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Screenplay Writing

Turn Your Idea Into a Killer Story - Writing The Screenplay

There's an old saying in the theater: "If it isn't on the page, it shouldn't be on the stage." This means that if you don't have a great screenplay there's no point in making the movie.

People have never enjoyed watching boring entertainment and today people all around the world have more choices in entertainment than ever before. People in the major industrialized countries have more options than they could ever hope to see all of them.

Every year Hollywood spends hundreds of millions of dollars creating half a dozen films that are filled with incredible special effects and popular actors but they bomb at the box office. And every year a few filmmakers make a few films on a shoestring budget that end up making a fortune and winning awards.

The difference is the quality of the story. Your film can be technically marginal but if the story is really interesting and compelling you can sell it.

Start with a great idea, develop it into a great screenplay, and don't be too ambitious to start with. Get a lot of help along the way. This seems counter-intuitive to most beginning filmmakers who assume that if they tell anyone about their brilliant idea it will get stolen. Almost never happens.

Instead you will get valuable feedback as to whether your story idea is REALLY all that compelling, plus you will start to get some "buzz" going as everyone you talk to spreads their enthusiasm to their friends.

Actually you will probably find that your idea isn't as original and great as you thought. Top screenplay writers keep journals full of ideas that occur to them or that they get from the news and other sources. Most of the ideas are rejected and only the most original and unusual are combined to create great stories.

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Every story has one or more "hooks" that grab attention as well as a "premise" which is the underlying moral or great truth that the story illustrates. You may want to find a writer that has already got a great screenplay or is really practiced at writing good dialog and scenes if you aren't highly skilled at story development.

Screenplay format is very specific and although you can use a word processor such as Microsoft Word you will find it much easier if you use a profession script writing program such as Final Draft.

All stories include most of the stock elements including characters, conflict, plot, foreshadowing, subplots, suspense, thrills, and other entertainment elements to keep your audience involved. Watching a lot of movies is the best way to begin to appreciate how similar as well as how different stories can be.

Every story also consists of an "act" structure that has been in use since at least the ancient Greeks who first described it. In the most basic form there are three acts starting with act one where we meet the main characters, their world and find them thrust into a conflict.

In act two the characters work or fight to find a resolution to the conflict. In the third and final act the conflict is resolved and the story comes to its resolution and moral. Another way to describe the parts of a story is with the Hero's Journey as described by Joseph Campbell.

When your story has been completely thought out and outlined it is time to start the actual writing. Your actors and film crew will expect your script to be in exactly the right format or they won't understand what you are trying to film.

Professional screenplay writers will tell you that script writing is really rewriting. The first attempt is never anywhere near as good as after it has been rewritten over and over refining the characters, conflict and plot. The first attempt by a beginner at writing a script is usually not very successful but practice makes perfect so toss it and start over.

Get started by establishing your filmmaking goals.

All of these steps are well described over at 4Filmmaking.com in the screenwriting section.


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