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How to write a Screenplay and make it good and then great..

Written by Shantí

Image: @marsaimartin


Want to be a screenwriter but unsure of where to start? Yep, been there, done that and now know how to do it! Writing a screenplay can be extremely daunting, wanting your idea on paper to be interesting, unique, different and catches the hearts of producers and executives. But knowing you are not the only one who feels like this and who wants these opportunities. So how do you stand out and not get swallowed up by other talented writers? Worry not, we'll take you through some steps and guidance for writing a screenplay and how to make it good.


We haven't forgotten about the great part either!


Tip #1 - Finding an idea and making it unique

Before writing any screenplay you need to know what you are writing about, the genre and whether it's for TV or Film. Is it a drama, comedy, animation, thriller, action, adventure, Sci-Fi, romance and the list goes on... Gather images or real-life stories that can get your imagination going. What gets your creative juices flowing? Is it sitting in a field, taking in people on the way to work, family or friendships? Think about what inspires you and run with that imagination. Having an idea is essential, not winging it on paper and hoping something good comes out. That can lead to messy writing and a screenplay that doesn't follow the conventional writing structures or format.

Now once you've figured out what you want to write, is the idea unique or relatable? So often there is a constant regurgitation of the same thing in cinema, Netflix, TV, Prime and so on. Nothing new, different or refreshing for the viewer. A director that I particularly feel inspired by is James Cameron, from the likes of Titanic and Avatar. A true visionary for film and writing. Creating something we've never seen before and pushing creative boundaries. So give yourself space and time to be creative, it's uniqueness that will change the filmmaking scene, so make it different and stand out.


Tip #2 - Screenplay structure


A typical screenplay is most often comprised of 3 acts. The beginning, middle and end. The length of a movie script is typically 120 pages long. 1 minute of action per page.


Act 1, known as the 'set up' is pages 1-30.

It is important to know that the first 10 pages are essential to grab the reader's attention and keep them hooked. If they don't know what's going on and it's vague and boring you've lost them. The set-up establishes the character and dramatic premise (what the story is about).

Act 2, known as the 'confrontation' is roughly pages 30-90.

This is usually where the main character encounters an obstacle, keeping them from achieving their dramatic need, meaning what they want to achieve, win, gain or get. When you know their dramatic need, you create obstacles in your screenplay and how they overcome them. This act is important because, how do you drive your story forward? How does the reader stay with you?

Act 3, known as the 'resolution' is pages 90-120.

What's the resolution to your story? Does the main character live or die? Succeed or fail? The final act is the unit of action that solves the story. Will there be a continuation? Will it be heartfelt? Just remember to take care of your endings, as a lot of writers do this badly or forget about them. End it properly.


“Audiences are harder to please if you’re just giving them effects, but they’re easy to please if it’s a good story.” – Steven Spielberg


Tip #3 - Write, read and redraft

When writing give yourself time and don't create unrealistic time frames to complete your screenplay. It's better to be steady and consistent, rather than writing big chunks, getting fed up and not returning to it for a few weeks. Trust me, I've been there. Try aiming for 1-3 pages a day; after 6 weeks, you could complete your first draft.

After your first draft, read it and get others to read it for you too. See their opinion and what grabs them, it's also a good way to get fresh eyes to check for any mistakes or writing errors. Then redraft and keep finding small ways to perfect and make the story as great as it can be.


Tip #4 - Finishing Touches


It is also important to have the correct software when writing, the industry is big on screenplays being formatted properly. We recommend getting Final Draft, a great and professional way to format your script. Also reading other screenplays is a big help for the finishing touches, getting a feel of how spec scripts are written, keywords, expressions and elements that need to be implemented into a screenplay.


We have YouTube at our disposal, books and courses you can take to write a professional script. So breathe and don't panic. You got this and your script with be great.


We hope this has been helpful and you knock their socks off with your writing!

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