Danger In a good action screenplay your main character should never be able to relax, because they’re in constant danger from the villains. This even includes going to the toilet, as we saw in Lethal Weapon. Even the most humdrum of activities can have an element of danger added to them some how. Your main character shouldn’t be able to relax for one moment throughout the film until they’ve put an end to the villains of the movie. --As always I hope the third in the Writing Specific Genres series has helped you. If it has, the please spread the word. If it hasn’t, lets just keep that between us, eh? Script Formatting If there’s one thing that seems to put off prospective scriptwriters more than anything else it’s not knowing how to correctly format a script. There are basically two ways to do this. Either buy a piece of scriptwriting software which does the bulk of the work for you (I recommend Final Draft) or you learn how to do it yourself and use a typewriter or programme like Microsoft Word. If a Hollywood executive comes across a script with poor formatting then he will instantly dismiss it as the work of an amateur and not bother reading it. The script could be a sure fire box office smash but without correct format it will probably never even be read. The script that you are trying to sell is known as a spec script. This is because it’s written under the speculation it will be optioned later. At this stage it is important to avoid adding
camera angles, editing directions, or anything technical unless absolutely necessary. You might have read a Tarantino or Kubrick script littered with these but that’s because they are writer/directors. If you’re selling your first script it is a lot easier to do purely as a scriptwriter rather than writer/director. Production companies are a lot more likely to take a risk on an unknown writer than an unknown writer-director. Basic Script Formatting There are three bodies of a script: Headings, narrative and dialogue. Each of these has three points to remember. Headings: 1. Master scene headings which include: a) Camera location - EXT. (exterior or outside) or INT. (interior or inside) b) Scene location (LOCAL RACE TRACK) c) Time (DAY or NIGHT) 2. Secondary scene heading 3. “Special headings” for things such as montages, dream sequences, flashbacks, flash forwards, etc. Narrative Description: 1. Action 2. Character and settings (visual) 3. Sounds Dialogue: 1. The name of the person speaking appears at the top, in CAPS. 2. The actors direction (AKA parenthetical or wryly). Try to avoid these as much as possible. Both the director and actor will appreciate it. 3. The speech. Putting all this together you should come up with something that looks like this:
try to keep the color light. and put “by”. When an agent or producer receives your script they will be added into a pile of scripts to be read. Do not write anything on the cover. which is down to your personal preference.5 inches to 1. The front and back covers should be a piece of solid-color index stock of the 110 pound variety. in CAPS and quotation marks. using only one side of each sheet. Then miss a line. An assistant will go through these and write the title of the script on the side of the binding. Both the top and bottom margins should be 1 inch. The script should be printed on A4 paper. Make sure the fastener is strong and secure. in the middle of the page. miss another line and include your name.Script Presentation
If you want to ensure that your script is taking seriously when dishing it out to agents and producers you need to make sure the presentation of your script is up to snuff. The title page consists of the name of the script. Your contact details in the centre of the page and copyright details in the bottom right corner.25 inches. Your left margin should be 1. These are all to be three hole punched and bound together using a fastener such as those produced by Acco. this makes it easier for producers and agents to photocopy the script to pass around which they will do if they are interested in the script.
. The industry standard font is Courier or Courier New at font size 12. a title page. the script itself and a back cover. A finished script should contain a front cover. The Script Itself If you are using scriptwriting software such as Final Draft then you can ignore this section since Final Draft will automatically do all this for you.5 inches while your right margin can be between 0.
Dialogue should be 2.5 inches (10 spaces) away from the left margin and should not go past 6.0 inches (60 spaces) from the left margin. Actor’s instructions at 3.1 inches (16 spaces) from the left margin and no longer than two inches. The character’s name should be 3.7 inches (22 spaces) from the left margin. Keep the right margin ragged rather than justified. Each page of the script should contain about 55 lines. This is not including the page number and blank line after the page number. Page numbers appear in the top right corner, 0.5 inches from the top edge. No page number is required for the first page of your script. Beginning and End If you choose you can add the title of your script, in CAPS and underscored, to the top of the first page. Your script will probably begin with: FADE IN: Or BLACK SCREEN: You don’t have to add a point to insert the opening or closing credits in a spec script. But if you have a moment that you think perfect for the opening credits then put: ROLL CREDITS: Or BEGIN CREDITS: When the credits have finished: END CREDITS: Treat credits as headings. When you have come to the end of your script you can finish it of by either putting THE END or one of the following: FADE OUT FADE TO BLACK
Note that these endings appear all the way over to the right margin.
While you should never add too many directions to a spec script, there are times as a scriptwriter that you do need to add a few flourishes to the action. For example, if you’re writing a fight scene that you want to emphasis the sounds then you can write: A right hook SMASHES into Bill’s face. The capitalization draws attention to the sound. Be careful not to overuse this technique though as it can be distracting. Off Screen If there is a scene in your script in which a character is talking, but you do not want him to be onscreen then you would format that like this: BILL (OS) Voice Over A voice over is used when you want a character in your script to narrate or verbalize their thoughts. This is often used to open a film or stitch scenes together. You would also use a voice over for a telephone conversation when just one character is on camera. The voice over format is much the same as the off screen format. BILL (VO) Actor Directions/Wrylys I mentioned in another article on the site that these are to be avoided as much as possible. If you use this technique too much it will anger both directors and actors who will see it as a writer telling them how to do their job. If you write your dialogue well these should not be needed at all often as the surrounding dialogue and action should make it clear how the line should be said. If you do need to use this technique then format it as followed:
Flashbacks and Dream Sequences A lot of scriptwriting books will tell you that flashbacks and dream sequences as shoddy writing, and the sign of a poor script. However if you use these well and sparingly they can add a new dimension to a character and the story. There are a few different ways to write these into a script, but the most common way is to add them to the scene heading. E.G:
And then go back to present times with:
Camera Directions Much like actor directions, camera directions be avoided as much as possible. You are a scriptwriter, not a director. Instead of adding directions like ZOOM IN and CLOSEUP try to subtly work these into your action description.
This almost dictates that there has to be a close up on Jennifer’s eyes without you telling the director how to do his job. Remember the old scriptwriter’s adage, show don’t tell.
Formatting Scene Headings
heading, the first being the master scene heading.
(Includes montages and flashbacks)
This section of www.filmscriptwriting.com deals with how to format scene headings. Remember from our lesson on basic formatting that headings should always be in CAPS. There are three different types of
You can also use this forth part to note if the scenes aren’t in chronological order to keep the reader orientated. 2. 4.The scene location is the place in which the action is happening. Secondary Scene Headings If you need to move between shots in a scene then you can use a secondary scene heading. dream. Camera Location .If the scene takes place in a flashback. 1. Rather than a long description all you need is SMALL PARK. You don’t need to use more specific terms like EVENING. no more. If you want to denote that a scene is taking place immediately after the last. Scene Location . Time of day . and outdoors with ENT./ENT. Then you could just put: IN THE BEDROOM
. although there is occasionally a fourth. JAKE’S HOUSE . Much like master scene headings these should also be written in CAPS and kept short and specific. Be short and specific. You denote indoors with INT. with no passage of time.This one is simple. You might start a heading like: INT.Master Scene Heading Usually the master scene heading consists of three parts. DAWN or specific time. or different time period then you can add a fourth part to the master scene heading. Sometimes a scene will quickly move between outdoors and indoors. You don’t have to be overly descriptive. Try to avoid ending a page on a heading.NIGHT Then want to move to a specific part of the house or denote that time has passed. Special notations . Scene Changes and Spacing You must start a new master scene heading if any of the three (or four) parts of the master scene heading change between scenes. is the scene taking indoors or outdoors. These can also be used for locations connected to the original or any special instant that needs highlighting. then you can use SAME or CONTINUOUS for the time of day heading. Always double space both before and after any scene headings. In this case you can denote it as INT.For the most part you just want to use DAY or NIGHT. 3.
INT.45 Magnum out of his jacket pocket.Stocky attempts to execute a sit-up.
.STOCKY TRAINING FOR BIG FIGHT -. -.-. -. FEMALE ONLY GYM .-. with the weight falling across his gut.Stocky waddles up a flight of stairs and collapses. END MONTAGE This is also how you would format a SERIES OF SHOTS or QUICK FLASHES. Jake pull a . Bear in mind that a MONTAGE is usually accompanied by a song.INT. JAKE pulls a . SERIES OF SHOTS.INT. Special Headings Special headings all follow the same basic format. He slips.-. It’s also perfectly acceptable to lump this together as one line of direction. exhausted. STOCKY’S HOUSE . If you happen to be a writing a movie about a fat boxer with a training MONTAGE then you could write it like this: MONTAGE . FLASHBACK and (DAY)DREAMS.45 Magnum out of his jacket pocket. with a few minor differences.or LATER You can also use secondary scene headings to focus the shot on a character without using directorial terms. They include the MONTAGE. His trainer helps by holding a cream cake in front of Stocky’s mouth. RICKIE’S TRAINING CAMP .Stocky struggles to lift a weight. However you should not suggest a piece of music.
For example you may have a French waiter mutter something under his breath. 1.FLASHBACK/DREAM/1969
Formatting Dialogue In A Foreign Language
There will be occasions in a script where you might have a character who speaks in a foreign tongue. in his own language. If a character is going to speak a foreign language through a whole scene or even the full movie then you can note it in the narrative description when the character is introduced.DAY . Since the person eventually reading your script will probably not be French and may not speak the language. It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak French yourself or are a regular Gerard Depardieu because writing script dialogue in a foreign language is as easy as pie. If it doesn’t matter or not whether the audience understand the language spoken by the character or you feel the audience will understand what is going on then you can write out the dialogue in the relevant foreign language. (DAY)DREAM or PERIOD CHANGE then you can add them to the end of the master scene headline like so: EXT. under his tongue. like the first example above.
To add a flavor of the foreign language you could sprinkle in a few French words amongst the dialogue like so:
If you positively have to have a character speak a foreign language in a realistic way then you have a number of options. they still need to be able to understand what is going on.If you would like to add a FLASHBACK. VIETNAM JUNGLE . 2.
. This way you can write in English and leave it for someone else to translate later on in the movie making process. If you yourself can’t speak that language then you can use the wryly/parenthesis to let the reader know what language should be spoken and then write in English. Put simply you should not write dialogue in a foreign language.
You can also use the wryly/parenthesis to note that the dialogue is in a foreign language and subtitles in English. First Character Appearance
Formatting Character Details
The following article is going to focus on formatting everything to do with characters in the narrative of your screenplay. Subtitles and foreign languages can distract from the action on screen.There’s a problem with both these methods though. in this example the sound of the language has an amusing quality. This is the last option for subtitling.
5. This will help your scriptwriting look more professional. You can always give a sense of a foreign language by mixing in a few foreign words with a hint of the relevant accent. Like the second option you can make note in the narrative description that the character speaks a foreign language which is subtitled in English. Use his option if the sound of the words in the foreign language is important. While these are easy to both read and write they aren’t going to be easy to understand to anyone watching the movie unless they actually speak that foreign language. 4.
Whenever possible though you should try to use English as much as possible. It should looks something like this:
You can write a full scene in a foreign language with a similar note and a second note when the subtitles end. The answer to this problem is to include subtitles in English. improve the flow of your story and create a stronger visual of each character.
which keeps them into the flow of the story. Never pin an actors name on a character. You also shouldn’t put a group of people in CAPS. Imagine Brad Pitt reading through your script. This makes it easier for anyone who reads your script to follow the characters. “man serving slurpees”. If you wish to have a “mystery character” then you could refer to them as SHADOWY MAN and then reveal their identity in the narrative. then the s should be typed in lowercase.When your character makes their first appearance in your screenplay then take care to write their name in CAPS. absolutely loving it. Like most narrative you should keep it short but descriptive. Save that for dialogue and action. For example:
Only write description that can be used on screen. You should also note that when a name is followed by a possessive. Like below:
To keep your screenplay easy to read it is best if you name your character as soon as they appear. You don’t want to be writing about the character’s backstory as part of their description.
Character Descriptions When your character makes their first appearance is the perfect time to write out a description of them. for example. So when a character makes their first appearance it should look something like this:
You don’t have to put a character’s name in CAPS if they are not important in the story. or written for Tom Cruise. The love will quickly dissipate. just individual characters. only the find out that the main character is based on.
. This makes the character name standout and draws attention to them allowing you to then follow up with a description (see next sub-headline). You should focus more on the nature of the character as opposed to physical appearance unless there are a few physical traits which are very important to the character or story.
It can be very helpful to the reader to give some small visual piece of information that helps them visual the character. maybe who have the same occupation. Television/Radio
. If you have a group of characters. radio. Instead you might have. and even if they have a line or two stick with this method. STRIPPER 3 give them a functional name. Your important minor characters should also names. Rather than STRIPPER 1. a certain way of walking. or least know that they should have one. If they don’t have any lines of dialogue then this is how you should name them.
Formatting Electronic Dialogue (Television. You should be careful not to overdo electronic communication in your script though as it can slow the pace of the story down and feel rather action-less. However your really minor characters are better served with a descriptive name so the reader knows not to focus on them. radio. just the more important ones. computers)
There may be times in your script that you wish you write scenes in which characters interact with each other via an electronic medium. ANGRY STRIPPER. Instead it should be used sparingly when it furthers the story or makes sense that the characters should communicate in an electronic fashion. STRIPPER 2. In an age where electronic communication is taking over one-to-one interaction this can help add an important touch of realism to your screenplay. You don’t have to do this for every character. then try to give each of them a unique descriptive name. DITZY STRIPPER. Now you know a little something about each character and how they may act and speak. while giving the character a small amount of identity. telephone. an odd tic. etc. If you name a character DRUNKEN HOBO then it lets the reader know their character and function without having to write a description. Rather than comment on the facial/body features of a character try to think of something more like a piece of clothing. telephone or computer. If a character is not seen or heard then you can simply describe them in the narrative as an unseen character. INTELLIGENT STRIPPER. this will help the reader and the actor. Minor Characters Names I’m sure that you already have names for your important characters. such as a television.
As two characters are talking they can be moving around with action happening all around them. If you just want a few lines coming from the television in the background then just use television as the character name and write the dialogue you wish. Telephone conversations are a little more flexible in formatting. Method 2 . as there are four widely accepted methods of formatting them.Both television and radio communication is formatted in the same way.
You do not need to tell the actor to add pauses. This is formatted like regular dialogue. and simpler. In essence you format the television or radio as if it were a character. and the same for radio. This is a variation of a voice-over.G:
Telephone With the invention of the Bluetooth headsets it’s becoming easier to make telephone phone conversations more exciting.If you only want one character to be shown and heard then this is the method to use. they will know how to act out a telephone conversation this way. The first method is to mention the character in the narrative description as being on tv/radio and then use the character’s name as the character caption or cue.
. If you want a specific character to be on the television/radio then there are two different ways to format it. A clearer. way is to add a parenthetical: (on tv/radio). E.The second method is for when you want both characters to be heard but only one to be heard. Method 1 .
so does the INTERCUT unless you state otherwise. Method 4 . There are two ways of doing this.
. When the telephone conversation ends. The other way of using the INTERCUT method is as follows:
When you use the INTERCUT method you are giving the director free reign on when to cut between the two characters.If you have a clear image in your head about how you want the scene to play out. The simple way is as follows:
Then you would write the dialogue as normal. including character actions and cuts then this is the more hands on method. While it takes a little more work you allow yourself more control over the scene.Method 3 .When you want both characters to be seen and heard then you can use an INTERCUT.
You need to find a way of showing the audience all the information they need to glean from the conversation. In the case of a web cam then you can treat that like a television. as follows:
.Computer Character’s can interact on computer in a few ways. If they’re using email or instant message then remember that only words spoken out loud should be shown as dialogue. There are a number of ways to do this. Via email/instant message or web cam.
Learning how to format electronic communication is another tool in your belt as a scriptwriter. The narrative description describes the story within your screenplay which includes.Of course you could also adapt the INTERCUT method if you want to cut between two characters typing to each other. the action.
Writing And Formatting Effective Description
Along with dialogue it is the narrative description which takes up the bulk of your script. practice really does make perfect. Used well they can add unique elements of drama and comedy to a screenplay. In terms of formatting you shouldn’t indent paragraphs of narrative description but you should double-space between paragraphs. settings and characters. The reason behind this is that you view a movie in present time.
. and the sounds. Try writing out a conversation between two of your characters. The first thing you need to know about writing the narrative description is that it is always written in the present tense. Even if you’re writing a flashback or other sequence regarding past events you should always write in the present tense.
To write a dramatic scene you should use short paragraphs (as mentioned above) and put emphasis on the actions. See how Sylvester Stallone heightens the drama before Rocky’s first fight with Apollo Creed. Each paragraph should help the reader “see” and “hear” what would be happening on-screen. then two hyphens. The earlier description may now be changed to “A very unkempt bedroom. Only provide information that is completely necessary to progress the story. and another space before continuing the action. Most locations should be kept relatively simple. A big pile of unwashed clothes stagnates in the middle of the room. Following this guideline will help you keep your narrative description short while relaying any information you need to give the reader. although one or two lines is always preferable. The only time you need to mention specific items is when they will come into play later during the scene. emotions and any specific visuals you feel will enhance the scene. while focusing on significant actions and moments. If your character happens to trip up over a pile of dirty clothing then you can mention that during your short description of the room. Some visual images may only need the briefest of descriptions.It is important to keep your narrative short and sweet.
. A good guideline to keep a smooth flow is to write one paragraph for every beat of action or visual images. If you wish to use a dash during a paragraph then it should be formatted with a space. Creating The Visual You should try and capture every beat of action or image within one paragraph. To keep paragraphs short try to keep them down to a maximum of four lines. If a scene is to be set in an untidy character’s bedroom you can describe it simply as “A very unkempt bedroom”. it is not your job to describe every item in a room or the exact layout of a building.” Dramatize The Drama If you’re writing a scene in your script which you intend to add drama to the story then make sure it’s dramatic! It seems like obvious advice but I’ve ready many scripts for friends where “dramatic” scenes have been extraordinarily dull.
