Monday, February 13, 2012

How To Write A Screenplay



FADE IN

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

A WRITER sits at her laptop creating the following blog. You see the words roll by just as they would in the credits at the end of a movie:

Before you Google me to find out which screenplays I've written, let me confess to you right now that you have never seen one of my screenplays on the silver screen – yet. You should also know that I am not an expert in the field of screenwriting, either – yet – but I have written screenplays (and continue to write them), I attended Robert McKee's Story Seminar, I own books on the subject of screenwriting (*see below), I won a contest for a teleplay logline I wrote (click HERE to read my logline contest entry), I am currently entered in two screenwriting contests, the results of which won't be revealed until October, 2012, and I know how to find great information on screenwriting.

One thing I know for sure, because I've heard or read about it so many times is that in order to know how to WRITE a screenplay, you must first READ screenplays. And what better screenplays to read than those written by Academy Award contenders of outstanding screenplays?

The benefits you receive by reading screenplays are numerous. You learn about industry standards: where the dialog appears, what the margins look like, how the scenes are described, and so much more. 

Reading screenplays, though, is much different from reading books; words don't flow in screenplays the way they do in books. You have to train your mind to envision what the screenwriter sees on the screen when she writes her screenplay. 

Though you might expect to find them, director's instructions will not appear in a screenplay unless you read the final shooting script, so you will have to direct your own scenes when you read it, or, if you have seen the movie, compare the writer's original script to the way the script appears on screen. The screenwriter must remember that the director takes care of directing the movie – the screenwriter does not. 

Another benefit of reading screenplays is that you get to glimpse into the mind of award winning writers, but reading screenplays, while not difficult, gets some getting used to. If you are new to reading screenplays, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with screenplay terminology first. This glossary from Simply Scripts will help (click the link).  

To give you an idea of the types of screenplays you should study, I am including a link to the CBS News web site. Some of the screenplays CBS posted are (click the link to read them):

Bridesmaids, by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wig;

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson (screenplay by Steven Zailian);

Jane Eyre, based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte (written by Moira Buffini);

The Descendants, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings (written by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash;

The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett (written by Tate Taylor);

and many more.

If you're serious about screenwriting, read the screenplays that appeal to you, come up with your own ideas, write your own screenplays, and envision yourself sitting in the audience among some of the best award-winning screenwriters ever. Then again, completing your own screenplay could be a reward in itself. 

FADE TO:

INT. YOUR THOUGHTS – DAY OR NIGHT

The READER of this blog is considering a career in screenwriting. S/he remembers the asterisk from above and s/he locates it at the bottom of this blog. Here it is:

*Ever Considered Screenwriting? This Blog is a Must Read! is a blog filled with information on the best resources for writing screenplays. Though the writer of this blog won't make any money from Amazon when her readers click the links (Amazon pulled out of Illinois and this poor writer lives in Illinois), she left Amazon resources on her blog so readers could find with ease the Amazon links to books mentioned in the blog.

If potential screenwriters prefer to go the traditional route, the writer of this blog asks her readers to Google "filmmaking schools" or choose an online school such as Film School Online! 

FADE OUT

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