Did you know that there are key things that can help every spec script stand out to Hollywood?
When we talk about spec scripts, we're talking about scripts that are written with the expectation of being sold, which means no one is paying you to write them. They are your unique ideas that you choose to write about in order to market them or utilize as calling cards for representation or writing assignment consideration.
Screenwriters with a track record in Hollywood can surely write on the spur of the moment. On occasion, they even sell their spec scripts.
However, the vast majority of today's spec scripts are created by inexperienced screenwriters hoping to gain attention for their work.
When you write on spec, you're writing for the script reader, not for a niche or broad audience. And that script reader is sitting on a stack of scripts on their desk or in a folder on their computer. They are on the lookout for that one-of-a-kind, original script that will set them apart from the competition.
We've put up a list of five crucial characteristics that any spec script should have to pique the reader's interest.
1. A Clear Concept
The movie industry is based on ideas. Of course, moviemakers also want creative writers who can tell fantastic stories and create unforgettable characters, but when it comes to spec scripts, if you don't have a clear and coherent premise to sell, you're out. That's why oddball dramas, oddball comedies, and small character-driven dramas frequently fail to find an audience — with few exceptions.
Those are the kinds of scripts that fit in the independent sector, where you can work with local filmmakers to get them produced — or direct them yourself.
You need a concept that engages the powers that be in twenty-five words or fewer when trying to sell a spec or use one to get noticed in Hollywood (give or take). And these high-concept ideas frequently include a gimmick in addition to a fascinating idea.
A gimmick is a circumstance, character, or concept that immediately piques the reader's interest. The concept is the strategy or purpose behind the gimmick to tell an engaging story. For example, it isn't enough for a man-eating lion to attack humans; the ruse is in how three very different characters are thrown together to hunt down and destroy that lion. That is the essence of a film concept.
It's all about the idea. The script reader is looking for something new and exciting. Every great spec script needs it.
2. Persistent Conflicts and High Stakes
You may develop a protagonist with almost no character arc — as countless variations of Indiana Jones and James Bond have demonstrated — but audiences will go crazy for such characters if you send them through hell and back.
The stakes must be high, and you must include enough tension in your story, including hardships and tribulations. You must compel your characters to climb a metaphorical tree with a fictitious hungry Grizzly waiting for them below, then light it on fire and figure out how they will survive.
That's something every script requires — within the context of a brilliant subject — but it's more important for spec scripts since it keeps the reader interested and flipping the page. You should, therefore, raise the stakes and give your characters more and more tension every few pages.
The majority of screenwriters make the error of viewing a screenplay as nothing more than a collection of scenes that tell a story. Scenes aren't necessary for a strong script; moments are.
"Moment" means "significance" in a single word. There must be a moment in every "scene" you write. Emotion is required. It must advance the plot of the characters. It must be meaningful in some way. It's got to be crucial.
Almost every "scene" in your favourite films is a sight to behold.
You'll need incredible moments that build on one other and propel the plot and characters ahead at all times.
It's not enough to just communicate a plot idea through dialogue and a few scenes. Throughout the entire screenplay, we need to have catharsis moments. That is what makes the reader remember the script.
Whatever genre and tale you're writing, give that reader a lot of laughter, a lot of scares, a lot of thrills, and a lot of tears.
4. Simple Aesthetics and Fluid Pacing
A harsh fact in many development and production offices is that if your spec script isn't a page-turner, it won't be read beyond the first ten pages.
Every page of the script must be read quickly so that the reader can visualize the movie in their head. You'll lose them if the plot drags on. You'll lose them if the scenario description is too dense, with each block of description lasting more than two sentences. You'll lose them if the dialogue is excessively extended regularly. You can't blame the reader for this because it's science over which they have no control. Adopt the mantra "Less Is More" and pare down your story to the essentials.
5. Easy-to-understand structure
There is a reason why screenplays exist. It has progressed, to be sure. However, there is still a bar to clear. This is because screenplay order is a simple language that is used to understand the writer's vision and convey it directly to the script reader, allowing them to see the film as rapidly as possible.
The screenplay reader will have problems feeling any sense of pacing if that format isn't consistent and follows the industry's general norms and expectations.
Before sending your latest spec script out to contests, competitions, fellowships, managers, agents, and producers, use these five items as a checklist. You will be well ahead of the pack and have a higher chance of progressing up the ladder if your spec script contains these five elements contained within its pages.
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