Keep Details And Descriptions Trim
before I’d done any studying at all. He is determined to scale that mountain. It wasn’t until I’d finished that script that I even read another script. Specify The Action Specifying actions helps add color to your screenplay. you shouldn’t write every time they take a sip. It is quite simple to do though. Soon a paragraph that was:
Which has a lot more spark and gives the reader an idea about Zed’s thoughts and feelings at that moment. If a character is drinking while in a scene. Avoid writing the character’s thoughts unless the audience can hear them in a voice over or other device. That’s probably too much description for a novel. Similarly you should also remember to only write what the audience what see or hear on-screen. Some writers like to leave this until the rewrite. I described my main character’s house is such detail that it took nearly three full pages. What I mean by specifying action is that rather than using words such as “looks”. etc use a much more specific word. focusing on the actual story during the first draft. “enters”. especially with a little practice. far more than is required. If you’re on the fence whether to cut a snippet of detail or not you should probably cut it. to add in a lot of detail.It can be easy. When I did I was amazed at how short and to the point it was…and how it held my interest a lot better than the script I had written. Leave that to the actor or actress to decide. let alone a screenplay.
. I remember the first time I tried my hand at scriptwriting. when scriptwriting. Instead of “looks” try “stares intensely” or “glances”. You have to pick and choose which details to write about. or touch the glass. “walks”.
don’t you think? This is where character research comes in. your job as a scriptwriter should have just become a whole lot easier!
It’s been said that a truly great character can save an otherwise poor script. A character who’s disobeyed his wife’s orders and come home later wouldn’t just enter the house.To can use this technique to add depth to both action and characters. Some people are great storytellers who provide a fantastical narrative to their script but the characters feel lifeless and more like props to tell the story when. The main character should be. so that’s not a great idea but you get my point. Specifying action allows you to paint a much better portrait of a character and their motivation. in should be a cast of scintillating character moving the script along. and quizzes to help the aspiring scriptwriter develop intriguing characters with more layers then an Eskimo.com will offer techniques. with sheer will and determination. what their concerns are. in fact. Now you know how to do all this. Your main character is a hotel manager who. they’d try and sneak in silently.filmscriptwriting. wants to become the owner of the biggest chain of hotels in the world.
You’ve got a great idea for a script. what their goals are. When you finally get to sitting down and starting the scriptwriting process you realise that you don’t know the first thing about running a hotel. A cocky character wouldn’t shuffle. the deepest and most interesting character. in general. It is only in getting to grips with your character that they will light up your script rather than dragging it along with them. In a perfect world every script would tell a great story and be chock full of interesting characters.
. how they keep going. You need to find what drives these characters. Bit of a stumbling block. Every script needs a main character to drive the story along. Your characters will also find new levels to work in. they’d stride. guides. In this section of the site www. however this isn’t a perfect world. Okay. If you use the techniques I have illustrated above you will soon find your narrative description becoming fast paced and gripping which is exactly what it needs to be.
Using my opening idea of a hotel manager I’ll highlight what specific character research is. Remember how your grandma would always say goodbye to her cat before leaving her house? Or how your friend would always sit on certain seat on the bus if it was available? These are all general character traits which can be noticed while people watching. If you’re writing a script with a couple of schoolchildren in then you can draw on your personal experience and memories and create a couple of solid characters with fun tails of pranks and mischief. Specific Character Research I’ve heard a few times that you should “write what you know” and while there is merit in that.General Character Research The one great thing about general character research is that you’ve always got something to fall back on. Every emotion you’ve felt. you’d be surprised how open people will be with you especially if you offer to take them for a meal or a coffee. Go down to you local library (if you want to be a scriptwriter try to avoid ever paying for anything!) and read a book on business management. I assume that more or less everyone who’s reading this went to a school of some sort. or people you don’t. Depending on how good the library is they may even have one specifically on hotel management. can’t be used to flesh out the characters in your script. I don’t personally know any hotel managers but that does not need be a stumbling block. Every little quirk you see in people you know. You could strike up an online rapport with one of these hotel managers and have a wealth of information at your fingertips. My favorite approach though is the personal one. every job provides with a broad background of character knowledge you can draw upon. a myspace or facebook page or maybe even a forum full of hotel managers…which is a scary thought. Information is easier than ever to access. every relationship. part of the fun for many scriptwriters is immersing themselves in a new environment. Everything you experience in life can be taken as general character research for scriptwriting. When people hear you’re a writing a script and
. I’m sure if you were to search the internet they’d be a blog of a hotel manager. Most writers are people watchers. Treat yourself to a short break and stop in a small hotel. Get talking to the manager and let him know you’re a scriptwriter.
Christian. how they express themselves.
When you are developing a character for your script you need to be aware that they do not live in a vacuum. Ethnic . attitudes and life philosophy. mannerisms.Is your character from an well-to-do Washington family or a dirt poor Detroit family? How would this affect them? Religious . They could be Buddhist. If you want to understand a character you need to understand the context of the character. A 40 year old man from 18th century England will be vastly different from a 40 year old man from present day England.How long did your character go to school? Did they enjoy it? Were they popular? What did they study? The Time Period Most scriptwriters choose to write in the current period. Agnostic or Atheist? How would this change their attitudes to people of other religions? Or how they deal with moral situations? Education . Jewish.they can help you the lure of their having some portion of their life on the big screen is just too much for most people to resist. As the water is poured into the jug the shape it takes depends on the shape of the jug.How would Irish American differ from an Italian American? Think about their speech. Muslim. You need to take into account that the way characters talk will be quite different. Think of context as the jug and the character as water.
.Your character will have a religious philosophy. Cultural Background There are many cultural influences you have to consider when planning out your character. Social . Their environment and upbringing will shape them greatly. I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece on character research. Stay tuned because there’ll be more to come. This is because the audience of the time can relate to cultural references and a lot less research is required. Setting a script in the future is no problem as you can choose to take the world in any direction you wish but the past is a lot more tricky.
if you have a one man war machine who is killing people left and right don’t call him Bob Smith.The vocabulary. Perhaps the best question you can ever ask a character is “what would you do if…?”
Naming Your Characters
Giving your character the “right” name can often be a big piece in the puzzle of making your character feel like a real person. obscenities and meanings of words will not be the same as today’s speech pattern. amenities and buildings were vastly different. It is a lot easier to write about the place you live than somewhere you have never even seen before. Location A script set in New York will undoubtedly have a much different flavor to one set in Rhode Island.
. No offence to anyone called Bob Smith but it’s not a name with brings to mind an unstoppable force. Imagine they are someone you’ve just met for the first time and you want to find out more about them. accents. attitudes. This cuts down on the amount of research needed as you know a lot more about the area you’ve lived in for the last 20 years than somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit but never got round to. A negotiator is going to be very good at working people around to his way of thinking. It just requires a lot of specific research. A model is going to dress more stylishly than a postal worker. This all needs to be researched thoroughly if you want the world your script is in to be realistic. Occupation The occupation of a character and how it affects them is often overlooked in film and can be downright ignored in a TV series. It is unwise to write about a location that you’ve never been to before but it can be done. rhythm. Also the occupation and cultural background can prove to be closely related. Depending on the occupation the character may have a unique set of skills. etc. Interview Your Character You might find it helpful to write out an interview with your character to find out their background. Similarly the clothes. That well-to-do Washington man is a much more likely to be the CEO of a company than the dirt-poor Detroit man. For example. pace of life. A farmer is going to have a much different pace of life than a stockbroker. The location affects clothing.
Whenever you create a character you should have a strong feeling on what he/she is all about. Finally the internet is a great tool in naming characters. If you have a character that is IrishAmerican then surnames like Mahon. every woman called Emily I know has these personality traits. Final Fantasy VII was lead by Cloud Strife. the very picture of dignity. He had a whole cast of allies who fought against the main antagonist Sephiroth. I’d like to step outside the media of film and look at the world of video games. Not only are the stories rich and focused but the characters are deep and interesting. McMahon. attributes and concepts one must realise to reach their inner Christ. and therefore in line to take over the world.html
. You don’t want a cast of characters called Adam. Allan and Aretha.com/meaning-search. Part of this is in the naming of the characters. Sephiroth was a genetically enhanced soldier who believed himself to be the son of an alien God. There are plenty of baby naming sites out there where you can put in character keywords such as “fighter” and “strong” and come out with a list of appropriate names and their meanings. Anita. Unless both names seem perfect for the character don’t have any character sharing the same first letter in their name. Lincoln of course comes from Abraham Lincoln.babynamesworld. In Kabbalah there are ten Sephiroth. He was physically strong. yet mentally weak with a brooding nature. Try http://www. If you have a female character who is quiet and full of dignity the name Emily Lincoln immediately pops into me head. One thing to consider in naming a character is their ethnic background. The naming of characters is often given a lot more thought in video games (especially RPG’s) than movies or TV. which are ideas. This is down to personal experience (general character research). While that may be fine for the fantasy/sci-fi genre the names would seem overly odd in a more realistic setting. Flaherty and O’Neill spring forward. Try and mix it up instead. What qualities and characteristics do they possess. The name Sephiroth is based on the teachings of Kabbalah. Of course all these names are all well and good but rather outlandish. The idea is good but needs toning down. Alice. In particular I’d like to look at a series of games called Final Fantasy. This of course relates to how Sephiroth wants to become the next God. This sets them all apart and make them seem more individual. Also you want to be careful is having too many characters with the same first letter of their first name.
although possibly relieved that you have a window of opportunity to get them back. They need to re-act and then act. Your immediate re-action would be to feel upset and angry. You would then act by looking into the clues and trying to find out exactly where your family are and how you can get them back.The Main Character
Your main character is the crown jewel in your story. Your main character will go to any lengths to reach their goal. However if you’re trying to build a story around a character then you need to make sure they have a well defined goal. No Character Is More Dynamic Than Your Main Character
. only to be built back up in a stronger form. Your main character needs to have this “think and do” mentality to every situation. Make sure that: Your Main Character Is Imperfect Your main character should have plenty of vulnerabilities and imperfections. You already know the basic story arc and where the lead character is going. Every scene in your script should reinforce what the character’s ultimate goal is and the lengths they will go to achieve it. even if the “do” often overshadows the “think”. As your script progresses your main character will steadily turn those weaknesses around. The Character’s Goal Is Clear If you’ve started the scriptwriting process with a firm idea of the story then this one should come naturally. Imagine for a moment that your family has been kidnapped and you have been left a few clues on how to find them. But it will take them a lot of work and effort. throwing themselves into more and more dangerous situations as a result. If you start your script with a main character who is already complete and ideal then they will be able to overcome any problem you throw at them too easily. The main character needs to be put in such intense situations that he is broken down. That is you re-acting and then acting on a situation. The Main Character Re-Acts and Acts Never have a main character just stand and watch as an event unfolds. otherwise you have no where to go with them. They should be put in peril and constantly tested to bring out their strengths and weaknesses.
Or you could kill off this side character as another obstacle or an inciting incident for the main character. let alone a handful. There is a reason ensemble (four or more main characters) movies rarely work. You could simply replace this character with a less interesting creation.
. It is also very hard to get four or five big Hollywood stars to work together at the same time while receiving equal billing. or at least as close as you can get in a script. You can imagine how awful you’d feel if any of these things happened to you. John Wayne’s house would be destroyed. giving them less time to shine. his wife raped. his land ruined. Your main character will have something taken away from them in such a way that they will still seem the “good guy” no matter how far they go to improve the situation they are in. Then again you could always change the story up a little and turn the script into more of a buddy movie. This means that your character has a life of their own rather than borrowing off yours. Another option is to reduce the role of the side character. his family killed or any other number of horrific events would happen. You Build Sympathy In Your Main Character Look at any western movie. Don’t worry. and keep the character in mind for another script. If you have a story with half a dozen main characters then you might want to consider condensing their characteristics into two or three main characters and one side character.Your main character needs to be the richest. turning the story on its head then you might need to reign them back a bit. In the space of two hours it is hard enough to flesh out and keep one character focused. It gives John Wayne a green light to do anything he wants while seemingly perfectly justified in his actions. that’s good. Your Main Character Controls Your Writing The main character will occasionally start to lead you in direction you didn’t expect. especially a John Wayne film. You Realise Less Is More Keep your story focused on no more than two or three characters. If they start going too far. Remember that the character is a player in your created world and when they start going in their own direction it’s a good indication that your character is growing into a “real person”. deepest character in your script. Otherwise why aren’t we following the story of this side character? If you find yourself halfway through a script and a side character is emerging as more interesting than a main character then there are a few different actions you can take.
Remember that no-one in life considers themselves the bad guy. with a backstory to explain his evil traits. Indeed villains are often the most active characters in a good versus evil story. They’ll lie. maim. Thus humanity would be in a superior position. serving only as a shadow to the good force of the main character. bribe and betray.
. or a self-serving attitude leaving the villain with little to no empathy. The two main reasons characters become villains tend to be through their own victimization at an early age. The villain will oppose the protagonist but in a more sinister fashion.
For every Luke Skywalker there is a Darth Vader. for every Sherlock Holmes a Professor Moriarty. The “victim villain” tends to be a re-actor. For example your main character might desire a bank loan yet be refused because of a poor credit background. Often there will be several antagonists in a script who don’t have that evil edge required to be classified as a villain. Rather they are simply doing their job which results in them opposing the antagonist. His motivation was to obtain the space and resources needed for the Aryan race to spread and rule the world. murder. Keep them focused. in his opinion. smarter and stronger. everyone has a rational and justified reason for their actions…even if only they understand that rationale. anything to achieve their goal. goodness means nothing. Suffice to say that everything your main character stands for. As a scriptwriter you need to explain the why the villains acts in the way they do.Your main character will make or break your script. the villain will oppose and vice versa. The “self-serving villain” tends to have a number of unconscious factors which have resulted in their maladjusted world view. Many other people have shared similar beliefs about various races throughout history but it is the way that Hitler set about achieving his goal. Every protagonist needs an antagonist to play off because without evil. driven and goal orientated and they’ll stand out as a cut above the rest. There is a tendency in Hollywood movies for the villains to have little to no motivation for their attitude and goals. simply carrying out his duty as a good bank manager yet he is directly opposing the protagonist. At this point it is important to note that not every antagonist is a villain. steal. While the protagonist may believe in freedom of speech the antagonist may be suppressing that right in people in an active manner. just like Adolph Hitler as looked into above. cheat. Hitler’s name is often brought up as one of the most evil men in history. The bank manager is not doing anything evil. However the truly iconic villain will be every bit as motivated as the good guy. killing millions of people in a tyrannical rampage that sets him apart as one of the most evil figures in history.
As far as they are concerned they are the only human while everyone around them is a mindless robot taking human form. It should be used to gradually grow and evolve your characters and expound on the character arc. his Persian cat certainly wouldn’t have seen him as evil. 3. An intelligent character might use a myriad of colourful phrases to describe things while a street punk will use a few monosyllabic words to explain things. He thought the world of his cat and treated it with love. If your script comes skidding to a halt during a conversation between two characters then you need to edit how the information is given out. show it through action or whatever else you can think of to keep your story moving along at a good pace. Remember that different characters will display the same emotion differently.Recognise that no-one is 100% evil. Move The Story Forward When you write dialogue you want to make sure that it keeps the story flowing. 2. A great example of this would be the early episodes of Star Wars. While one character may go into a destructive rage when they are angry. Reveal Your Character’s Background Every character has a different background which affects how they speak. Instead they will have a few positive traits littered amongst a black cloud of negativity. Reveal The Emotional Stakes During every conversation your characters should go through a range of emotions and display them accordingly. Break it up. their thoughts and their feelings are correct and more important than anyone else’s. One thing that bonds all villains is a certain form of narcissism. while he had an obsession with killing James Bond (in highly convoluted manners) and world domination. Remember Blofeld from James Bond movies. another might try to mask their anger behind a fake smile. A set of beliefs where they feel that there world view. Everyone’s always wrong…except me!
An Overview Of Dialogue
Dialogue is an excellent tool in developing a character.
. A lot of would-be scriptwriters worry about their ability to write dialogue but a great screenplay needs strong characters and a captivating story first and foremost. therefore they are “perfectly justified” in sacrificing such pawns to achieve their goal. Effective dialogue should achieve five things: 1.
If there are two characters in a scene and they both want the same thing then the scene feels flat. like two friends talking with all the extraneous and unnecessary parts taken out. Don’t over think it. No umm-ing and ahh-ing. have them overlap. Also you want to avoid having characters referring to the name of the person they are talking to. Any conflict must be verbalized and explored. Nothing goes smoothly in real life and your script should be much the same. Create Tension Every character has an agenda. The truth is though that good dialogue is not at all like a real life conversation. if you want to write a dialogue loaded piece then a play is the medium for that. They can lie and exaggerate to each other. There are ways you can keep dialogue “realistic” without it being dull and long winded. often in opposition of the character they are playing off. Movies are action orientated. everything moves along too smoothly. Clashing agendas result in tension either on the surface or in the subtext. As the script progresses and your characters grow the reaction becomes more focused and explosive. Just let it flow and come from the heart and it will seem a lot more natural. When you’re in a scene remember that each character wants something to happen. Allow your characters to interrupt each other from time to time. An all out fist fight indicates a poor relationship with a certain amount of backstory to it. Dialogue is much more sharp and to the point. some are out in the open and some are hidden. 5. Avoid having characters going off on long rants or monologues. and no rambling. Reveal Conflict There are many types of conflict which will effectively show they type of relationship between two characters. How does your character react to these situations? Be aware that each different situation will result in your character reacting in a different way. A light hearted couple of jibes about a character’s choice of pants shows that both characters are close and friendly. You can always go over
. instead try and keep any dialogue to a couple of lines. Occasionally a long speech is needed but you need a really good reason and message behind the monologue otherwise the audience will get bored quickly.4. Dialogue should be like a good conversation. Realistic Dialogue Critics often focus on the realism of dialogue. When you are writing the first draft of your script you shouldn’t worry too much about writing dialogue. In movies dialogue tends to replace the inner thought you’d find in a novel. everyone makes their point quickly and succinctly and then allows others to put in their two cents. You want to think of dialogue as edited speech.
