How to Write a Screenplay

"To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the
." – Alfred Hitchcock.

Movies and television shows don't spontaneously generate when the cast and crew show up on the set. Actors don't write their lines, although they may riff and improvise from the script.

The million dollar apparatus of moviemaking, what Orson Welles once described as "the biggest train set anyone ever had" is set into motion by words on a blank page or screen.

Your words.

You can't really learn how to write a screenplay from books or by taking a class. They can be helpful, offering tips and ground rules, but the thrill and rewards of learning how to write a screenplay come from doing the work.

First off, learn the screenplay format, which is very specific. I recommend you write your script in a screenwriting program, which will handle the formatting automatically for you. The current film industry standards are Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter.

When you're writing a screenplay, give yourself a time frame and a game plan; so many hours a day, so many days a week. Some writers discipline themselves to death by setting a page count goal – 3 pages a day, or else. I believe this imposes an artificiality on a writer's imagination. Some days you will write zero pages, other days you may write 5. In the long run, the zero page day may turn out to be more creative and inspirational than the 5 page day.

Find a schedule and style of working that is most productive for you. The goal is to get that first draft done! For a feature film, that means approximately 120 pages; a television script is about 60 pages. Once you hit your stride and your story bursts into life, the pages will flow. Don't beat yourself up when you hit a snag; it's part of the writing life. Pause, rethink, rework. Imagine your main character – would he or she give up because the going got tough?




in a lonely place


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