WRITING YOUR SCRIPT
YOU GET NO RESPECT !!!!
FROM FILM PROFESSIONALS
If you tell them you have a great 'Script'
.......then hand them a written Story
FONT: Courier (12pt)
with set Page Margins and Returns
(Links to free software to do technical formatting at bottom of page)
STORYTELLING UNITS: Scenes
KEY STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS IN A SCENE (3):
Scene Heading or Slug Line (When and Where)
Action or Narration (Description Of What Camera Sees)
Dialogue (What Actors Say)
EACH PAGE YOU WRITE IN PROPER SCRIPT FORMAT
WILL BE TURNED INTO APPROXIMATELY
(1) MINUTE OF SCREEN TIME !
.Write your script with an awareness
of how long the film will be.
(2) pages = approx. (2) film minutes
AS A WRITER YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT
ACT l / BEGINNING
How many pages (or portion of a page in a short Script) to introduce the Protagonist and her Ordinary World. As well as the coming of the Antagonist who will disrupt her World.
ACT ll / MIDDLE
How many pages for the Protagonist to stumble over obstacles and fight small battles*, seek help and new knowledge, before encountering the Main Event Conflict.
(* An obstacle or battle can be as small as having trouble opening a bottle. If the Protagonist succeeds in opening the bottle, the audience scores it as victory and new confidence for the Protagonist. If the Protagonist can't open the bottle,
it could be a frustrating humiliating setback.)
ACT lll / END
How many pages (or portion of a page in a Short Film) to show how the Protagonist (and / or her Ordinary World) has
been changed after the Resolution of the Conflict.
A WRITER KNOWS !!!
THE CONFLICT (MIDDLE) PORTION OF THE SCRIPT ALWAYS GETS THE MOST PAGES
SHORT FILMS HAVE NO TIME FOR ALL THAT !
No time to develop complicated plots or show different sides of the Characters. Often Shorts are quick intensive slices of life with intense mysterious Characters, meant to leave the audience wondering after the film has ended: What will happen next?!
(Queue Pitch: “Help us turn our Short into a Feature (or a Series)" ! )
REMEMBER -- EVEN IN THAT SLICE
YOU STILL NEED A CONFLICT AND RESOLUTION
THAT IS CLEAR TO THE AUDIENCE
"The Difference In Rhythm And Purpose
Between A Short Film And A Feature"
KNOW THE IMPORTANCE
OF YOUR WRITING TEAM !
If you are actually doing the Lesson, some of your weekly time for the project now needs to be dedicated to pulling together a Writing Team (if you haven't already!).
The Team is composed of the Writer and an array of supporters. It can include other writers, but it can also include people interested in acting; analyzing stuff and brainstorming; production design; learning the camera; and running a set.
If your recruits can support your project with time and / or skills, and do parts of the Lesson with you, they don't need any writing or filmmaking experience. You are also creating an early, sympathetic test audience for your Story.
YOUR TEAM'S QUESTIONS AND SUGGESTIONS WILL HELP YOU WRITE
YOUR SCRIPT WITH THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF A FILMMAKER
APPROACH THE LESSON LIKE THE EARLIEST FILMMAKERS DID
IN 1910 HOLLYWOOD !
Figure Out What To Do
By Doing It
With What You Have !
TIME & MIND &
KEEP THE PROJECT
ON YOUR CALENDAR !
Decide how much time each week you can work on your Script. If you were doing the Lesson in a classroom, we'd meet weekly for (3) hours and students would also do homework outside of class.
You don't have that. What do you have? Commit to something in writing on your Calendar! Aim for at least (1) hour a week to sit down and write, and study the Lesson in-between.
If you miss a session, immediately schedule another session. If you have to cancel that session too, immediately schedule another time. It might take a while before you are able to do regular writing sessions, but keep it on your calendar (and keep studying) and you will eventually get there.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE
AN IDEA WHERE
YOU'LL GET LOST !
SET A CALENDAR GOAL BY WHICH
TO HAVE YOUR 1ST DRAFT OF A SCRIPT
(in weeks or months)
Set your own pace. Set your own goals. If you miss writing sessions, not only reschedule those but also reset your target goal for finishing your 1st Draft.
WRITING YOUR SHORT SCRIPT
'Writing Your Short Script'
Is Divided Into (5) Sections
1. Write Your 1st Draft In Proper Script Format
2. Study A Professionally Written Scene From
One Of Your Favorite Films Or Series
3. 'What's Your Story?': Be Your Own Audience
4. Do Your 1st Rewrite
5. Organize A Reading Of Your 2nd Draft
You Will Decide How Many Drafts It Takes To Come Up With A Script You Believe Ready To Shoot
(Just know that the Script will continue to change and refine once you start Pre-Production work with Actors and Crew, who will give new feedback and ideas that you will want to incorporate.)
1. WRITE YOUR FIRST DRAFT IN PROPER
You can download for free software that will do the technical formatting of your script.
'List of (8) Free Scriptwriting Softwares'
Plus check out
Each software site should have 'how to use' videos. Also check out youtube for videos on how to use each software.