Listen back to it and note the details.
Subtext: The Meaning Behind The Words
Most of the time it’s not what you say but how you say it. when there are lulls or uncomfortable moments. This is why some scriptwriters like to write out a character biography and backstory for their main characters before they begin writing the dialogue. Vocabulary 5. rhythm and structure A Simple Exercise To Improve Your Understanding Of Dialogue If you’re serious about being a scriptwriter then you should invest in a digital Dictaphone. can become a sarcastic insult. Accent and/or cultural influences 6. snappier way of saying this?”. As you write down the dialogue be thinking to yourself. A few complimentary words. Once you get inside the head of the character you’re writing for it makes it much easier. You might want to ask permission first but use the Dictaphone whenever you can and record conversations with as wide a variety of people as you can.it in the rewrite to tweak and improve it. when the topic gets changed. If you watch any “behind the
. Professional jargon 8. As the prefix suggests the subtext is hidden below the text. The text/words 2. Style. instead it should be subtly hidden amongst the text and in the actions of the character. “is there a shorter. The subtext/meaning behind the words 3. Just like in real life a character should rarely say what they really mean. with the deeper meaning underneath. Grammar 4. Slang 7. Of the eight elements of dialogue the subtext is probably the most important yet can be the hardest to pin down. leaving basic phrases they can change later. You’ll begin to develop a feeling of when people interrupt each other. Think of an iceberg with the tip being the visible tip. You’ll eventually get the hang of saying the most in as few words as possible. A character voice consists of eight things: 1. out of view. Subtext is the meaning behind the words. Some writers put barely any effort into the dialogue in the first draft. the emotions within the speech. with the right tone of voice.
scenes” documentary about a movie and see an actor or actress asking the director about their character motivation they are referring to the subtext within the dialogue. While they chat the subtext of the conversation is displayed in subtitles.
. In the Woody Allen film Annie Hall there is a scene where Annie and Alvy are talking to each other on a balcony.
.This is perhaps the best example of the underlying subtext behind conversation in film.
This allowed the audience to emphasise with Mulder and Scully as the story progressed and more dark secrets were revealed. That is to say it will have more snap and less directness. while keeping them in the dark about things they didn’t need to know. Without achieving his goal he may feel like a loser in the short term but the disappointment will soon lift when he realises his enhanced status. (Write as much as you can. One of the best ways to do this is to include all the exposition necessary for the audience to understand the story…but no more. This is known as exposition. This way he has triumphed even if he fails to achieve his outside goal. Therefore the text of story should send the character on a path in which achieves a certain level of importance and success. Practise makes perfect. It also lessens the opportunity for shocking revelations and plot twists towards the end of your screenplay. In every screenplay the main character has some sort of outside goal (the story text) as well as an inner need (the story subtext). Anything that isn’t required to understand the story right away you can save for later on down the line. As you write any dialogue you should remember to consider the character’s attitude. their thoughts and feelings and what they are looking to achieve in the particular scene as well the story in general.When you have a grasp of subtext it helps immensely in writing dialogue. How often do you hear someone directly say “I’m angry”? You’re much likely to hear their exasperation through phrases such as “What the hell?” or “I can’t believe what I’m hearing!”.
. background information and any facts that are necessary to the story. It is all too easy to lump the majority of the exposition in the first few pages of your script but this gets the story off to a slow start from which it may not recover. and in a way that is more conducive to effective dialogue. One of the biggest strengths of the X-Files franchise was it’s ability to give enough information to the viewer to understand the story. their perspective on the situation. You will find that your characters will speak with a more human voice. Subtext also has another meaning. For a character whose goal is to be able to purchase a Ferrari Testarossa they probably have an inner need to be seen as important and successful.)
Exposition Through Dialogue
One purpose of dialogue is to communicate the backstory. as often as you can. This means that you need to spread your exposition evenly throughout your screenplay. Often this realisation doesn’t even occur within the script but the audience is left with a feeling of how the character’s life will change for the better.
This is where you can use the scriptwriters tool of conflict to add realism. Throughout a movie you character could wear a wedding ring and have pictures of himself with a woman and child in his wallet and in his house.
Not too convincing is it? People don’t talk like that and neither should your characters. You want to avoid dialogue that just gives the game away while standing out like a sore thumb. That is. keeping the dialogue sounding like a real conversation. The audience will surmise that the character has been through a divorce but still think of their ex-wife and child with fondness. You can pass information over visually. Have your characters argue over backstory. It can be hard to keep exposition natural.Saving exposition until crucial moments is a fantastic way to keep the story exciting. Yet you never see this family in person. his extends to the past as well as the present. Rather that spoon feeding the information to the audience. If you do choose to use a flashback then you have to be careful about the way you use it otherwise it may appear amateurish. It keeps the audience guessing and doesn’t allow the script to become predictable. It is also possible to add exposition in scenes without using dialogue. failing to hold the interest of the audience and failing to move the story forward. flashbacks tend to scoop the exposition out in big dollops. When thinking of using a flashback you need to make sure it’ll meet this checklist:
. Using Flashback For Exposition Flashbacks are often used in poor scripts as a cheap and easy way of introducing exposition. Every character has their own point of view.
The secret is that few stories are happy ones. The audience already cares about what happens in the future. when handled correctly. Flashbacks are a lot more effective when they are transitioned well from the present story. romance and so on as well as the boatload of emotions associated with them. Something about the scene should trigger a character’s flashback otherwise there’s no reason a flashback should happen.
If the flashback doesn’t contain an event which currently motivates the character in the present then there is no point in showing it. a name. It is how the characters deal with the conflict and adversity that creates drama. the flashback will merely serve as an interruption to this goal. visual image. It’d make for a poor movie. There are a number of different types of adversity you could use to create your story: Physical
. Similarly there’s no point in a flashback if the audience hasn’t been given enough to care about what will happen in the future.• • • • •
It’ll move the story forward. wouldn’t it? That’s because any good movie is steeped in conflict and adversity. It’s short and to the point. anything that could conceivably make a character think about the past. It could be a sound. Adversity creates the story that you are trying to tell in your screenplay. action. with nothing going wrong.
Using Adversity To Develop Characters
There’s a secret in Hollywood. comedy. Luckily it’s not very well kept. Insiders know that if you want to have a captivating story with well developed characters then you need a whole heap of adversity. albeit they often have happy endings. a place. Imagine a screenplay telling the story of a couple of shopkeepers on an average day. can also be highly effective. It transitions well. It motivates the character. As a rule exposition is best told through natural dialogue but a flashback.
friend. Relationships are forged by characters going through adversity together.Physical adversity is illness. When there is adversity within the relationship a character must either change the relationship status. and what it would take for that reaction to
. However it is not the adversity that is so important. others are more hidden and subconscious. As the scriptwriter and creator you must find the way a character would react to a situation. There is no greater adversity than being faced with your own death. death and the threat of each driving your character. injury. Every relationship you have probably has an interesting story to tell whether it be a family member. be changed by the relationship. no stress and no problems then the reader will have no interest. If you create a character who has no worries. It is the unfulfilled desire that often drives the character throughout the screenplay. accept the relationship or fight against the relationship. While conflict drives the story forward the adversity drives the character development. Displacement Whenever a character is placed in an unfamiliar location or situation they are facing displacement adversity. The best example of a movie dealing with displacement would be Lost In Translation. work colleague or pet. Some desires are obvious and in plain sight. Miscommunication and deception Favored adversity of the screwball comedy is miscommunication and deception. Using adversity to develop a character means exploring the character you’ve created. And no interest means no purchase. or the death of a loved one. Displacement can be big or small. altering his world view into an incorrect one. Desire All characters have wants and needs that are unfulfilled. It can be as big sending a character to a future time or as a small as a new friend being injected into a character’s clique. Physical adversity is particularly prevalent in action and adventure movies. it’s how the character reacts deals with the adversity. Relationships Relationships are everywhere. Typically a character will either misunderstand or be lied to by another character.
Choose how your characters will change and how they’ll stay the same. Bear in mind that a character will deal with relationship adversity differently than displacement adversity. Similarly you may have a character who appears calculating and ruthless becomes a softy at the sight of a baby.change. like the yin and yang of the screenplay. To truly develop a character through adversity you need to: Know your characters inside and out. Once you know the character’s thought process you can work out exactly how they deal with whatever adversity comes there way. but you need to convince them that you’ve captured exactly how that character would deal with that specific adversity. As a character grows you may find that you need to change events and situations in your screenplay so both the character and plot can develop further. Mix and change things up. If a character makes the same decision. in the same situation. This is a very good sign. yet he showed great love and affection towards his cat. You’ll want a few elements of their personality to change while others stay the same. This has an added bonus of allowing scenes in your screenplay to almost write themselves. twice and it doesn’t work then your character hasn’t learned. It’s natural for a viewer to imagine themselves dealing with adversity in a different way. Finally I want you to remember that character growth and plot growth should be finely balanced.
. As your story develops so will your character. The more time you’ve spent creating your character and analyzing them the more you will know about them. As balanced as a person may be they will always have some contradictions within their personality. This way the audience will leave the movie having seen a memorable story with an unforgettable cast of characters. These contradictions add a whole new dimension to a character. Don’t worry. For a character to develop they have to learn and improve themselves. You need to decide how your characters change and then come up with a reason why they change. it shows that the main character has taken on a life of its own. The more you know about them the easier it becomes to work out their thought process. Blofeld was an evil villain hell bent on world domination and killing James Bond.
However if you delve a little deeper you can create a truly memorable character for your screenplay. you normally begin with a couple of personality traits and a vague idea of what they look like.Making A Memorable Character
It is important as a scriptwriter to come up with characters that are not only realistic and gripping but also fit the story you are trying to tell. Try to draw out this initial idea now and create an image of this character in your head. When to begin to create a character. line of dialogue. especially a major one. You have all the information you need of this character to write about them. The most important of these two considerations is that the character fit in with the plot.
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Are they male or female? How old are they? What type of clothes do they wear? How do they style their hair? Do they wear glasses?
Now you have a visual image of your character you need to explore the background of the character. look or goal to get that initial idea.
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What was their childhood like? Do they have a family now? What kind of people do they befriend? What is their profession? Do they carry anything around with them? Where is their home? What do they own?
Once you have figured all this out you have a nice skeleton of a character.
. The more visual and audio media you listen to the easier it is to have that spark of an idea to make a memorable character. If your character cares about what happens around them it makes it so much easier to get the audience to care about them. You just need the right voice. Once you have that initial idea you need to grab it by the throat and shake as much detail as you can out of it. You need to create a character that will deeply care and react to whatever event is happening around them.
This is a great thing. adding to his mystery. Once you get into the head of a character this way it becomes a lot easier to develop them to the point where they become completely real in your mind. Ask your character interesting questions. Whenever you come across a surprising answer or loose thread question them further on it. going shopping. while Columbo is a step away from Columbus. Remember that the characters feelings and what happens around them means absolutely everything to them. bumbling detective with a sharp mind. Whether the character you’ve created is likeable or not you have to learn to respect them. amongst family. If you’re scriptwriting and come to a part of the plot where the character needs to do something which defies their core then you need to re-evaluate the plot or re-create the character. You can still delve even deeper into your character. The best way of getting around this issue is to have an event earlier on in the screenplay which explains why the character might react in such a way that goes against what they stand for normally. You will soon see the small personality changes that naturally happen depending on the situation the character is in. Columbo is a great name for the character.
Giving Your Character A Unique Voice
. Try to create a name which represents the character without sounding cliché. a character who is an individual. Straight away you know his rank within the police force. Columbo is the scruffy. Now you can imagine how they act and react to their everyday activities. Let the character speak for themselves. Take the role of interviewer for a lifestyle magazine. sometimes the answers might surprise you. Treat them as the individuals they are. Take everything you know about the character and take the role yourself. Come up with a single sentence description of the character which captures their essence and personality. amongst friends and partaking in their hobbies. let the words flow through your fingers. You’ve created a great thing here. While you come up with this sentence you may also want to name your character. You might also note that Columbo never gave a first name. This sentence should capture the character in such a way that the reader will instantly understand them. a man famed for the discovery of America. Lt. By now you should have a good idea who the character is and what they stand for. Respect their quirks and contradictions.Think about what it is that makes this character unique from other characters which might share similarities. Think about them at their job.
A lot of these things will depend on a character’s background. This helps you create personalities that stand out more. If you have a character that rambles it might be best for them to do so in the background or have another character constantly cut into them. A character should have their own vocabularies.
Of course when you are writing dialogue for a screenplay you want to keep it as concise as possible. If you write a script containing nothing but 21 year olds then a lot of the characters are going to blend together. without even looking at the character tag! Having a unique voice is another piece of the puzzle in putting together a realistic character. This means that anyone reading your screenplay would instantly recognise which character is talking. This way the action isn’t slowed down to a snail’s pace. Age also has a big part to play in a character’s voice.
. speech rhythms. Another character might use only the words absolutely necessary to explain what they’re saying. On the other hand your character may be an extreme extrovert. using French phrases as exclamation. willing to give their life story to anyone who will listen.An important part of creating a character is allowing them to have a unique voice. mannerisms and world views. soft and non-confrontational. A character from Quebec might speak broken English.
Or they might ramble around their point. accent. If you have a character who is shy they should probably rarely talk. Take these two examples. and when they do it should be short. Age also has a big part to play in the character’s world view. You should aim to have a wide range of ages amongst the cast of characters in your screenplay. Characters all have a personality which should have an impact on how they talk.
occasionally expresses himself using French phrases. The best way to get a handle of writing unique voices for characters is to widen your social spectrum. to differentiate them. Signing off. Pretty easy to tell from their attitudes to a boy band and the language and references they use. If you do this then you will soon notice the different flavor in each of your characters’ voices. Oli: Uses a lot of slang and aggressive language. Farewell. Before you start your scriptwriting it can be very helpful to write down a list of the characters in your screenplay and think of a few unique things about each character’s voice. Goodbye readers. slang. Look for vocabulary. Talk to as many people as you can in your everyday life. rhythms. Even a simple goodbye can be said in a multitude of ways. As a result your script will look a lot more interesting a prospect to producers. openness and enthusiasm. accents. You’ll soon pick up a bunch of stuff you can use to improve the your dialogue writing skills and use to flesh out your characters. Aloha. Sylvan: Speaks with a French accent. Keep yourself in check though. If you stay subtle and realistic you’ll be on solid ground. Wendy: Well educated with a strong vocabulary. Loves the chance to show off.
. you don’t want every character to have some zany quirk or else it will distract from the story. your loyalty is much appreciated. Anyone who reads the script will too.Guess who’s the 16 year old girl and who’s the 72 year old woman. points of view.
The character’s goal should be specific and measurable. and face an inner fear. A good goal should be hard to achieve and worth fighting for. Seeking inner peace is not a measurable goal.
. When you start your screenplay you need to think about the characters you are going to write about. The ten keys to building a great character are:
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A Goal And An Opposition Motivation A Backstory A Point Of View And Attitude Revealing Action Growing Room Plausibility Details Research A Strong Supporting Cast
Lets look at each of these in detail. There are ten things a character needs to be great. That individual force should make the character sweat and work to achieve the goal. There’s nothing more personal and motivating than that. These all apply to main characters. why does the character want to achieve this goal? What is his motivation? The more personal the motivation the better. Nobody wants to watch a movie about a woman trying to find her spare set of keys. Motivation Now your character has a goal you need to ask yourself a question. villains. an individual force trying to stop the character achieving the goal. you know when it has or has not been accomplished.Building Up A Great Character
A good story needs a great cast of characters to be memorable. This is why there are so many movies where a character has their family kidnapped. Seeking the Presidency is a goal. Whatever goal you choose for your character there also needs to be an opposition. supporting characters and even minor characters. A Goal And An Opposition There is something that your character wants.
You judge a character on the way they act. what they say and how they say it. A character’s past should influence how they act and react to things. Imagine a character who dreams of committing murder every night. a character who thinks and dreams of “normal things” yet one day. Rather than have a dozen flashbacks try to bring out the backstory through the way the character acts. A Backstory The backstory is what happened to the characters before the movie began. Everyone knows someone whose life seems to go great beat for beat. Having a detailed backstory helps bring the characters to life rather than being instruments of telling the story. attitude and thoughts and feelings. The backstory is the reason for the particular point of view and attitude the character has. Growing Room A “perfect” character is a boring character. Backstory is a great example of the “show don’t tell” adage. for no reason. you find yourself envious of them and
. going to have a dim point of view towards men. not on what they say or think. goes out and knifes an innocent person to death. These things are normally closely related to the character’s backstory. A woman who has been cheated on by her last few boyfriends is likely. If their parents were involved in a messy divorce when they were young then they may be very wary of getting married themselves. and acceptably. Now imagine the opposite. even if they don’t act in the way they directly think.A deeply personal motivation will allow the audience to relate to the character in your screenplay. A Point Of View And An Attitude Everyone has their own world view. So should your character. Use the character’s backstory to create their point of view and attitudes. This is how you create a relationship between the character and he audience. They have everything they want and need so there’s no story to tell. Revealing Actions Actions speak louder than words. Who is the evil character? Your characters (especially your main one) should always be willing to act. and is constantly thinking of ways to kill people…yet never does so because he realises it is wrong.
even if its just the way he treats his plants. They have to be willing to try and change themselves for the better. you need to bring out those small details in your character. Research To create a great character for your screenplay you need to put time and care into them. Let them recoil in terror. Remember though that humans often fight their emotions or try to hide them. If they stand there stone faced as the world is destroyed then they aren’t human. A character should have human emotions.willing them to fail. A character is single focused solely on attaining their goal while a real life person often have a lot of balls to juggle at once. They are the mannerisms. even if still aren’t perfect. Your character could be a mean old grouch amongst those he works with yet have a heart of gold when with his family. Plausibility means shades of grey. Along your way through life you pick up some very unusual traits. Let them react to situations the way a real human would. This doesn’t mean the character is schizophrenic. habits. If you’ve seen Stranger Than Fiction you might remember that Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) brushed each of his thirty-two teeth seventy-six times. There are two types of research. Even the “bad guy” has a glimmer of hope inside. They also need to have human traits and values. Plausibility There’s a major difference between a character in a screenplay and a real life person. Every character has a dark side and a good side. Everyone has something peculiar about them. they’re a robotic character. This means a lot of research. but they still seep through. One is general research. the other is specific research. causing a lack of focus. not blank and white. A Strong Supporting Cast
. idiosyncrasies and imperfections that make a character human. just that he hates work and loves spending time with his family. Instantly you should see from this that a good character should be imperfect. However you can make your character more plausible in a number of ways. Details Details are the little things that make up life. quirks. Often they will try too hard and end up realising they were fine as they were. or scream in anger.
caring character then write them as characters who speak to others with respect and joins in with local fundraising efforts. while they were in the same mood.
