Writing a Script
Maybe it’s a funny incident that happened to you, maybe there’s a political statement that you’d like to make or a painting that has inspired you…whatever the spark, you need to start by getting it down in writing.
Where to start? Before you become too caught up in the ‘correct’ way to do it, jot down a brief description of the story you want to write. Once you’ve captured your idea onto paper, then you can visit the innumerable sites created to help writers turn raw ideas into workable scripts (for links to writing organisations and websites, see our related links: writing).
Once you have received tons of encouragement and suggestions, you need to turn the description you have into an outline or a more technical treatment. The terminology can, at this stage, get confusing, as different approaches to early development are referred to in different ways (such as outlines, synopses, treatments). Don’t get too hung up on which way to go at this stage, as the essential thing is to develop the idea into a structured story that will work as a screenplay.
At this stage, you can start showing your work to other people and getting feedback (ideally from people working in film or television, but you can always use your friends and family). Rework the idea and think about what makes it cinematic. Who are the characters? What is the plot, the premise, the theme? When these components have come together in your mind it’s time to put your story down in script format.
Formatting a script is not an ‘exact science’ but, as you will find, there are industry standards. Production companies and directors are used to scripts that look a certain way, so it is worth getting to grip with industry conventions early on. For links to websites that provide script formatting tools & software, see our related links: writing – script formatting.
It is always worth reading your favourite film scripts for examples of how it is done. There are many sites that can help you track down a free copy of a screenplay online. See our related links: writing – example screenplays.
Sticking to industry standard formatting makes your work look more professional and it will also help to give you a rough idea of the length of the film. Standard formatting roughly equates to a page per minute.
The script format is really only the start and you will need to continue developing your project, responding to criticism and absorbing new ideas into your script. If you are working with film and/or TV professionals, it’s very likely that you will go through a number of drafts. Visit the numerous websites for writers and scriptwriters, if only because writing is often a lonely task and it is healthy to connect into a network to share tips and suggestions that may assist you in the creative process. You can also get feedback on your story via some sites. For scriptwriting organisations, see our related links: writing.
Getting a Professional Response
If you feel that you would like a cold, hard industry response to your script from somewhere in the UK then you might want to pay for a script report from a script reader. See our related links: writing – script reading services.
A great resource available to filmmakers is the monthly Rocliffe New Writing Forum. Run by Rocliffe Production company, the forum is a networking event whereby three selected script extracts of 7-8 minutes in length is rehearsed by professional actors and directors (cast by
the in-house casting directors). A great way to receive effective and honest feedback on your script.
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