If you don’t know how to set up software, ask someone who knows how to use online resources to help you get started (it can be a teen).
Once you know how to sign-in to the software, using it will be easy. You'll choose the appropriate element –-
SCENE HEADING, ACTION, DIALOGUE, etc. – then type. The software does all the formatting.
As a beginner you don't need to know all the formatting features available in the software.
Here's a video that focuses on just the basics you need to know to get started. View the video then write down what those (5) elements are.
'(5) Basic Elements Of Formatting A Script
I created a class handout covering the basic elements, using as the study example the student Script:
Read My Handout:
Watch this video that uses Script samples from famous films:
'Why We Need Script Format & The Format Elements'
Don't worry yet about the more advance elements.
BE SMARTER !
Understand The WHY
Of Script Formatting
Be a Writer Who Thinks
As A Filmmaker
If You've Written A Rough Of The Story That You Now Want
To Turn Into A Script
How ever you've written your Story, it's OK. It can be in incomplete sentences. You don't have to have the Characters or Conflict fully figured out, or how it ends. All OK.
Sure, you'll put in some DIALOGUE. But don't worry if the Dialogue is good, or if the Story is making complete sense as you put it in Proper Script Format.
1st DRAFT GOALS:
1. Learn Script Format
2. Fill in a visual image of what is to be seen in the film
3. Learn to brainstorm creative ideas with other people
THE INFO YOU NEED FOR
(2-4) Characters With Names and Descriptions
Wardrobe, Props, and Set Descriptions
Script Title (can be changed later)
'(8) Steps To Help You
Outline Your Script'
This article is about outlining a Feature. The Outline of your Short might just take half a page. You can write in short sentences. You're just writing down the key things that will happen in your Story in the order they happen. When you start writing your Draft the Outline will keep you focused as to where you are going.
GOOD EXERCISE: Outline the key moments -- in order that they happen -- in the Scene you picked from a famous Film.
'(10) Tips For Titling Your Script'
In Film School teachers have students as their first assignment shoot a Silent Film, so the students have to focus entirely on the visuals.
'What We Learn About Visual Storytelling From Silent Films'
GO WRITE YOUR 1ST DRAFT !
2. STUDY SCRIPTS
"Congrats on completing your 1st Draft!
Take a break and put your Script aside to give it time to incubate!
Have fun and get inspired by studying a great Script from a Film you love."
FREE FAMOUS SCRIPTS YOU CAN READ FREE ONLINE
Over (600) Scripts from famous Films, including most of the Oscar nominated Films from 2017-2020, including 'Joker', 'Toy Story 4', 'Hustlers' 'Little Women', 'Crazy Rich Asians', 'Black Panther', 'Dolemite Is My Name', and 100s more!
(NOTE: On the page you will have to scroll down past three banners for podcasts before you get to the long lists of Scripts.)
FREE SERIES SCRIPTS
(50) Sample Scripts from some of the best shows on TV and streaming, including 'This Is Us', 'Game Of Thrones', 'Black Mirror', 'Family Guy', Friends', and (45) other series.
HOW DO YOU STUDY PROFESSIONAL SCRIPTS AND NOT BE OVERWHELMED ?
FOCUS ON STUDYING
Pick a Script from a favorite Film (or Series) that you are able to screen as often as you want (because you have the Film as a download or DVD, or on a streaming platform you subscribe to).
Try and pick a Film that in some way you find inspiration for your Script. It could be a Character, a theme, a mood. Only you have to see the connection.
Watch the Film again, then pick one Scene you especially like. Write down (3) reasons why you think the Scene works so well.
Look in the Script and find the Scene. You don't have to read the entire Script! Read the Scene as it is in the Script, then view the Scene again in the Film. Several times -- view/ read/view/read.
Then answer the following questions to help you figure out how the Scene you've chosen, draws you, the audience in.
HOW TO DRAW IN YOUR AUDIENCE
CONFLICT & RESOLUTION
In longer Scripts made up of many Scenes there is the climatic Conflict and Resolution for the entire Story, but individual Scenes as well can have a minor Conflict and Resolution.
Example: Two Characters have an argument or Conflict, then one Character storms out. The Character's exit is a temporary Resolution that changes the immediate situation, but doesn't solve the main Conflict.
"Conflicts & Obstacles'
For the Scene you've chosen write down what you think the Scene's Conflict is, the Obstacles the Protagonist encounters, and the Resolution.
"Tips On What Not To Do"
You can watch (5) minutes
and get lots of tips
"(6) Tips For Writing Better Dialogue
View the Scene you picked, focus on listening to dialogue. Start the Scene again and write down the Dialogue as you hear it. Stop the Film to give you time to write down the lines and rewind if you need to. Write down at least (2) pages of the Scene's dialogue.
What's the point? When you can just read the dialogue
in the Script.
Writing down the words makes them sink in deeper than if you just hear them or read them in a script. Plus you hear the rhythm and sound of the Dialogue which you don't get by reading. Also often the Dialogue in the Film might be different than in the Script, because often Dialogue is improved upon during shooting (or some is cut during editing).