Character Consistency And When To Break It
A realistic character should be consistent. Build that character up. caring manner. Whenever you start a screenplay you want to create at least four rich characters so you have plenty of room for interplay. You need to put just as much care into every character you create as your main one. For a break in character consistency to mean anything first you need to set up the core personality of the character. Familiarity may breed contempt but consistency breeds comfort. How did they pick up these character traits. and that is where the intriguing nature of a character comes from. one brick at a time. Put them in a number of situations and they should still act in a liberal. attitudes and ethics. However this does not mean that characters have to be predictable and dull. Your characters should share similarities as well as contrasts that bind them together. was it through their upbringing. Unless you’re writing for a bipolar character there should be no wild mood swings. There are times when a character will realistically act or react in a way that is not usually normal for them. The core personality of a character is made up from their world view. Allow your audiences to grow comfortable with your characters. caring type . Remember that every major character must have their own unique function that moves the story forward. If you were to put them in the same situation.One great character does not make a strong cast. You know your character is a liberal. You can illustrate their core personality to the audience with the way the character interacts with their surroundings. This makes writing dialogue so much easier.what type of job would you expect them to hold? Perhaps they’re a nurse or a social worker. a jarring
. Keep them at a certain level of consistency. this is their nature under normal circumstances. Having an idea about a character’s consistencies also helps when trying to flesh out the character. at least until the situation warrants it. If you have created a liberal. everyday they should react in more or less the same way. You can have the most interesting character in the ever thought up but if they have no-one else with any depth to play off then they’re dead in the water. and gives the audience an expectation about how they will act.
It can last seconds or a lifetime. He turned out to be a fascinating character.event or something else? Liberal is often associated with creativity. been married had a child and then divorced. enjoys painting or writing poetry. other times calm and calculating. Breaking character consistency is a lot to do with putting them in that unreasonable situation. “Insanity is a perfectly natural reaction to an unreasonable situation. true to life character. it can be extraordinarily easy to turn them into a killer. sweet character for a moment. sweetest person could murder if the situation is right. Sometimes is can be wild and reckless. He’d been a heavy partier. I worked with a man in an administrative job who seemed a perfect fit with everything you’d expect of someone in that role. When you first meet someone you quickly draw a picture of them and their background. Going back to the nice.” Insanity takes many forms. Paradoxes are different. You need to find the right sequence of events to justify this sort of character evolution though. In the space of ten minutes you can go from a blank sheet of paper to having dozens of interesting and yet consistent qualities that character may have. It’s my belief that even the nicest. Breaking The Consistency Having a consistent character in your screenplay already puts you ahead of the curve. If they were to walk into their home and find their partner shot on the floor. See how a certain set of characteristics also implies other qualities. and operated a music theatre. If you can add a few paradoxes and let the character break certain consistencies at certain times then you have a fascinating. One of the best ways to create a character is to come up with a few consistencies about their nature and the brainstorm around them. A bodybuilder could have an excellent knowledge of human biology. But as I got to know him better I discovered he’d led quite the wild life.
. maybe your character plays guitar. their children tied up with the unaware perpetrator’s back turned and a gun nearby then it would be a perfectly natural reaction to shoot them. A serial killer often has some kind of sexual malfunction. However when you get to know them better they’ll throw the book out the window and reveal something you’d never imagined about them. A woman who grew up in the country might be a very proficient horse rider. moved to the other end of the country.
try and create that conflict within the character. By adding paradoxes and breaking the consistency in a consistent character you can create a true to life person the audience can relate to and emphasis with. develop characters and create conflict. such as “I. blithering idiot around the partner of their dreams. how they don’t work. And that’s always the main goal in creating any character. The majority of the research is already done. One of the most interesting insights character relationships offer is how character act differently around different characters. Sometimes the chemistry between two characters can strengthen one while weakening the other. As the years have gone one relationships have become increasingly important in films.Paradoxes don’t have to make sense but it helps if there’s some element of logic to them. Remember that one of the keys to writing is conflict. A character who appears to be highly successful and confident may turn into a tonguetied. There are four basic elements that any relationship can have. sometimes it weakens both character while others both characters will be stronger for the relationship. This is most commonly seen in “cop movies” such as Lethal Weapon. caring character we talked about earlier could be pro death penalty. While the characters may not like each other to begin with their occupation bond keeps them together until they grow to be friends.
Rarely does a character exist in their world alone. Legend” where Will Smith has his canine companion by his side. or perhaps more accurately. we all know how relationships work. The reason? They’ve been a victim of crime a number of times throughout their life. sexual relationship or family dynamics. Even films with the central premise of lonliness have some form of relationships. it helps progress the story. The characters have a common bond that both brings and keeps them together. It seems like every other movie produced is heavily entrenched in the story of a friendship. That same liberal. If you are writing a script based on a relationship story you might want to create the foundation for the relationship first and then fit the individual character qualities around the relationship. This is an
. The reason for this is simple. This is because it’s an awful lot easier to write a script containing lots of character interaction. Keep the following character relationship elements in mind:
Just as there is a bond that keeps characters together there should be some sort of conflict which threatens to pull the characters apart. they become a complete crime fighting machine while being seeped in conflict. Look at the four elements above and see what it is that keeps you close and what stops you being even closer. The attraction and conflict has to be balanced otherwise the relationship would become dull and stale or the conflict would push the characters completely apart. Going back to “cop movies” how many times have we seen the uptight policeman who does things by the book with a renegade partner who goes by gut instincts? A lot.for better or worse.
. of a screenplay. especially if they don’t like each other to begin with. While sweet it means there is no room in the story for progression in the relationship.example of character attraction. Soon the renegade cop becomes a little more focus and less wild while the uptight cop loosens up and is willing to break a few rules. One of the best ways to start writing strong relationships is to think of your own relationships. This could be anything from a minor difference of opinion to an extramarital affair.
Those four elements have to be there in a relationship to make it work and keep it interesting for story purposes. The relationship could transform both characters .
4. There is conflict between the characters. and possibly the comedy. They can be total opposites which creates conflict yet strengthens the individual characters through challenges since they have a partner with different qualities to fall back on. at least not as featured in movies. That’s because the two characters compliment each other well. Pick one to start off with. That’s when you start to get an “inside eye” for relationships which will help your scriptwriting greatly. and become more like each other. The characters have contrasting qualities. The conflict in relationships provides the drama. What qualities do you share and what qualities are contrasting? How have you both changed since you’ve become friends? Do this for a few different relationships and you’ll soon see a pattern emerging. maybe the relationship between you and your closest friend. Towards the end of a movie you’ll find both characters in the relationship tend to morph. there has to be some reason the characters are together and stay together. Perfect relationships don’t exist.
A character sheet is a rudimentary list of physical and background traits that your character has. While I advise that you write down physical traits in a character sheet you should avoid describing a character’s appearance in your screenplay unless there is a particularly unusual physical feature. read scripts. psychology and relationships flesh out the character and help them become unique and memorable. This is why you should make it a mission to take in as much of this as you possibly can. All of these things can spark off an idea for a character. you just want an idea of who the character is.Now you know how relationships work try creating a new relationship with two fresh characters. You might watch a movie and find a character you like that can be amalgamated with a person you know to make a great character for your script. Kick Start My Heart There are plenty of media and artistic outlets these days which can help greatly when looking for inspiration for a character. This piece will be cover how to start the initial process of character creation. Once you’ve found the basic premise for your character (the heartbeat) then you might like to write out a character sheet. This could be the basis for a million dollar script!
Initial Character Creation
In the past I’ve written a number of articles on the finer points of creating a character. Below you will find a sample character sheet Close family: Close friends: Occupation: Social status: Finances:
. Think of the following loose guidelines as the skeleton of the character. view art and go out and meet new people. Watch movies. Instead you should use your written physical description so you have a visual image in your head of the character. At this stage you don’t have to be too in depth. read books. listen to music. while such issues as background.
Finding The Character Concept A character means nothing if they have nothing to do. In films characters are generally introduced
. It can be the very last thing I do when creating a character. You don’t need to write a lot. Now that you know quite a lot about your character you have to find a reasoning behind them. You might notice that I’ve put the choice of name last. He left home at a young age and turned to a life of crime.Hobbies: Appearance: Age: Place of birth: Current location: Strengths: Weaknesses: Biggest accomplishment/failure: Hopes and fears: Other notes: Name: If you can fill a character sheet like this you have everything you need to know about a character to make them a viable commodity. just a sentence or two about who the character is and what they’re trying to do. They are cod awful. This is because I like to know about the character before choosing a name that I think fits them. With the police hot on his heels Pike is determined to avoid the net closing in on him.” As jokey as this particular character concept is you should be able to see the potential for character growth and potential storylines and subplots. Character Introduction As the saying goes. Side note: FilmScriptWriting does not endorse bad fish pun based movies. For more on choosing acharacter name click here. That is why it is important to spend a good amount of time on introducing your character into your script. “Pike Herring refused to work at the family fishing tackle shop. you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Your job as a scriptwriter becomes so much easier because the character begins to write itself. This means that the first scene of your movie should usually introduce your main character and do so in a dynamic way so the person reading your script is instantly hooked. A lot of films have an underlying story of a character having to put their past demons to rest to overcome an external conflict. This is the backstory of the character. Make it your goal over the next couple of weeks to put together one character and see how rich and deep you can make them.
. This character could be the one starring in a future blockbuster! Have fun.
The psychology of a character is the inner workings of their mind which define them and the way the think and act.either in their own short scenes or by meeting a pre-existing character. In The Truman Show the creators of the show manufactured a phobia of water in Truman by having his father die at sea. they went to school and they interacted with the world around them. To get to this stage though you need to put a lot of work into finding out what makes the character tick. If a character felt unloved as a child they may be driven by a desire to prove their worth and also find it hard to trust or love others. Sometimes an event in the past can lead to a serious phobia. You could also include a friend of the main character which gives you more leeway in introducing future characters. A rushed character is all too easy to spot. Once you understand the psychology of your characters you should know exactly what they’d do in any situation you choose to put them in. this kept Truman in the pre-planned environment. --The most important thing in character creation is to take your time with it and enjoy it. The Past Dictates The Future Your character had a life before your story began. They had parental figures. Along the way they will have gone through a series of events that shaped their character and attitudes.
The Unconscious (The Dark Side) The vast majority of what drives and motivates us is not in the conscious. The majority of movies focus on extroverts as they move the story along and tend to be more dynamic. mannerisms and dialogue. feeling and intuitive. possibly due to trust issue. This can lead to complex characters. such as one who outwardly shuns companionship but internally craves it. This ball of negativity is carried around by our unconscious which drives us a lot more than our conscious. The unconscious has a long-term effect too. spending their time focusing on self-improvement and finding their calling. experiences. Applied to a character the unconscious manifests itself through their reactions. loving the company of others they are often very relationship driven. To expand on the introvert/extrovert personality types there are also four types . They look within for the center of their life. it may push a character into the same professional as their father in the hope of receiving more affection or to prove to themselves that they are better than their father. but the unconscious. thinking. We tend to repress a lot of our past events. Introverts prefer to be alone.You do not need to shoehorn in a great deal of information about your character’s past within your screenplay but it may be helpful to write a character biography to reference as you write.
. that is an impulsive unconscious reaction. they are both connected to one another. It is no coincidence that the word conscious and conscience are so similar. Extroverts are the opposite. There is a constant fight within a character between the conscious and unconscious.introverts and extroverts.sensation. Upon hearing some bad news a character might react by wrecking an object. thoughts and feelings that we consider unpleasant. They are the moral side to our personality (the light) to the more cruel unconscious (the dark). Personality There are basically two different kinds of personality when you cut it down to it’s bare bones . However an intriguing play on this concept is to have a character outwardly appear to be either an extrovert or introvert but actually be the other.
and tastes around them. They have a strong idea of what the future holds for them. Occupation wise they tend to be good at any job that is physical or sensory. Each pattern has a partner. They are tuned into the colors. paranoids. They don’t hide their emotions and are very upfront with others. empathetic and get on well with others. schizophrenics. Thinking types make good businessmen/women. etc. While society would prefer that it was black and white. This could be gardening. To illustrate the relationships please see the diagram below. There are manics. cooking. that isn’t the case. shapes. There are six basic types of abnormal behavioural patterns. Intuitive types are never found without a plan. Inquisitiveness is a common trait amongst thinking types. social workers. etc. and very creative. They base their thoughts on facts rather than faith or instincts. Strange Behaviour Makes For Interesting Characters The line between sanity and insanity is not as clear cut as most people would like. psycho/sociopaths and neurotics. smells. writers and entrepreneurs. Suited occupations include teachers. Feeling: Feeling types are emotional. Thinking: As the name suggests thinking types like to use logic and deduction to solve problems. Like most things there are subtle shades of grey. detectives. They are well suited for jobs as artists. Intuitive characters will act with future consequences in mind. carers. The key difference between this and a man who believes that God is talking to them is that the second case can be a danger to others. Feeling types often have many strong relationships. While a phobia of snakes in an Englishman who’s never been in contact with them is nonsensical it is also quite common. They are driven most of all by visual appeal. mechanics. depressives. painting. with the insane clearly marked by a rubber stamp. Characters tend to have two of the above types which dominate their personality while the other two may still be apparent but take a backseat.
. Characters gain information through their sensations or intuition and then it is processed by their thoughts or feelings. Intuitive: The intuitive type is a dreamer.Sensation: Sensation types live through their senses and they live in the now. etc.
thinking that everyone is out to destroy them. In extreme cases schizophrenics can hear voices instructing them on what they should do or develop multiple personalities to defend the character’s ego. Schizophrenics: Schizophrenics are very self aware. Depressives: Depressives are the opposite. thus putting themselves in a safer position. They aren’t happy with sitting back and letting things happen. The majority of comic book style villains are manics. Their beliefs drive them to become leaders and gain power. instead they retreat to a safe place and brood. intuitive.Just like the personality types (sensation. easily embarrassed and shy around others. Anxiety neurotics: See Allen. Because of this they try and avoid conflict. They are highly sensitive. they believe they can achieve absolutely anything they set their mind to. They spend their lives trying to avoid anxiety yet actually cause the majority of anxiety for themselves. Anxiety neurotics fear everything and put a great deal of thought and grief into the smallest of things. Because of this paranoids types tend to be aggressive and defensive. This leads to
. as do paranoid-schizophrenics and psycho/socio-neurotics. thinking and feeling) a character won’t fall completely into one abnormal type. Manics: Manics have total self-belief. and like to be active. Paranoids: Paranoids are very self-centred. Woody. they feel like their life is worthless and they can’t achieve anything. They are bull-headed individuals who don’t take well to criticism and hold long-standing grudges for the smallest of reasons. Anxiety neurotics can also harbor obsessive/compulsive characteristics. Manic-depressives vary between the two. They withdraw themselves from social situations and appear emotionally flat. Manics are very excitable and sociable.
--Hopefully this article has given you a deeper understanding of character psychology. While trying to make every character somewhat unique is commendable the use of stereotypes is not. Sociopaths are antisocial characters. treat them as the underlying features of a character. Imagine they both have the same stereotypical male Jewish traits of being obsessed with saving money and good business men. Psychopaths and sociopaths are particularly interesting because they do no transform. Everyone’s seen these stereotypes before so they completely fail in being unique. In this politically correct age you can bet that anyone who reads your script will notice that and probably discard your work as a result.
. The characters themselves will also be richer for taking their psychology into account while creating them. Each have little to no empathy for people or creatures. creating more complex relationships. There are a few problems with using stereotypes for minor characters and they are as follows. this leads them to become cold blooded killers. often holding a disdain for humanity. You can pick and choose traits in a character which will make them contrast from others. Thinking of characters in this way is particularly useful when creating character relationships. they are not friends or relatives and appear in separate parts of your screenplay. It is important to realise that the above points should not be the focus of your character. normal characters. They make excellent villains. Psycho/Sociopaths: While I have grouped this pair together there is a difference between the two.ridiculous seeming habits like only getting out of bed at an exact time or brushing their hair an exact amount of strokes. You might think you’re fleshing out the world of your screenplay by having a grumpy old man or an Italian pizza boy but you’re doing the exact opposite.
Avoiding Stereotypes In Minor Characters
In an effort to make minor and bit-piece characters stand out it can be all too easy to fall back on stereotypes. They will never become well-rounded. #1: They’re not unique. Lets say you have a couple of Jewish characters in your script. #2: They can be offensive. Psychopaths are similar but with a mental unbalance.
The difference being that the character type doesn’t try to suggest that groups of people all have the same characteristics while the stereotype does.
