Contributor: Magda Olchawski
How to write a film script – part 1
When writing a film script you should start by picturing the film critic, the person who is going to read and review the script first of all. Winning over a critic is your first step to success.
It will be up to them to decide whether what you have written is notable enough to get other people interested in the project. Whilst writing a script, it is good to have your own virtual critic in the back of your mind all of the time. It is easier to keep the discipline of writing.
A good script should be simple and compact, contain expressive characters and have a well-designed plot. A script should make it possible to be able to see a future film in it. It should be remembered that scriptwriting is different from writing novels. These are two different kinds of art and both have separate rules that they are based upon. While writing a script you need to remember that it is just a structure or a frame for a film, on which, the base of a new piece of work can be, and will be, realized.
A script should be written in a concise way, avoiding monologues and wordy descriptions. The dialogues should run smoothly in order to move the plot forward. The less descriptions and the more dialogues, the better. Clear and transparent – these are the features of a good script.
And now a few words on the form of a script:
- the title page: the title, the author’s name, the contact address
- scene titles: information on when and where the scene is set, that is the place and time of the scene, (time of day); if the plot returns to the same place within the script, it should be called the same
- stage directions: they determine the plot, the place and the mood: they are supposed to outline the scene and to create its picture. Thanks to them we can picture the scene; writing the dialogues you need to remember not to interrupt them with comments
- actors directions: instructions for the actors; brief information regarding characters
- directions for a DOP should be avoided
- it is allowed to place in the script directions such as ‘cut’, ‘cut to’ and ‘dissolve’ (the series of short scenes composing a story background), ‘flashback’, ‘off’, and the information that a character is speaking a foreign language.
The primary goal of a scriptwriter should be a well-told story, which awakes peoples’ emotions. First of all he should be focused on building the emotional tension in order to move the audience. Another necessary element of a good story is its reasonableness. The plot should put in order chaotic events. That’s what the audience expects: Touching and reasonable stories. To experience catharsis and to curb life’s disorder.
The base is determining a subject and a message. The subject is the basic information and the main message of the film. It should be remembered that a main film plot and a film story are different things than the subject and the message behind the film. The events told are just exemplification of the author’s intention and the message which he wants to present to the audience. A scriptwriter should keep this main intention in mind all the time and follow it, he should spin his story around it.
Writing a script you should avoid instructions and obtrusive morality. Otherwise a story changes into unbearable propaganda work.
A plot is supposed to suggest the message and be its representation as a specific story. It should also be remembered what message is to be carried by the story and what the audience will be able to get from it. This reflection should be written in a script which serves the reflection.
A relevant element of a script is building of a story world. A well-constructed world is a base to draw the reliable characters. It is not only a background but also a basic element of a film story, fulfillment is as important as the characters. Localization of the characters in a specific world affects their natures and their behaviour. Scenery „acts” on a par with the characters. Sometimes it is even an autonomous figure that dominates in the course of a plot, pushing the characters to the background. That’s why one should pay special attention to building the scenery.
The building of a film story world should be remembered as where the plot evolution originates from. It is from the film story world that the context, mood and characters’ conflicts originate. A story set in the specific time and place looks completely different from a story being set anywhere or whenever else, as it may appear unbelievable. It is also relevant that certain elements of surroundings harmonize with the internal world of the character, otherwise a story stops being believable. It is possible to build the surroundings in a way that it is possible to outline the character’s figure, nature, tastes and habits without words.
A world can be a source of the main adventures when a character is thrown into a completely unfamiliar place or when the world they knew starts to appear hostile. An idea for such a story boils down to the observation of a character trying with actions to tame the unknown reality and find their place in it.
Scriptwriters use contrast and irony to raise the attractiveness of a plot and the intensification of an effect. Contrast lets determination of a perspective and is limiting. Contrasting is more expressive and more meaningful. Contrasting the characters, the world and the plot is intriguing and moving. It lets us show the author’s intention in a nutshell, raises interest and draws the viewer into the plot. It is similar with the irony which causes even unexciting scenes to be engraved in the memory and unexpectedly become attractive. Contrast and irony make it possible to indicate a subject better and set pace to the plot.
The key to building a perfect story world is extracting the smallest elements and details out of it. It should be expressed through them. Through a detail we get to know about the whole. In order to extract relevant elements of a story world, a scriptwriter needs to have a complex knowledge about the scenery they’ve decided to set their story in, so a plot would run in a transparent, reasonable and at the same time attractive for the viewer world.
- Question: How many scripts do you need to write to “get it”? (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- Screenwriting – Writing Better Dialogue (laniseb.wordpress.com)