Study the Dialogue you wrote down! What do you like about the Dialogue? Do you notice different speech patterns for the Characters?
All the information you have been creating about who your Character is already before your Story starts is called 'Backstory'. It refers to all that has happened in the Character's past.
Actors can contribute a lot to their own Character's Backstory. In the video below an Actor who is playing a wrestler in a low budget short has a 'hot seat' session where the Actor is asked about the Character's background and has to come up with his own invented answers. While all he comes up with might not be used, some of it will be.
'Hot Seating An Actor'
Now return to the Scene you picked. Write down what Backstory is revealed about the Characters.
Want to learn more Scriptwriting Terminology?
GLOSSARY OF SCRIPTWRITING TERMS
3. WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
BE YOUR OWN AUDIENCE
Time to pull out the 1st Draft. Yeah, you had ideas when you started writing -- but what do you actually have?
Sit down with your Team or a few friends or family to read the 1st Draft aloud. Cast each Character and assign someone to read the Action (Narration). If enough people, the primary Writer should not read, just listen.
Print out a hard copy for each person and give pens to write notes. Have refreshment to snack on as you work.
TIP: Food makes it more fun and relaxed and less of a meeting. People work a longer time before getting antsy.
To help you structure your discussion, go back to the Scene from a famous film that you studied in the previous exercise. Watch that Scene together with your group. Then review the answers you came up with when discussing Conflict, Obstacles, Resolution, Dialogue, and Backstory in the Scene.
Now turn back to your 1st Draft. Someone taking notes, or recording it, as you discuss:
After this discussion, it’s time to stop and let all that feedback incubate. Let’s do a little studying. You can do it with the group or later on your own as Writer(s).
There’s a lot of ways to analyze writing and a lot of terms. Don’t be overwhelmed as you visiting all this information for the first time. Keep using as a study reference both your 1st Draft and the Scene you picked from a famous Film.
You may like one study resource or angle more than the others. It’s fine if you just focus on what appeals to you most as you ready to write your 2nd Draft.
SET A DATE TO START
WRITING YOUR 2nd DRAFT
You can always push it to a later date – but get started with a goal!
HOW TO DRAW IN YOUR AUDIENCE
RAISE THE STAKES
Increase the importance of what the Protagonist stands to lose.
‘What It Means To Raise
‘Importance of Stakes in Scriptwriting’
‘Putting A Ticking Clock In
‘Something In The Past Hurts The Protagonist In The Now’
Remember you are writing a short-short Script, so your Story might simply be about that wound being exposed – not healed and transformed as you would have time to do in a Feature.
In deadly serious situations, humor can be a coping mechanism for dealing with complex, confusing, and threatening moments. In a comedy a surprise moment of sadness can make the Characters more believable and endearing.
‘(10) Funny Moments In Dramatic Films’
‘(10) Saddest Moments in Comedy Films”
By the End of your Story your Protagonist might have learned something about himself, about the Antagonist, or about the World. Or maybe the Protagonist doesn’t learn, while the audience is shown the truth. Whatever your ending, take the audience somewhere unexpected, even with a quiet gesture.
‘(13) Types Of Script Endings’
‘How To Write A Meaningful Ending’
With each Draft you write and discuss, the more you will understand as you study.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to develop a Theme for your Story. What's your Story about in the larger sense of what human beings are and do?
From the previous lesson ‘Creating Your Story’
Are you confident enough about what drives your Story to summarize it in one or two sentences?
From the Scriptwriting
KNOW YOUR STORY !
4. DO YOUR 1ST REWRITE
SET A DATE BY WHEN YOU WANT TO HAVE YOUR 2ND DRAFT DONE
TRY TO SCHEDULE AT LEAST TWO HOURS A WEEK TO WRITE (CAN DO IN TWO SESSIONS)
DO A NEW OUTLINE OF WHAT YOU PLAN TO WRITE
IN-BETWEEN WRITING (OR IF YOU GET STUCK) STUDY OR IMPROV THE SCENE AND ACT OUT CHANGES
CAUTION: BE SURE TO KEEP COPIES OF ALL YOUR DRAFTS AND NOTES! LATER YOU MIGHT WANT TO BRING BACK AN IDEA.
Listen To Famous Writers Give Tips For Rewriting a Script
'How I Write: Rewriting'
5. STAGE A READING OF
YOUR 2ND DRAFT
PUT ON A SHOW FOR AN AUDIENCE!
Cast your Characters and a Narrator from your friends and family. (Casting is just for the Reading and it's OK if the Actors don't fit the Character descriptions.)
Have them rehearse together before the Reading. Give them Script copies. Have them read standing and pretending to do the Actions described in the Script.
If possible give the Actors wardrobe and props that fit the Characters.
Find a space to do your Reading (a living room with furniture moved back or a community room in a church)
Invite a small audience
Have refreshments for the discussion period after the Reading
If you get good suggestions, ask the Actors to do new improvs
Decide after the Reading if you need to do a Rewrite