Hard Hitting Violence
If you’re writing an action movie then there is a good chance that there will be some element of violence in certain scenes. A character type could be a nervous first-time parent or an overly confident intern. There’s a tendency in TV and film for having a predominantly white world which is totally unrealistic.#3: They’re distracting. A stereotype is a (usually) negative portrayal of a particular race. Obviously you may not want your characters to be very different if you’re writing a story set in Lancashire in the early 1800’s but otherwise diversity is a great thing. You can do all the work you like in building up the drama of your story but it’s no good if audiences get distracted by “the funny little Indian man running the 7/11”. You might not have to come up with as much detail but it is important that you don’t make minor characters one dimensional. In parting I would like to note that writing a minor character is not much different to writing a major one. With violence comes injuries. Give your main character a friendly neighbour who happens to be Asian. have his social circle be full of different types of people. If that is the case then it might also be wise to turn one of these “white males” into something different so the main faces of your cast are more unique. and even then it’s not good comedy. The above reasons are why it’s so important to understand the different between the stereotype and the character type. Actually towns and cities are usually culturally mixed and you can use your minor characters to reflect this if you find that your main characters are all white males. and more memorable. class. Diversifying the world in which your screenplay takes places can be very easy. etc. #4: They’re restrictive. Keeping It Real While it’s a bad idea to include stereotypical characters in your screenplay it is fantastic if you can make the world of your screenplay a diverse one without them. If you do you’ll have a bland cast of characters that also drag down your main characters in any interactions they have. It is important that your characters feel the ramifications of
. sex. Stereotypical characters are only of any use as comedy fodder. This is a great way of adding realism and color to your story world.
Violence is a great tool to make the bad guys look wicked and cruel while making the good guys look brave and heroic. Violence Causing Common Injuries While gun fights and the like can be exciting most people (thankfully) don’t know what it feels like to be shot. If your main character takes a punch to the ribs then they should be holding them in the next scene. That makes the situation hard to relate to and therefore hard to sympathise with. Pain and injuries show your character to be human and give your story a gritty. Broken bones are a great example of this. John McClane was the ordinary man who had to push himself to do extraordinary things. McClane is covered in a computer room. There is one scene in the film that I will always remember.
. You should always go for style over substance.violence in subsequence scenes because this allows the audience to sympathize with them. involved in a gunfight with three other men. Make the violence hurt the characters or else there is no point to it whatsoever other than to “look cool”. or at least know of someone who has had a similar injury. I feel this is achieved much better with violence that results in “common injuries”. they will know exactly what the character is going through and be able to relate to them. The bolded part is the common injury. Only now is the James Bond franchise becoming more gritty and realistic while maintaining the flair you expect from the character. It will make them wince. In the next scene the hero appears to be fine. Imagine you’re watching a movie and the main character gets in a huge fight with a bunch of goons. their clothes are straight and their hair is perfectly styled. It is most important to note that John McClane was barefoot. taking plenty of blows in the process. Anyone who has broken a bone. seen someone break a bone or even just known someone who has broken a bone will know that sickening snap and feeling as soon as they see it on the screen. The James Bond character has often suffered (or not as the case may be) in the past from this “violence with no consequences” writing which is why the series took a big hit in popularity. realistic edge. One movie that made great use of this was the original Die Hard. Common injuries are those which the average person has a good chance of having had during their life.
Letting The Imagination Rule This is a technique not used too often but was perhaps most famously used in Reservoir Dogs. an LAPD cop. I know exactly how that feels and every time I watch this scene I relive my own similar experiences. Tarantino reasoned that the audience’s imagination would paint a more gruesome visual than he ever could on film. In one memorable scene Mr. He was dead right. etc. Blonde cuts the cop’s ear off.I’m someone who walks around barefoot quite a lot and because of that I have stood of many painful things. as Mr. written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. glass. and I’m sure you probably can as well. With a straight razor Mr. To watch this scene play the video below. nails. Then the camera pans to the left. I can relate to John McClane’s pain. sharp stones. We hear muffled screams and a fruitless struggle but we don’t see a thing. Rather than having the visual given to
This moment was shot like this for a reason. Blonde slashes the cop’s face. Blonde dances to “Stuck in the Middle With You” around his hostage.
The Idea Factory
A lot of people come to me complaining that they're good scriptwriters but they can never come up with ideas.you. etc). If you can do that in the rest of your screenplay then you have a script that is bound to sell. You get the audience involved and you make them care about what is and what will happen to your characters. playing games and many other forms of procrastination.
. If you were to just sit down and attempt to write a script from whatever was in your head at the time you'd probably get about 10 pages in. The fact of the matter is that everybody can come up with ideas if you devote the time and effort to it. It would be no good for me to come up with a specific schedule for you to keep because everyone is creatively different. Some ideas will be tried and tested (brainstorming. your best time could be when you've just got home from work and feel ready to vent your spleen. hypnosis. Tarantino forces you to think exactly what it would have been like. Brainstorming seems to be a lost art today. lose steam and develop "writers block" If you want to succeed as a scriptwriter than you really need to put in the thinking time when it comes to your initial script idea. This makes it an extension of a common injury. etc) while others might be considered a little wilder (my own secret method. Personally I feel most creative around midnight. Without an idea a script cannot come to be. What this section of the site is for is to help provide a loose structure and guide for how to create ideas with the potential to be developed into a script. when people should be devoting time to drumming up these ideas you will instead find them reading their emails. Most of you reading this have probably received some sort of cut before which helps you imagine what it would be like to feel your ear being hacked off. Final Thought I hope you now see how violence is best used in a way that is as easy as possible to relate. In this case it is an extremely effective and memorable method. with no distractions and think. It can be very mentally challenging to just sit down. I know because I do it myself. walking on your idea.
Rocky went on to win 3 Oscars and spawn an entire franchise. I believe this is why Quentin Tarantino edits his movies the way he does.There will also be writing concepts and theories within this section. That doesn’t have to be the case though. whether the next 110 pages are pure genius or not.20 Pages Now you’ve written the first 10 pages of your script it’s time to work on the next 20. With these twenty pages you should now be aiming to advance the story and enhance your characters and send your main character on a journey towards the turning point of the script. letting the viewer know who your hero is and their goals. You should have already done a great deal of “set-up” work on your script. Not bad for just three days of scriptwriting. In your first 10 pages you should be answering these questions: What’s the story? Who’s the hero? What does the hero want and what does he/she need? Scriptwriting Day 3 and 4: Finish Act 1 . well now it’s time to write that script out! When a lot of people think about scriptwriting they imagine a dusty old writer sat in a lonesome place with a cup of coffee and typewriter for years before they’ve finished their work.
Write A Movie In A Month
So you’ve got your basic premise for a script. The key to this method is to be very loose. that’s what the second script draft is for! Scriptwriting Day 1 and 2: The First 10 Pages The opening is probably the most important part of any script. Sylvester Stallone finished his script for Rocky in just three days after being inspired by seeing unknown Chuck Wepner push Muhammed Ali to fifteenth round before finally being bested. eh? Of course not every one can do this but I truly believe that by following this guide nearly anyone can produce a script in a month. you don’t have to get everything down perfect first time. You are immediately thrust into hard hitting. Think of this first 10 pages as a chance to show your skills and ability to create interest and intrigue. fast paced action which keeps you hooked right to the end.
. If it’s dull then any agent or producer reading your script will toss it in the trash.
It may be an unexpected change but now this character is moving fast and hitting hard. so tough that by the end of today’s work your character may be broken. Scriptwriting Day 9: Pages 75-90 Your main character needs to regroup. You decide what it is but some big event or action will send your main character on a path towards what they want and need. Your main character might have to enter foreign territory in your script now. Times are hard. You should use this day as a chance to immerse yourself in your script as it stands so far. wanting to change but resisting it at the same time. Scriptwriting Day 8: Pages 60-75 Nothing can stop your main character now. I like to do this part in one day as I feel it improves the flow of the event and by now you‘re into the swing of scriptwriting. Today something BIG happens. beaten and almost ready to give up. Try to develop a better understanding of your characters and the world they live in. You’re reaching the middle of your script now and this is where your main character should be slowly changing. hard and faster and your main character is struggling once more. But now they’ve changed for the better. Offering words of encouragement or even helping in the action. go a place they thought they’d never go either literally or metaphorically. Maybe they have found a friend or romantic partner who is helping them out a great deal. so hard that they’d have destroyed your main character earlier in your script.
. Obstacles and conflict are starting to become tougher for your protagonist but as they do your character is starting to deal with them more convincingly. They’ve stated their goal and by God are they going to achieve it! The obstacles and conflict keep coming. This is also where your main character becomes more focused on achieving their goals. Scriptwriting Day 7: Pages 45-60 Enough is enough. At this point you need to decide what has happened to your character. You might like to include some small twists or turns here because you’re quickly careering towards the solution of your script. Scriptwriting Day 6: Page 30-45 Today’s the day. it’s time for a change…sort of. how it will affect them and what they will do about it.Scriptwriting Day 5: Read your script so far At this point you don’t want to go back and edit anything yet. The going is getting tough.
Take in all the information you have written down. Tweak and Shriek Thirteen is unlucky for some and it’s going to feel that way for you because this can be a long. Correct any spelling errors. You might want to follow a similar pattern to when you were writing the script. get a haircut.Scriptwriting Day 10 and 11: Pages 90-120 (The End!) For some people this can be the easiest part of scriptwriting. If you’re writing an action movie this is where the good guy finally overcomes the bad guy and the equilibrium in your world is restored. Normally there will be a very warm. heartfelt scene between two or more characters. for others it’s by far the hardest. don’t think about it…don’t even think about your script. Congratulations! You’ve finished your script! Scriptwriting Day 12. 13 and 14: Rest and Relax This can be harder than writing the script. Then use the second day to clean it up a little. whatever it is give yourself a treat. Have a long weekend and try and completely forget your script. Go for a drink with friends. Do one block (Page 0-10. Thirteen days of working your script into a sellable commodity can make you want to scream but the personal satisfaction and (hopefully) financial reward will more than make up for it. Reward yourself in some way. 45-60. All those problems. Use the first day to do the bulk of the work. etc) every two days. Your entire script should have been working up to this final act. It’s time to put it to bed. tighten dialogue and remove any scenes which you now deem unnecessary. play a round of golf. buy yourself some new clothes. Scriptwriting Day 15: Read ‘til Your Eyes Bleed! Read through your written script as many times as you can. Scriptwriting Day 30: Start Taking The Next Step
. obstacles and conflicts you’ve thrown at your main character need to be resolved. Try to think back to your original plans for the script. You’re only halfway through the month after all! Scriptwriting Day 16-29: Rewrite. painful process. are you on course? What you don’t want to do at this point is negatively judge your scriptwriting abilities. Don’t look at it.
You’ve written your script and re-drafted it. Keep it Real Not Commercial Don’t worry about whether your idea is commercially viable. By both asking and answering “what if?…” questions you can provide the depth required to allow your story and characters to stand out as real. When you’re coming up with ideas always try to ask the question “what if?…”. Now you’re on the next step of your journey.It’s been quite a journey.
The Think Tank #1
Before you even think about scriptwriting. As a scriptwriter you have a choice. Who is the main character? What is their goal? What is the script about? What is the underlying message or theme of the script? For example your main character could be Brian Goodman. Once they’ve read through your script ask them to critique it. Rather than coming up with something incredibly detailed from the get-go (which few scriptwriters can do) I find it is a lot easier to look at the following questions and mould an idea around them. you’ll always have proof of that in the form of a (roughly) 120 page bundle. You might need to do another re-draft before your script is ready to be sold. complex worlds and people rather than being flat and flavorless. You can be a second-rate imitation or a first-rate individual. His goal being to prove his innocence by escaping prison and finding the evidence necessary to prove his innocence thus redeeming himself. If you are determined to make sure that script is a commercial success you will end up diluting the idea until it is just another cookie-cutter action movie.
. Maybe even two or three but it is well worth the time because it is only in the struggle that success has any meaning. What Brian Goodman was framed by someone he considered a friend? What if Goodman was framed as an act of revenge? And so on. find two or three friends you trust and give them a copy each. it’s much better to have shortcomings pointed out now than after sending the script to an agent or producer. incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. No matter what you can consider yourself a scriptwriter now. Everyone has at least one script in them that comes from the heart. Don’t take it personally. you need an initial idea.
However when you think of geniuses you think of the likes of Da Vinci. We all have our own perspective on things and it is important to realise what this is in order to create an idea with a unique spin on it.How Your Background Affects Your Ideas Simply put your personal background will make a great deal of difference to the ideas you have and the scripts you write. So you’ve already taken perhaps the biggest step to tap into your writing genius. Let me tell you right now though you are a genius! You might think I’m joking but I’m absolutely serious. If two people happened to meet in the middle of the road with a dying bird between them (not a daily occurrence hopefully) and one of them was a farmer.com and are taking in every scrap of information provided to better yourself. As intelligent a man as Einstein was when it came to physics yet if you would have asked him to create a sculptural masterpiece he’d have been unable to do so. That’s exactly what geniuses do.filmscriptwriting. the other a housewife they would want to deal with the situation in a different way. From a young age we are brought up to be normal and conform to the image the media presents us. Would a conformist cut off his own ear? Having said that would you describe someone who mutilated themselves a genius? Please recognise that describing anyone as a genius is somewhat incorrect. they try to take in as much information as possible and channel it into something creative.
The Think Tank #2: Tap Into Your Writing Genius
As the world becomes more authority driven it becomes harder to consider yourself a genius. Rather a person displays “genius” qualities. struggling to make money and so on because those will probably be the actions and influences that surrounded you growing up. trying to climb the social ladder. The farmer would put the bird out of it’s misery by wringing it’s neck while the housewife may try and nurture the bird back to health or take it to an animal hospital. If you were raised in a dirt poor area your mind will naturally be more focused on violence. Mozart. Think of it this way. How Do I Tap Into My Writing Genius Then? For starters you’ve found www. None of these people were conformists. Einstein and Van Gogh.
Repeat this process between three and five times a day for a week. tiny edits until every word cannot be argued against. You can feel the gentle warmth of relaxation filling your body. It does not need to be real or have really happened in this world. Try going for a walk in a peaceful area or meditating. Read more scripts. This is your world. If you write something that is real to you then it will become real for the reader.To really tap into your writing genius though you need to do a few things. Clear all the clutter out of your mind. We’ve also got a link to a site that is chock full of scripts in the use resources section. First of all you need to empty your mind of all thoughts. This is your vision. Write down the character or situation you see in your world and read it over. but it will be real in your world. Here are ten great tips on writing and selling a script. Over and over the words become meaningless and lose sense.
The Think Tank #3 . slowly and calmly say to yourself: I am a genius. When you are ready. Visualize a black empty space of nothingness in front of you.Ten Tips On Writing And Selling A Script
I’m going to take you right to the action today. Believe in yourself because you are every bit as much a genius as Da Vinci.
. Make small. 1. Einstein or Van Gogh. As a creative exercise I want you to create a character or situation that is 100 percent real. You will find that your inner confidence levels rise and your mind will allow all the creativity inside you to flow with ease. relaxed and content. the essence of your genius. words will flow straight from your mind to the paper or computer in front of you. That’s what the sample script section of the site is for. Your world in which you are happy. You are a genius. Notice how real it appears. To do this you need to be alone in a quite area. Mould your creation from a smudge into an image of crystal clarity. Mozart.
Keep dialogue punchy.There are many advantages to reading scripts. Once you’ve got your head in the game then you need to work out what is the optimum time for your writing sessions as well as the length. 6. When you start the initial planning stage for writing your screenplay then you should play to your strengths. especially if this is your first script. and notice that you’ve got two ‘talking heads’ (characters stood around doing nothing) then get them into action. or lengthy exchanges. or reading one back. make yourself a cup of coffee. 5. Use your best idea now. Always keep your screenplay ticking along. Some people can write 12 hours straight. Experiment and find what works best for you. Until you’ve established a good routine it can be absolute torture to sit down and write. If you’re writing a scene. Make something happen. Create a writing routine. Do whatever it is you need to do to get yourself in the mood to write your script. Play to your strengths. etc. This means no monologues. not dialogue driven. Go for a jog. If you eat up costume dramas then write one of those. First is it allows you to become very knowledgeable when it comes to formatting.
. Read a couple of scripts over the weekend and write down everything you’ve learned. 2. A screenplay is action orientated. get the story moving along! 4. 3. listen to a hypnosis session. try to keep any dialogue between one and two lines. When you read an original draft of a screenplay that you’ve already seen then you get to see what was changed from the initial script. others like to break sessions into 30 minute chunks. You will also get a better idea how to layout and transition between scenes. Dialogue should be short and snappy. Even if they’re just walking to the next scene. If you’re a naturally funny person that it’d probably be a good idea to write a comedy. Keep it blue tacked to the wall behind your monitor to remind you until it is ingrained in your brain.
When I ask them why they don’t just write that they say that they don’t want to write that idea until they’re a better scriptwriter! It’s a lot easier to write a selling script first time using your best idea than it is your second best idea. 7. make the reader need to buy whatever you’re trying to sell. Give your script to as many people as possible. Redundant words and -ings. The same will happen to your screenplay. There’s certain words in your narrative that you should avoid or delete if they’re already there. I’m going to go into this one in a lot of depth in a future article. ‘And’. Don’t be general. you shouldn’t be using -ing words: Matt walks… Not: Matt is walking… 8. ‘then’. Keep paragraphs small. Also.
. Ask the reader questions. Refer to the reader directly. Learn how to write hypnotically. ‘we see’. Remember that most scripts are bought purely for their concept rather than their content. Jab before the knockout punch. can go as well as ‘look’ or ‘listen’ at the start of dialogue. A boxer who throws only huge haymakers is predictable and will quickly tire himself out. Jab the story along with smaller events leading to “the big one”. 10. either by name or “you”. Offer them something. when you’re writing the narrative. Ten earth shaking explosions aren’t as effective as one. When you write your query letter or any sort of general introduction you should do so in a hypnotic manner. 9. They struggle for ideas…yet they have one which sounds great.In talking to some prospective scriptwriters I’ve come across a common negative.
making it easier for you to keep track of who should be reading your script at that time. work place and neighbours…you don’t necessarily have to like the people you pick! For each person on your list write out a single paragraph character description.
