We've all had that one dream that woke us in the middle of the night or that one thought that popped in our head during a boring lecture where we thought and said, "hmm, that'd make a pretty good movie." Most people would stop at just that thought, but not you. You are determined to bring your thought from your brain to the page, so you grab your laptop and head to your nearest local coffee shop (because we all know that's where the best writing happens) and...hmm, it dawns on you...how the heck do you write a screenplay? This article is screenwriting for beginners, and he's the "write" way to do it!
Well look no further, your next step to Hollywood starts now!
What is a screenplay?
A SCREENPLAY is a written blueprint for the film you want to create. Image a house, the walls, doors, windows and roof all stand sturdy on top of a solid concrete foundation block: the script is the foundation of a film. Without it, a movie's production stage would be a chaotic nightmare! It tells us the important stuff needed to be seen in the film, like the characters, settings, and props. It also gives the narrative for the audience to follow in ascending order, just like a story book. However, the writing format for a script is a bit different than a novel.
How do I start writing my screenplay?
Sitting at your computer screen with your cup of coffee close by, open your preferred writing software program. There a few free options if you want to use an actual script writing software (Celtx is my favorite): here they have all of your margins preset and ready for you to begin. The typical style used in screenwriting is 12-point Courier New font because the letters are all perfect size to approximate each written page to a minute of film. You heard right: ONE page equals ONE minute of film.
Your screenplay starts with a SCENE HEADER: also known as SLUGLINE, written in ALL CAPS, which identifies the overall location of the scene. It consists of three parts: the camera's placement (is it inside/interior (INT.) or outside/exterior (EXT.)?), the specific location and the time (time usually only represented as DAY or NIGHT). An sample slugline if I wanted my story to begin on a desert island would simply be: EXT. DESERT ISLAND-DAY. Easy.
Beneath your scene header, you write your DESCRIPTION LINE: here is where you write your story, introduce characters, their descriptions and actions. Keep it simple. In a screenplay, you only write in 3rd person PRESENT TENSE, because the story is going while you read it. We live in the moment, not the past or future, so do scripts: He runs. She drinks a cup of coffee. Keep descriptions light and let the reader learn about the character more through their actions and speech. Unlike in novels, you cannot write your character's thoughts or emotions in the action/description line, because those are not physical visual concepts: If it can't be seen, it won't translate to the screen.
When you write dialogue, first you write the CHARACTER CUE: name of the character who is about to speak), then beneath it you write the dialogue, which may be written in any tense. It's best to use slang, jargon or dialect sparingly, sprinkle in just enough for the reader to understand the character's background/personality. Too much and it becomes unreadable.
This article is screenwriting for beginners: intended for those who've ever an idea come to mind for a great film, but never knew how to capture in through a camera. Now you can by following these professionally used techniques to guarantee you a well-formatted, easy to communicate outline for your next step of transforming it for the screen. After you write it, gather a crew, grab a camera and bring your creation to life! Who knows, it may become the next Hollywood Blockbuster hit!...Can we still say Blockbuster? Netflix maybe? You'll be famous!