. somewhere within the list of people you know. each with a different method of travel. With that in mind I’ve found a few writing exercises which should really get your creative juices flowing. you might just find a gem of a character to write about! It’s Not Paranoia If They’re Really After You! They’re after you! You don’t know why. The more opinions you can get the better. Imagine the panic and fear you’d be feeling as well as the confusion. Really get into the frame of mind of someone being chased. Keep on scriptwriting!
The Think Tank #4 . For this exercise write out a list of ten people you know. friends. To make it even more interesting write out three different scenes. The only thing you should hold back on is sending your script to multiple agents in the same company. and fearful for their life. These exercises are designed to help you with character building. After you’ve finished your first draft give it to as many trust friends and family members as you can. story structure and writing action sequences. it gives you more ideas on how to improve your script. Even seemingly dull people can be highly interesting or funny when placed in certain situations. Who knows. Try to pick a broad spectrum of people from your family. Come up with one characteristic for each person that makes them unique. but you’re being chased down relentlessly.
On foot. When you’re actually trying to sell your script there’s no rule saying you can’t send it to absolutely everyone in Hollywood. People You Know This simple exercise will help your understanding in creating realistic characters.Writing Exercises
The only way to get better at anything is to practice. Write out a chase scene where you are the only being chased.This applies to two periods when you’ve finished your script. You may also like to send your screenplay to six or so people at the time.
Keep pausing the movie after every scene and write a one-sentence description of the last scene on a note card. Scene List Practice A scene list is a set of one sentence descriptions of each scenes in a movie. Things you might notice include how the story is kept going in every scene. You can use either FSW Scripts or SimplyScripts.
. Did you miss any scenes? Write out a page-long report on what you’ve learnt from this exercise. If a scene achieves nothing to develop either the story or a character then it’s probably a good idea to either rewrite the scene or lose it all together. To practice writing a scene list. put your notes to one side. try this little exercise using the following steps:
• • •
Chose a movie from your home collection. Once the movie is finished. Get yourself a pen and a pack of note cards. preferably a txt file. Pull up the screenplay you’ve downloaded. Download a copy of the screenplay. use of subplots and how characters are developed. If you can’t find any note cards then you can up some paper into 3”x5” pieces. Copy and paste every scene heading into a notepad file or any other similar program. being chased by a UFO!
This exercise helps you learn how to empathise with characters and feel what they’re going through. In a helicopter. Compare your note cards to your list of scene headings. This will allow you to write your characters with a lot of emotional depth. If the danger doesn’t feel real to the character then it won’t seem real to the audience. the pacing of the movie.
• • • • •
Watch the movie closely. It’s much easier to buy them though as you’ll need a hundred or so to be on the safe side.• •
In a car. Scene lists are done to keep track of story and character development. Writing a scene list before you start writing your script proper is an excellent way to make sure you don’t get halfway through your screenplay and end up lost with no place to go.
Others believe that writer’s block is caused by the relationship between the conscious and subconscious. You could write about what you had for breakfast that morning or why you need to try a new laundry service. Although if you find yourself turning into Jack Nicholson in The Shining maybe it would be a good idea to take a little break!
Go for a walk Forget your problems and go for a walk. As a scriptwriter there is nothing worse than sitting down with the intention of completing 10 pages of your script only to achieve absolutely nothing.
. there are probably even more cures. You just need to try each one. see what works for you and above all stick to scriptwriting.I hope you enjoy these exercises. Some people get it because they subconsciously fear finishing their script because they won’t know what to do next. Keep on trying!
Beating Writer's Block
Writer’s block is a scriptwriter’s worst nightmare. You leave the writing session feeling depressed and angry at yourself. This keeps you in the swing of writing and allows your ideas to flow onto the page without you needing to critique them for content since no-one else will ever read them. Just as you can’t expect to run a marathon with discipline and training the very same can be said for writing a script.
Mind writing Get a pen and piece of paper and just write whatever comes to mind. There are many causes of writer’s block. This can snowball next day when you realise you are 10 pages behind schedule. Everyone of them is a perfectly viable option for a scriptwriter. others seemingly lose the ability to transfer the thoughts in their head onto the page. While you’re relaxing your subconscious mind will be feeding your conscious mind the information it needs to catch up. Because scriptwriting is a creative process the subconscious mind is constantly solving problems while the conscious (slower and with a worse memory) mind is trying to play catch up. different cures work for different people. As many causes as there are of writer’s block.
You might even meet an interesting character or two!
Take a break I normally prefer to write my way through writer’s block but sometimes this is the only option. The minute you develop into a routine the mind starts getting lazy. It always seems you never have enough time to write.•
Look for inspiration in other scripts If you can’t write than you can always read. If you do your scriptwriting on your PC.
Above all. even if it’s only five minutes. 1. This can lead to writers block or just giving up writing altogether. I personally recommend a hypnosis session from HypnoBusters called Writer's Block Hypnosis. Again this keeps the mind “in the game” of scriptwriting without unduly taxing it. don’t give up! That script won't write itself!
Making Time To Write
If you’re a beginning scriptwriter it probably means you’re either working a full-time job. If you listen to the radio while you write your script. you can get your head down and get some work done straight away. So after it’s been a few days since you did any scriptwriting you start to feel guilty and get out of the swing of writing. going to school or looking after your family. Here are a few tips that will help you have more time to continue your scriptwriting. keep it on whenever you’re in the house. Put your scriptwriting on hold for a few days and get some R n’ R then return to your writing.
Hypnosis or meditation I’m a great proponent in hypnosis and meditation. change the station.
. Doing these mental exercises can relieve stress and pressure and allow the creativity of the brain to flow freely again. Then whenever you get a spare moment.
Get out of your rut As a scriptwriter you need to be constantly challenging your brain. If you write freehand keep a pad a pen nearby at all times. If you have the inclination go sky diving. anything that’s different and fresh will help spark the creative process. It's available in MP3 format so you can download it nearly instantly.
There may be obstacles in your path but if you want to grow and develop you need to beat these blocks. Next time you go to the toilet take a pen and pad. Learn to multitask. no matter how challenging that may be. 6. Cut into your sleeping time by an hour and get some scriptwriting done. 3. and achieve your goal. 8. While you should never set out to be a scriptwriter purely for the money everyone likes to have financial security. 4. in house. Spend five minutes before you go to sleep going over your plans and script. You just have to be dedicated and focused enough. Some of the most successful people only sleep a handful of hours a night. Create more free time by suggesting your partner go out more often with their friends. 7. Unfortunately movies chock full of character development but low on action tend to do poorly at the
. Every night before you go to bed you must cross off at least one thing before you can go to sleep. In this article I will outline how to put together a million dollar idea that you can take to the bank. use that time to write. This is how a lot of scriptwriters have to work before they are able to turn professional. While you’re cooking there’s usually a gap where you’re waiting for something to boil or cool down. This gives you time to yourself. Instead of listening to music or just staring out the window use the time to think about certain scenes or characters and what you can do with them. If you travel to work or school on the bus/train you have a small window of time where you have nothing to do. Write at night. Think of yourself as the main character and a finished script as the goal. This will keep the ideas fresh in your mind and allow your subconscious work on them while you sleep. Also the air freshener. to get some writing done without feeling guilty for leaving your partner on their own. Bit by bit you can always find time to write a script. If you work or study then you can write in your lunch break or (if you’re daring) when you’re meant to be doing your job. The average person spends three years on the toilet! You could write at least three well thought-out scripts in that time.2.
A high concept film script can equal big bucks. Write a list of the things you need to do next and keep them on your bedroom door. 5. If you’re a housewife or househusband then work your writing into your everyday chores. Write on the go. This one is especially for prospective scriptwriters with families.
Star Wars and Independence Day and run down the list with them in mind.
. Character development is kept to a minimum.box office. This is why you need to put so much time and effort into the initial idea for a high concept script. Think Big If you can come up with a great concept then you’re already made. If you want to write that one big smash-hit that will set you up for life then you need to be thinking about writing a high concept screenplay. instead A-list actors are used to capture the audiences attention. As I write this I’ve just taken a look at the page for Independence Day on IMDB. Remember that a true high concept idea has to:
• • • • • • • • •
Be easily understood Ably summarized in a sentence or two Intrigue the audience Be full of conflict Have a big event Leave room for a sequel Attract an A-list star Be fresh and marketable Have a unique take on an known idea or genre
Think of movies like Jaws. captivating title and intriguing logline is what you need to create a high concept movie. yet is has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide! Proof that a movie doesn’t have to necessarily be good to make a lot of money. High concept movies also tend to be full of special effects with a lot of attention paid during the post production process. It has a mediocre user rating of 6. based purely on the concept outlines in the story summary. A big idea. So many movies have a good plot and characters that grow but the initial idea is not all that good. Typically a high concept script is easy to sum up in a few words and will be easy for even children to understand. Even if the execution is mediocre your chances of selling your script is high. Producers have been known to purchase scripts without even reading them. You will see how each of them tick off more or less every point on the list.3 out of 10.
they’ll cause an agent. Think of the various concepts within and think how it could have been different if something else had happened.Jurassic Park What if there was a family of superheroes in hiding? . Star Wars is one of the best examples of a simple yet provocative title and logline. Star Wars .One of the best ways to create a high concept movie is to ask “what if…?”. read novels. or an event had gone a different way. Within the title and logline you should try to answer these questions:
• • •
What’s the story? What are the stakes? What does the hero want and need?
High concept movies are often looked down upon by film critics but there’s no reason why you can’t take a great concept and turn it into a flashy yet deep movie. and it’ll make the finished movie easier to market to the public.The Incredibles Take in all the media you can. Title and Logline A great title and logline have three positive affects. What if aliens invaded Earth? . Watch movies.Independence Day What if dinosaurs were brought back to life? . They will help inspire you as you write your script. far away. Or you could write Snakes On A Plane II. it’s your call.
. The title should be short enough to fit on the marquee of the cinema yet give a good idea to the public of the theme and nature of the film. take in the news especially the more incredulous stories..A long time ago in a galaxy far. Right away you get the idea that this movie will be about an battle between good and evil in an outlandish part of space.. The title and logline of your scrip should be a one-two punch that encapsulate your movie. producer or actor to sit up and take notice of your work.
. I recently read a small piece in a newspaper about a woman who suffered through a terrible depression she hadn’t been allowed into brother’s funeral after he had died from a kidney illness. You can’t sit back and go about your life expecting a thunderbolt of inspiration. A scriptwriter needs to be able to sift through the turgid pieces to find the nuggets of gold scattered throughout. fortune and glory we all wish for ourselves. will result in a lot of productive work being done.Finding Stories To Turn Into A Screenplay
If you want to write a script then you’re going to need a story. Two of the key elements for any story are conflict and crisis. People go to the movies to see characters they can relate to accomplish things that they can only dream about. In the example I provided in the third paragraph the crisis is the illness and eventual death of the man with the kidney illness. Think about what drives you. Scriptwriters need to find a story core and a main character that the common person can relate to. Rocky Balboa was the stumblebum with a heart of gold who went on to challenge for (and in the second sequel successfully win) the boxing heavyweight championship. particularly the human interest articles. what you fear and how you deal with pressure. It simply won’t happen. There are ups and downs and simulated emotions (you feel momentary fear on a rollercoaster but you know realistically you are perfectly safe). The above article was only given a couple of columns in the newspaper but it provides a terrific skeleton for a great screenplay. just think! Two of the best sources for story ideas are newspapers and magazines. Laziness. It’s well documented that David Bowie used to take clippings of headlines or phrases he found interesting in newspapers and turn them into ideas for songs. With it came the fame. These can all be defeated though by creating a routine or period of time each day that you devote to creating ideas and/or writing. say 7pm to 9pm. Think about the conflict. First and foremost a scriptwriter has to actively seek story ideas. It is your goal as a scriptwriter to take the audience on a journey through the character’s emotions and make them feel what the character feels. Indeed a scriptwriter without a story is like a body without a soul. fear and perfectionism. Don’t think about thinking. Just an hour or two a day. A good script/movie shares elements with a good rollercoaster. As you read those words you will probably recognise at least one or more of them that is part of your character. The twist being that she was the only person they’d found as a suitable kidney donor but she had backed out because she was a single mother and afraid of what would happen to her children if she’d died during the procedure. There’s a few traits which people let hold them back from thinking up ideas and developing them into stories.
As long as you do so in a tactful manner these people will be more than happy to open up their hearts to you if you mention that you’d like to write a screenplay based on the situation. This man was well within his right to be in a foul mood with just about everyone. While you certainly never wish these things on someone you know there is an advantage of finding a story this way over newspapers or magazines. One being that you don’t have to purchase rights for the story and another being that you can change details to heighten drama and suspense and “tighten up” the story.small. based on real life situations told from a particular point of view. In between these two were the woman’s children who faced losing an uncle and/or mother and the man’s wife who was watching and nursing her dying husband. That’s exactly what good scriptwriting is original stories. I read the newspaper each day and everyday I find a story or two I think could be worked into a good script. She had to choose whether or not to have an operation to remove a kidney which would shorten her life expectancy. You will have seen first hand how the crisis effected people and how they dealt with it. Forgetting the outside world you can look closer to home for your scriptwriting inspiration. Here I will outline a couple of methods that will take you just a few minutes a day and make you a much more expressive scriptwriter. and it makes for great drama. plot and plan some stories fall apart but others stand out as strong. neighbours or even yourself. When you find a story like this it is normally advisable to change a few elements for a couple of reasons. At the same time his sister had an extremely tough decision. If that isn’t an incredible family conflict I don’t know what is.
If you want to become a successful scriptwriter then you need to be able to express yourself. Think about your family. potentially leave her in discomfort for the rest of her life and at worst kill her or watch as her brother died.
. being at death’s door. Of course as you research. There’s a good chance that some sort of tragedy or incredulous event has happened within that circle. friends. yet at the same time he was probably glad to have the opportunity to say and do the all the important things he wanted to do before he died. this would create. believable and truly fascinating.
All those negative things you think and feel but would never say. that includes your characters and most importantly yourself. Any trace of negative thoughts or actions from the main character get erased. do you really write down your darkest thoughts and feelings or do you skirt around them? If you avoid your dark/shadow side in your normal diary then you should purchase a diary with a lock and key. Suddenly a part of your world view can be seen by millions of people who will judge you and your work. more positive and more creative. This is especially true in the very first draft of your screenplay when the story is raw and coming straight from the heart. This results in a lot of generic. This is especially true of a scriptwriter when their goal is to create a selling screenplay. Write A Dark Passage
. It is the expression of honesty that makes scriptwriting such an interesting art form and adds an important element of realism in screenplays. If someone pissed you off at work today then write down what they did. When you express yourself in any form it can make you feel weak and vulnerable. There’s a place for all that negative emotion and its in your scriptwriting. After you’ve finished writing in your “dark diary” for the day you will feel lighter. You need to learn how to open your heart. Be truthful. You don’t need to worry if you go too dark with a character or situation because you can edit it later. This is one of the most liberating things you can do. You can’t expect anyone to be perfect. If you express yourself truthfully you will literally feel an emotional weight lifted from your shoulders. It’s akin to the spiritual concept of “finding yourself”. embellish and sensationalize the truth to make news stories seem more horrific in their quest for ratings and readers. politically correct movies straight from the cookie cutter factory of film production. how it made you feel. You are under siege from the mainstream media who exaggerate. You will feel much better about yourself. Keep A Dark Diary If you already keep a diary that’s great because it keeps you into the flow of writing.It’s perfectly understandable that people are becoming more introverted and unable to express themselves. Coupled with a society wide view to conform to the set standards it can be very hard to express yourself. and what you wished you could do to them if you didn’t have to suffer the consequences. In this “dark diary” only write down your negative emotions.
This particular audio aims to enhance your powers of creativity. indeed anyone who wishes to enhance their creative flow. This has two effects. Whatever was the catalyst for this dark period of your life you should write it down. a rejection or a period of poor health. It is well known that creativity is greatly enhanced when you have a relaxed and ‘quiet’ mind. calming both your body and mind. This is useful for writers.
Improve Your Creativity Hypnosis Session
This recording has been especially recorded by the professional hypnotherapist and musician Jon Rhodes ofHypnoBusters. it trains you to express yourself and it may unclog the negativity from your creative process.Com. Write down:
• • • • • • •
What happened Why it happened How it made you feel How you dealt with it How you wish you dealt with it How people around you dealt with you and the situation How other people made you feel
Be as dark and cruel as you felt at the time. I say burn over other ways of disposing of your dark passage because it is symbolic of burning away your worries. This probably explains why Archimedes cried “eureka” when relaxing in the bath!
.I’m sure there’s probably been a time in your life where things have seemed dark and gloomy. He has used both his areas of expertise to produce the ultimate hypnosis audio. Whether you write a dark passage or dark diary remember that you can go as far as you want because you’ll be the only one who will see it. His soothing voice and mellow music is guaranteed to relax you into a deep and comforting trance. Pour your heart out onto to paper and unload all that emotional baggage. marketers. After you’ve done you can either keep the work under lock and key and look back it occasionally to draw inspiration or you can burn it. musicians. It could have been the death of a loved one. You will be amazed at the results. painters.
Rather than write an introductory piece for a character you can illustrate a lot of that information in the way they talk. Your writing will improve immensely just by getting to grips with the “show don’t tell” principle. Dialogue plays an important part in the “show don’t tell” principle. If there’s a fact that’s trivial to your story then it’s perfectly acceptable to tell it without dwelling. His belly jiggles with every strenuous step.Com. Can you really afford to miss out? This is a ten minute version of a thirty minute full recording. It allows the reader to come up with a much more vivid picture of the character and how he moves. The full recording is of a much higher quality.
Show Don't Tell
There’s a number of times that I’ve referred to the phrase “show don’t tell” here on FilmScriptWriting. This is a form of hypnotic writing. You don’t need to tell the producer reading your script that a character is militaristic in the running of his family if she talks to her family like this:
There are of course exceptions to this rule.Hypnotherapy is great for relaxing the conscious mind. but the showing example gives the character a lot more flavor. Lets cover the difference between telling and showing. If the scene is set outside and you feel it will heighten the mood to have it be raining then that’s something you should tell. Having the right creative idea could massively enhance the success of your chosen career. getting them to use their imagination. Sometimes telling is better than showing. You’ve probably heard it before too. For example: “Jon waddles into the office.”. Showing is using suggestive description which allows the reader of your screenplay to form their own mental image. It sounds simple on paper but it can difficult for a beginner scriptwriter to master. allowing the more powerful and creative subconscious mind to flow freely.
. Telling is using base description such as “Jon walks into the room. However once you know the basics and give it some practice it soon becomes natural. He is a fat man. If you try to show everything your script will look “padded” with unnecessary description.”. This makes the screenplay interact for the reader. Both examples get the fact across the Jon is a fat man.
However. The pace of your screenplay with often greatly improve as a result of this. After a while scriptwriting can seem unrewarding but these contests give you something obtainable to strive for. If you write a first draft that’s 120 pages then you can add anywhere between 5 and 20 pages in the re-write. instant recognition in Hollywood and feedback from top writing professionals. This is why it’s so important to put in a great deal of research before choosing which contest you wish to enter. just the bare bones version of events. You can go always back and re-write your first draft to add the description need to make it show rather than tell. Of course the majority will be legitimate but some will be better than others. new scriptwriters looking to make a name for themselves. Night Shyamalan or Quentin Tarantino to sell your script. One of the most valuable things they provide is encouragement and motivation. not everything on the internet should be taken as gospel. As you master this principle you’ll notice that showing uses a lot more words than telling. Entering these contests usually comes at a cost which is why it’s especially important to choose the right scriptwriting contest for you. Some of these contests may be out and out cons. all promising the prospective entrant a large sum of money. You should aim just to let your first draft flow as much as possible.
Choosing the Best Scriptwriting Contest For You
Scriptwriting contests (also referred to as screenwriting contests) can be a very useful tool in your development as a scriptwriter. show me.It is also easier just to tell in the first draft of your script. Contest Research
. This allows you to get the story down. Instead you’re up against fellow eager. There are literally hundreds of scriptwriting contests on the internet. without constantly having to stop and think how to show a fact. as anyone who’s spent any deal of time on the internet knows. This is good because it forces you to cut the fat from scenes and get rid of any dialogue or even full scenes you now deem unnecessary to telling the story. You’re not competing with Hollywood giants like George Lucas. Since these are meant to be brief guides to your screenplay they don’t require a lot of description. Don’t tell me you’re a scriptwriter. Telling is also the best way to go when you write the outline or synopsis of your story. M.
It’s important to read these so you know exactly what you’re getting in for. So make sure you read the guidelines and find out if the contest is suitable for you and your script. There’s few things more valuable to a fledgling scriptwriter than professional feedback. director or actor. Make sure that the sponsor has relevant film industry credentials as this opens up another door into Hollywood for you. The best part is that this is completely free. This is a great way for you to evaluate the flow of your own writing and spot any changes you feel need making to your script. Take a close look at the contests website. A good scriptwriting contest site should have a list of guidelines and a FAQ for you to peruse. Movie Bytes lists the vast majority of scriptwriting contests and has an excellent feature called “Report Cards”. for obvious reasons. Question previous entrants. particularly those attached to film festivals.There are five key components to your research. offer staged readings of your script. You can also write up your own report card to help future scriptwriters. Feedback. If this is offered it’s normally only to the finalists rather than all entrants. Some contests. Check
. Visit the page here . This is undoubtedly the most important thing to look at as you can glean so much information. Writers who have previously entered these contests write up a report and evaluate them.com/ReportCard. Other Factors A contest will promote their sponsors heavily. The better the pedigree the more worth there is to entering. Find a scriptwriting forum and post a message about the contest you are thinking of entering. It’s also very useful to know how long the competition has been running for and how past winners have gone on to do for themselves. For example it’s no good entering your romance/drama based screenplay to a contest which is looking for comedy scripts. If a contest offers feedback even if you don’t win then that adds a lot of value to the contest package. Sign up to Movie Bytes. Ask if anyone else has previously entered and if they thought it was worthwhile. meaning you should avoid at all costs. If the website looks amateurish and is run by a bunch of names that you can find nothing about then it’s probably not legitimate.http://moviebytes. It never hurts to make contacts.cfm Script readings. Similarly a contest might promote themselves a being connected to a big time writer. This sort of research isn’t at all hard thanks to the presence of the internet but it can be time consuming.
so be frugal with your money!
Selling Your Script
It seems like congratulations may be in order. Try and find out the exact details of these promises. Well don't worry because we have a guide to copyrighting your script coming soon and it's can't miss material. the better. low budget movies. I hope this guide has helped you in choosing the right scriptwriting contest for you. You may also be promised contact with certain agents or production companies. You most certainly want at least some information about the judges and the judging process before you even think about cutting a cheque. Scout around the internet and industry magazines for press releases by competitions touting their latest winner. Another great publicity boost is if the competition pays for adverts in major film magazines promoting their contest and the winner. A five minute phone conversation with an agent has no-where near the value of lunch with a top producer. you can now officially consider yourself to be a scriptwriter. first of all. Well.that this name is actually involved in the judging process at some stage in the contest guidelines otherwise it could be a lie or a case of the star not actually being involved. Publicity is a driving force for any scriptwriter entering a screenwriting competition.
. you want to check the validity of these claims by looking for past winners and making some form of contact with them for proof positive. The more you have your name out there the more likely you are to get signed to a deal. you've got the body of work to prove it. These type of contests are usually run by small production companies looking for good. just lending their name. If you've come to this section of the site then you've probably just finished your script and are wondering. Remember that you’re a writer now. However a good rule of thumb is that the more information given. preparing a marketing plan. Some competitions even promise that the winning script will be produced. and we won't even ask for a 10% agents fee! Everything you need to know about finding an agent. making a successful pitch and how to sell a script without an agent will be right here. We well help you in every way possible to sell your script. Some contest will not make their list of judges known. Now you are a scriptwriter with a finished script you'll also be needing to know how to copyright your work. Still. You will also want to check up on the judges of the contest and what credentials they possess. "what next?". possibly to protect them as well as contest entrants from potential corruption.
This will improve your chances of your script being read all the way through and. It is
. Keep it all neat and trim. however nothing could be further from the truth. zoom in and spread out. Zoom In As the phrase suggests you need to look at every single scene heading. Now you have the joy of rewriting to look forward to! The vast majority of film scripts go through a good half-dozen rewrites before they are accepted by a producer. This results in a tedious ten minute bar scene where the main character blasts through his entire life story up to that point. whoever reads your script will thank you for not having to read through a paragraph of location description. In terms of tying all the scenes together you may find parts or even entire scenes which aren’t necessary in telling the story and can be taken out of the script or rewritten to work into other scenes. It can be extremely deflating to show a trusted friend a finished script only for them to send it back to you with various scribbles over the pages with corrections. If you have found someone to read through your script ask them to make notes of any passage (preferably written on the script itself) of places where they felt lost or didn’t understand exactly what was going on. Scriptwriting is very much a case of “why use two words when one will do?”.The Rewrite
Once you’ve finished your script you might feel like your work is done. Take heart though because every script goes through numerous rewrites before they are in a fit state to be sold and produced. Spread Out This relates to backstory and dialogue. pointing out plot holes and the like. It breaks the flow of the story. Occasionally I come across a script where the writer seems to realise the importance of backstory but not how to ease it into the script. So much so that you wish you’d never bothered. While it’s fine to have mystery in a script you never want confusion as confusion leads to rejections. You also will want to cut out any waffle or ramblings in your action and dialogue. action and piece of dialogue and make sure that they all make sense. When you begin your rewrite there are two things you should be looking to do. tie into each other and are as short yet descriptive as possible. purchased. as a result.
You will need one car for each scene.fine to write this sort of scene in the first draft of your script. This time will allow you to come up with a course of action on rewriting your screenplay. cut some paper down to the required size. it records important character information which you can use in the rewrite in a more effective manner. Here are a couple of exercises which will help you in the process on rewriting your script which will improve it greatly. Tack them up to the wall. Any scene where this is apparent you will need to go back and add some sort of character reaction or action which shows growth in their personality. He could open up his wallet to pay for a drink after work revealing a picture of two children and then head home to a small. Looking at these cards should give you a good insight into the burgeoning relationship between
. failing that.
Quick Exercises To Help With Rewriting
Once you’ve received feedback on your script from the people you trust enough to give a non-biased opinion the first thing you should do is…nothing. and look at the progression. In writing the first draft of your script you’ve probably got the basic story down. Start with your main character or characters. It is the character arc and the relationship between each character that is left skeletal at best. and how it affects them. empty apartment. This effectively shows the audience that the character has two children yet no reason to rush home and live alone. questions and advice you’ve been given and leave it to ferment in your brain for a few days. instead you’ll want to chart the growth of the relationship between the main characters. The Relationship Arc The second exercise is much the same as the first. For example if your main character is a divorced father of two he doesn’t even need to talk about it for you to be able to get that point across clearly to the audience. However. The Character Arc Grab yourself some 3x5 cards or. Show don’t tell. Read through the corrections. and write down what happens. The audience will put the facts together and put the situation together without you ever having to tell them. or a notice board. You will notice that several scenes containing your main character have situations which don’t seem to affect them at all.
plots. DC. Fold a piece of paper in two and title once half “character arc” and the other. Other scenes might have too much relationship building which appears corny and slows down the action. then you are ready to send your screenplay back to your trusted readers to find any more improvements you can make. The process is straightforward and inexpensive. To rectify this problem you will need to register your script with the U. only abandoned”. There are certain things that you cannot copyright: ideas. Once you’ve rewritten your script. They have a website which can be found at http://www. Now you should have a clear. Some scenes will keep the character relationship frozen. You can though copyright your original spec script. titles. if you copyright your script then this need not be a worry. When you have gone through the procedure of copyrighting your work you will need to put notice of this somewhere on your script. taking into account the link between the character arc and relationship arc.copyright. scene-by-scene. However. By fleshing out the character and relationship arcs you help develop your characters into real people in a real world. preferably the cover page.gov/. rather than cardboard cut-outs who are merely vehicles to tell your story. It should look like this:
. “relationship arc”. phrases and basically anything that isn’t written down. look at how the main character and their relationships grow. To paraphrase Paul Valery “A script is never finished. as soon as you write your script you already own the copyright to it. Remember that if an incident happens in your story that affects your main character in a negative fashion then it should also affect the majority of their relationships negatively too. The problem with this though is that you have no proof of copyright date.S Copyright Office which is in Washington. you will need to spread this growth out across other scenes. Now you have these two arcs better planned out you can make a list. so keep writing and rewriting!
Copyrighting Your Script
One of the biggest fears for any scriptwriter is their work falling into the wrong hands and being horribly plagiarised. for which you’ll need to add a little growth and warmth. As current copyright law currently stands.your main characters.
without opening it. This is mainly because once the script has been sold the production company will own the copyright to the script anyway. One method that it already quite well known is “Poor Man’s Copyright”. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t copyright your script though. If you manage to successfully sell your script it will be a lot cheaper for the producer to just pay you $100. Copyrighting your script gives you the best protection possible and also provides you with the peace of mind to begin circulating your script.Copyright 2008 Joe King Or © 2008 Joe King. Here are the tools you will need to sell your script. Despite this all being very simple most scriptwriters do not copyright their script.
Putting The Pieces Together To Sell Your Script
Once you’ve finished your script off the dollar signs will be flashing ad you’ll be looking to sell it to the highest bidder. The Script .Hopefully you’ve already finished your script if you’re reading this. If you have more than once script then that’s great.
. This entails posting your script to yourself via registered mail and keeping it somewhere safe.S Copyright Office. However there is no guarantee that this method would hold up in a court of law. Other Ways to Protect Your Script There are a few other ways to protect your script other than copyrighting it. Because the date should be stamped on the envelope this proves when you wrote the script. you need to have a plan.000 rather than steal your script and pay a recognised writer $300.000 to develop your script. But before you send off your script to everyone and their mother. otherwise you’re just procrastinating. this will prove not only your writing ability but that you have more that one script in you and can be treated as a long term piece of talent. If you give copies to people you trust and get them to read it then they can testify that you have written the script and when they read it. The final thing to consider is actually one of the few advantages to being a first time scriptwriter. To make sure your copyright is respected worldwide you want to add the phrase “All Rights Reserved” when registering with the U.
Courier. However they might be impressed enough with your work to offer you a scriptwriting assignment. Hollywood is big on “high-concept” movies as they tend to have more chance of being a box-office smash so make your script sound as high-concept as possible. even if it isn’t. Similar to the synopsis is the treatment. use as a guideline for your phone pitch or directed to producers. This letter must convince whoever you send it to that they need to read your script. Query Letter . Synopsis/Treatment .A story summary is normally one or two paragraphs long and can be used in your query letter or as part of your pitch. story summary and any relevant qualifications. By your telephone at all time you want your telephone script as there is nothing worse than going blank on the phone.
. producer or other piece of talent you need to know what you’re talking about. It consists of your hook. title. Any company who employs telephone marketers will give them a script to guide them through making the sale. The story summary has an offshoot known as the pitch on paper which consists of your hook.The synopsis is a one or two page story summary which is to be written in present tense. actors and directors.Before you send your script to anyone you should first send a query letter. whoever you are speaking to will simply put the phone down. Telephone Script . Story Summary . Think of yourself as a telephone marketer. Your telephone script should consist of a brief introduction about you and your script followed by your pitch. Whoever your are speaking to might already have three romantic comedies in production so they won’t want the Love & Laughter script you have written.This can be the logline of your movie or the basic concept or premise. double-spaced. If you are asked for a treatment they are very similar to the synopsis only longer.If you get the chance to speak to an agent. Not only should you be trying to sell your script. etc) which you can sent with your query letter (if requested). on the phone or your pitch.A Hook . but yourself as a piece of talent too. You can use this hook in your query letter. normally 3-4 pages unless you are asked for more. using a conservative 12-point font (Times New Roman. You will want to create a cover letter for your synopsis that contains the concept. genre and any relevant qualifications. followed by the story summary all on one page.
without being arrogant.Is your script a feature length film. you want the agent to know quickly that they’re dealing with a great screenplay. Story Summary . love story. You must remain confident in yourself and your script at all times. Keep your letter to the point and intriguing.Writing and selling a script can be a gruelling process.Resources . or the pilot for a new sitcom? Is it a comedy. You want your logline to be inventive and dynamic enough for the agent to ask you to send a copy of your script.www. Persistence is the name of the game.
The Query Letter
Your query letter is crucial to your success as a scriptwriter. It is a brief account of what happens in your script. You will tell the basic premise of your script in a single sentence or two which makes your script sound as fresh and interesting as possible.filmscriptwriting. Category/Genre . You might find it useful to join a forum or online network of scriptwriters. Mental Strength . Most communities also have writers workshops from which you can gain valuable insight from a personal perspective. Even if you don’t manage to sell your first script you should use the process to make friends in the industry. Never give up.
.com is a great start. Even if your story is related to a hobby of yours. It doesn’t matter how dynamic your script is if you can’t convince anyone to read it. Your Background and Achievements . this shows a personal knowledge and passion. If you’ve ever won any scriptwriting or filmmaking competitions you certainly want to add that here.This should be a paragraph or two on about the story of your script. etc? Here you will want to include the logline of your story.If you’ve written your script based on a personal experience then let the agent know that. as are our list of useful resources. it took Forrest Gump ten years to go from a finished script to a sold script. war epic. You will want to include: Why you’re writing . this way your name may come to mind if they have any writing assignments or work.You’re writing because you’ve just finished your most recent script (never mention if it’s your first) and are now looking for representation. In the space of one page you want to make the agents of the world salivate at the prospect of reading your script.
who to send your script to. Finding an Agent The first thing you want to do is to get a list of approved agencies from the Writers Guild. One postcard with “Please send script” and one with “Don’t send script”. If you receive the postcard which asks you to send the script include it in the package with your script to remind the agent. and if they are. but make sure they don’t keep trying to extend the period. This period of time is normally only a few days and is worth agreeing to. Have a couple of cue cards by you and give them the pitch. Don’t expect a letter of recognition for sending a query letter.Don’t include a full CV as the majority of the information will be irrelevant and make you look amateurish. who wants to give up 10% of their income to someone who just mails out their scripts and occasionally phones them with bad news? The truth about agents is much different though. If you don’t hear anything from a agent in a couple of weeks you can assume that they aren’t interested. Your time is money too. Put simply a good agent will save you time and actually make you money. If you’re talking to a receptionist offer to send them your script to read. They know the ins and outs of the industry and they know how to get you the best deal possible. You can make the agent’s life easier by including two self-addressed postcards. so it’s pretty much win/win. this gives you a wide reach without making it difficult to keep track of exactly who you’ve sent your query letter to. You can send your query letter to as many agents as you want.
Finding And Working With An Agent
People often have a negative perspective of agents. If one of you strengths is phone sales then you might prefer to call an agent direct rather than right them a letter. Most of them will be agents in training who will be looking to make their own mark. I recommend between 5-10 at a time. After all. Keep in mind these are agencies rather than individual agencies. You will find out right away if they’re interested or not.
. After an agent has received your query letter you may get a phone call asking for an exclusive period in which to review your script. They have a coded list so you know which agencies are currently accepting scripts. Remember that an agent doesn’t take any money from you until they’ve sold a script. To find an individual agent you will need to purchase the latest Hollywood Representation Directory from Amazon.
You shouldn’t tell them that you’re a new scriptwriter. There are four different deals your agent can strike for you. An agent is primarily concerned with making money though so it would make no sense for them not to be trying their hardest to sell your script.You need to get the name of a specific agent. A reputable agent will take only 10% of your scriptwriting income with no extra charges (travel. You will also receive a bonus when then script has actually been produced as well as residual fees for things such as DVDs and TV showings. what genres interest you. complete with a cover letter to the agent. Then you should mail a copy of your script. Working With an Agent With the right amount of skill and luck at least one agent will get back to you and request a copy of your script. This is a chance to get you know each other personally and ask any questions you might have about them. etc? Once you have signed a Writers Guild-signatory contract your agent has a 90 period to sell your script before you can terminate the deal. Hopefully your script will have enough impact for the agent to request a meeting. If you meet an agent who differs from this then you should politely back out of any further dealings with them. The agent will want to know where you see your career heading. The more scripts you can produce then the more money the agent stands to make which makes you a great acquisition for them.). Do remember though that selling a script takes time.
. would you also write for television. You want to present yourself to the agent as a passionate writer and a great pitcher. so don’t rush to end the contract unless you strongly feel nothing is being done. As you can imagine the bidding can get high. can you travel to Hollywood regularly for meetings. Once you have pinpointed a particular group of agencies or agents that you would like to represent (and are accepting queries) you then you should send a query letter to around 5 to 10 of them. For example. Make sure though that you’re only contacting one agent per agency. reading. This might require you phoning an agency and asking them which of their agents are currently accepting new clients. The only cost you many have to pay for is photocopying scripts. at least six figures and can go as high as seven figures. they are: Outright Sale: If your script has created enough interest and buzz around Hollywood then it may be sold in an auction like style. just that you’re a scriptwriter with a new script. sending out scripts. etc.
etc) it is very hard to look at a script and know if it will sell or not at the box office.
Before you sit down to write your script it is hard to know what the movie market will be like by the time you have finished it. Once you have an agent you should do all you can to stay in touch with them. What you can do is a little market research and use a little common sense. If they pass on the script you receive the option fee and retain rights to the script. if you can create a character than an A-list actor would love to play then you’re in business. Audition: This deal secures an audition with a producer to develop their idea into a script.An Option: This is a lot more common than an outright sale. While it is true that there are more A-list male actors. It doesn’t matter how good the script is. at which time the option may be renewed or pass on the script. Arrange a time to call or meet with them once a month or so and keep to it. These type of movies generally don’t do well at the box office or are produced as a “made for TV movie”. An option fee can be anything from $0 to $20. females are catching up so don’t let that sway the choice of sex for your main character. The high drama gives the actor a chance to flex their muscles and show off their full range of acting emotions. this is known as a strong character arc. In the meeting you will pitch ideas which can result in a development deal or sale (if you have already scripted the idea). This could film or TV. If you impress you may be asked to work full time on the staff of the TV show. You will be paid this fee at the end of the optioning contract. Development Deal: Your agent will use your spec script to arrange a meeting with a producer. No-one can predict the future. romantic comedy. To do this requires writing a screenplay that revolves around a unique character who grows through a period of high drama. especially about something as volatile as the film industry. The buyer will purchase the option to rights of the script for a period of time (6 to 16 months). During this time the production company tries to attract talent and/or money towards the script. What To Do With A Finished Script
. If you’re writing a script social drama then keep it a low budget affair. Stars drive Hollywood. While some types of movie are always in demand (action. In the case of a TV series you will receive money to write a couple of episodes and will get residuals if the show goes into syndication. With that in mind.000.
The first thing you want to do with a finished script is to let it ferment for awhile. Give yourself time to come up with ways of fixing any problems in the screenplay. You may get new ideas on ways to improve the story and the characters. At the same time though you want to be careful of re-writing the life out of the screenplay, the first draft is full of passion and you don’t want to lose that. This break also allows you to become more objective. It is easier to admit mistakes after giving yourself some distance from the project. The break also gives you more time to assess the market. If a movie similar to yours is released and does well then you should send your script out as soon as possible. If it bombs then you should leave it around a year before you send the script out. Use this time to write another screenplay, having more than one will show that you’re productive and are a sound investment for any agent or producer. Where To Get Market Information Variety and the Hollywood Reporter are the two best places to get information on the markets. Variety tends to focus more on movies while the Hollywood Reporter focuses more on television. They both have weekly editions and websites you can visit for all the information on what screenplays have been sold, how much they sold for, who’s attached to them, when it will go into production, etc. You can also find out who each production company receives its funding from. If you discover that a production company is funded by a huge Hollywood star the you’d be wise to look at their track record of films. Do they like to star in specific kinds of movies, do they star in movies that they produce? There are also any number of workshops, seminars and film festivals you can attend. It always helps to know someone with a foot already on the ladder. Try to drum up some contacts and give them a quick pitch of your script. Before you know it they’ve told a friend about it who happens to be the brother of an executive at a production company. Having a killer screenplay is great, but you need to know who to pitch it to and when if you want to sell it and make the most money possible.
Teach Yourself Hypnotic Writing
By following my guidelines you can teach yourself the powerful art of hypnotic writing. This can be used in your query letter, synopsis and screenplay pitch to great effect. Using hypnotic writing in your script sales pitches
can be the difference between no sale and a million dollars in the bank. Hypnotism is the use of focused suggestion. You might occasionally get calls from salesmen hawking products. The secret to the game is that they all have scripts, written with the power of suggestion to convince you that you need their product. In reality you probably don’t but these pitches are damn convincing. Before I knew about the hypnotic methods salesmen use I nearly purchased double glazing from a telephone salesmen…despite the fact I already had double glazing. That is the power of hypnotic writing! The first tools you need to become a hypnotic sales writer are passion and sincerity. Since this is your screenplay that you are selling you should already be full of these. You need to believe with all your heart that the agents and producers need to buy your screenplay for their sake as well as yours. Your screenplay is your product and you should show a lot of enthusiasm for it. Now you have the tools you need a hook. The hook is simple and I’m sure you’ll have heard it before. All you need to do is promise results in a set amount of time. “Give me an hour and I’ll tell you the greatest story ever told!” Look at that again. What an offer! You’re instantly showing the agents and producers of the world how enthusiastic you are of your screenplay, and how little time it will take them to read through. An hour for a box office smash seems like a great deal. Open your letter/pitch with this and you’ll have them instantly hooked, now you need to keep them interested. They’ve took the bait, now reel them in. 7 Points To Hooking And Keeping Your Audience 1. Headline This is where you want to convey the benefit of interest to the audience. “Give me an hour and I’ll tell you the greatest story ever told!” makes for a great headline. Get over with your why they should read your screenplay any way you can.
“Have the next Hollywood Blockbuster delivered right to you!” That headline on a query letter would entice an agent or producer to get you to send your script to them. Getting your screenplay read is half the battle in selling it. Wouldn’t you want to read a screenplay that was introduced like this? 2. Opening Paragraph Just like the first ten pages of your screenplay you want to make this captivating. Be creative, anything to keep their curiosity peaked. Give a grandiose speech about how the movie industry is dying and you and your screenplay are here to save it. Whatever you need to do to get the audience to pay attention. 3. The Offer And Its Advantages Now you hit them with what you have to offer. Let them know briefly what your script is about and how enthusiastic about it you are. Keep it short and sweet and then tell them why they should buy your screenplay. Say you’ve done market research which suggests that there’s a lot of movie to be made in this genre after the success of…(name the most recent, similar and successful movie). 4. Appeal To Their Ego “This is the screenplay that could turn everyone involved into icons!” Everyone in Hollywood wants two thing, fame and money. You can offer them both with your screenplay. Always refer to the reader. Use “you”, “your” and their name if you know it. This keeps the sale personal, more like a correspondence between friends than a pitch. 5. Readability You want to make your query letter as simple to read as possible. Keep paragraphs short and words easy to understand. You should also look to make the important parts of your letter stand out. Single them out by using bold or italic text to draw the eye towards them. 6. Should You Ask Questions?
“Wouldn’t you like…?” “Can you imagine if…?” “Do you know what I mean?” These questions force your audience to pay attention because you’re asking a question of them. Even if you do have experience in such meetings you are bound to have a few butterflies. keep the pitch interactive. using the power of hypnotic writing will give you the extra edge you need.
The Meeting And Pitch
Receiving a request for a meeting from a Hollywood executive is both an exciting and daunting prospect. A Strong Finish You’ve got them where to want them. they will try to put you at ease.
. The second reason is that the executive already has an idea for a screenplay and is auditioning scriptwriters to take up the assignment. Leave your audience in a position where they have to act. You will be sat with the executives and the initial phase of the meeting will be getting to know each other. Tell them to write back or call you to take advantage of this fabulous opportunity. Then sum up your entire pitch with a single sentence. Scriptwriting is a cutthroat industry. “This is the script you’ve been waiting your whole life to read. One is to hear your ideas and possibly sign you to a developmental deal to write your script or to offer you a deal for a script you have already wrote. For you the purpose of the meeting is to impress the executives and put yourself and your script in a favourable position in the mind of the executive. 7. From the point of view of the executive there are two reasons to call a meeting.Yes you should! Keep the audience involved. Typically these meetings are from thirty minutes to an hour long but more or less depending on a number of factors.” “Can your afford to miss out on this unique opportunity?” I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. you don’t know what to expect and are naturally fearful of wasting your big chance. They need to take in your information to be able to answer them. If you have never had a meeting like this before that it is nerve-wracking.
After you have drawn in the executives with your hook you will be asked to continue.Like any social situation you want to be as warm and open as possible without going overboard. If you are struggling to think of something to say take a look around the room. Focus on two or three characters at most and the action. They will ask for you to pitch a few ideas if they are looking to sign you to a developmental deal. This is when you can go over the storyline briefly from beginning to end. You have to sum up the storyline of your idea in around 25 words or less. A pair of slacks with an open collared shirt is a safe option. You would also be wise to take a pen and notepad to write down anything of importance. This is your chance to show your creativity and how easy you are to work with. The Two Minute Pitch The two minute pitch starts off with the hook of the story. but have a few more ideas in mind in case you’re asked for more. Open your pitching session with your very best idea and limit yourself to around 5 pitches. In terms of dress you should probably opt for a smart/casual look unless you were instructed otherwise when the meeting was set up. and what you’ve written in the past. They may also just ask to see the screenplay when it is finished and then go from there. There are two types of pitch. This is the hook. the two minute pitch and the long pitch. an example would be: The Godfather: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. Be conversational and natural while retaining a sense of professionalism. Creating a good rapport with an executive could provide you with a lot of work in the future. You should always go to a meeting with a handful of ideas to pitch. After you’ve completed your pitch you may be offered a developmental deal to write the screenplay of one of your ideas.
. there may be an interesting painting or award you can ask about. If they wish to assign you an idea of their own they will ask you questions about what you’re currently working on. conflict and emotions they will go through.
“It’s like Dodgeball meets Ghostbusters” gives an instant impression with very little thought.Once this session is complete the executives might begin talking about their own ideas. any major plot twists and how the story will end. During the course of the pitch you may be interrupted with questions and queries. this is your chance to pick up the ball and run. the emotions. If you say you see the main character being played by Tom Selleck then you’re painting yourself into a corner. what’s at stake. Give the executives information on the main characters. This could also be a situation where you have to think on your feet if the executive suggests a change or two to the story.“A Tom Selleck/Burt Reynolds/Harrison Ford style of actor”. their goals. this is why notes and cards are useful so you don’t lose track of where you were. and if you’ve been asked to do a long pitch you are probably close to receiving some sort of deal. nor should you. While this is the long pitch you aren’t expected. It’s entirely appropriate to take notes or 3”x5” cards into a pitch although you want to make sure that you don’t just read directly from them. In a similar vein in can also be helpful to compare your idea to a past successful movie to help the executive visualise the project. This way you leave the door open for many actors to play the part in the mind of the executive. You can introduce the main characters with a little detail about them before you go into the storyline if you wish. The executives may have no wish to produce a film with Tom Selleck as the lead or Selleck may have no interest in playing the part. If you want to create a visual image of a character name several actors . If you can implement new ideas quickly this will impress them greatly.
. how the characters grow. Commit the information to memory and use your notes as and aid if you feel you’ve forgotten something. As with the two minute pitch you should open with your hook and then the storyline. If you are giving a long pitch of one of your own ideas you might want to open with the title and genre too. Instead focus on the highpoints and most important characters. Avoid tying a character to a specific actor. the theme. If you can come up with a strong creative direction for their idea then you will be given instructions to come back in the future with a full pitch.
The Long Pitch
There’s a lot more pressure to deal with during a long pitch as you need to articulate your ideas in detail. give a scene-by-scene rundown of the story or mention every character in the story.
No-one likes a pessimistic grump. At the same time though you should stick to your guns on any issues you feel strongly about. Pick out some nice clothes and get as good a night’s sleep as you can. Well. If the executives see you as someone who wants to write a series of blockbusters then they know you could be worth a lot of money to them if you have the ability. Enthusiasm . Sensitivity . You have to be able to separate your ego from your work. do they have any “go-to” star talent. They are especially looking at four qualities. if you can’t take constructive criticism they you won’t be able to make it as a scriptwriter. A short biography of yourself as a scriptwriter could also be helpful if they ask about your background. you’re selling your screenplay/ideas so this is no different. what their budget stretches to. You don’t need to be sugar and spice but treat people with respect and have good manners. It’s a fine balancing act. Try to be a conversationalist no matter how nervous you might feel. If you have an agent they will be able to do the work for you here. Treat it like a job interview. your SAGE.You need a thick skin to work in Hollywood. You should try and find out as much as possible about the company and people you are meeting with as possible.The more ambition the better. Map out a route and have a look around a few days before the meeting so you won’t be flustered on the day. You can also carry anything else you think they might ask for such as examples of work. You want to find out what sort of genres they work in. Ambition . keep it as reference rather than handing it to them though. you’ll soon warm into it. Grace . It’s handy to take some sort of bag or case to the meeting where you can keep your notes and cards.
. Good Preparation The best way to cope with the high pressure situation of a long pitch is to prepare yourself well. etc. If they are to offer you a contract then that may mean many hours of time spent together.What Are They Looking For? Outside of your ideas the executives are also testing you on your personality and your creativity. samples scripts they haven’t seen and so on. A strong sense of selfbelief will impress the executives and help make them believe in you.Any good salesperson knows that the most important attribute to have is a passion for the product they are selling.
to friend. You include the logline of your screenplay within your initial query letter whenever you are soliciting interest in your script from an agent or producer. which will hopefully lead to a sale. to anyone! Practice makes perfect after all. The snappier it is the better. Pitch to the mirror. Producers love high concept scripts as they are easy to market. A logline is also a useful timesaving device. If you are talking about your screenplay to anyone (from friend to Hollywood star) and they ask you what it’s about then you can simply quote your logline. Examples of Good Loglines
. A well written logline should be carefully thought out. All this is to be explained in one or two sentences. Generally you want to keep this to the main character unless you have a strong image of a specific actor for a smaller role. WHAT the problem is and HOW they are going to overcome it. to relatives. you may be sat at reception for awhile but this will give you a chance to go over your notes and gather your thoughts. Arrive early to the meeting. In every story there is a main character who has a problem and has to achieve a certain goal in order to solve that problem. That means even if your story isn’t particularly high concept you can use you logline to embellish on it’s most intriguing points. You need to explain WHO has the problem. There should be something about that logline which really stands out and makes whoever hears it want to read the full story. You have two sentences at most to convince people that your script is worth the time and effort to read. The best possible preparation you can do though is to practice your long pitch as many times as possible. You’ll soon find after a few runs through that you develop a certain flow If you do well then it’s time to talk deal!
The logline of your screenplay is a simple sentence or two that acts as a short synopsis of your story and provides the emotional hook that will make any agent or producer wish to read your script. Your logline also allows you to “big up” your story so it sounds as high concept as possible.Some executives will ask you if you had any casting in mind for your script. Anatomy of a Logline The anatomy of a logline is relatively straightforward.
" .The Fugitive "On every street in every city. In my opinion this is a mistake. writing loglines takes practice. Out of step.One of the best ways to get good at anything is to see how the masters do it.The Wild Bunch "To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman." . The Silence of the Lambs is a complex story so if that story can be surmised in a sentence there is no reason yours can’t! Loglines as the Starting Line Many beginning scriptwriters don’t even consider a logline for their screenplay until after at least the first draft is written." . WHAT. WHO: A woman must (“…she…”) WHAT: get inside the head of a killer (“To enter the mind of a killer…”) HOW: by challenging his warped mind (“…challenge the mind of a madman. It helps you understand the core of your story right from the get go. Writing a logline should be one of the very first things you do. especially compared to a killer) in the role of investigator. Like anything. preventing getting half way through a script and being unsure what direction to take it in. One good little exercise is to look at the movies in your DVD collection and come up with loglines of your own. HOW and piece together a logline and paste it up on the wall where you write. WHAT and HOW. "One man's struggle to take it easy. a one-armed man. a high-powered surgeon escapes custody and hunts down the real killer. there's a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.
. Lets dissect the logline from The Silence of the Lambs and see how it answers the WHO.Taxi Driver You should now notice how the logline tells the reader the very spine of the story while accentuating the most interesting points.Ferris Bueller’s Day Off "Unchanged men in a changing land.The Silence of the Lambs “After he's wrongly convicted of murdering his wife.”) The logline paints the picture of a disturbing psychological thriller with the added twist of a woman (seen as vulnerable." . out of place and desperately out of time. Even if you change the logline after you’ve finished the script it will help you remain on track.” . Write down the WHO.
. what are you waiting for?