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Screenplay Writing: 5 Ways to Start a Screenplay

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Screenplay Writing: 5 Ways to Start a Screenplay

Screenplay Writing: 5 Ways to Start a Screenplay

Every great movie starts with the first draft of the screenplay, which introduces captivating characters, potent conflicts, and an engaging story. As a writer, one of the first skills you must master is to find out as much as you can about how to write opening sequences.

Although it's not simple, writing a screenplay, whether for an independent production or for a video production company, can be incredibly satisfying. A decent script requires a significant investment of time and effort, and finishing the first draft is just the start if you want to sell it. The story will need to be improved, frequently with several additional revisions, and you'll also need to find an agency, send your script to studios and producers, and hope that someone will find it appealing enough to spend a sizable sum of money to buy it. That is, unless you intend to fund and manufacture it yourself.

Each year, 100–200 creative screenplays are collectively bought by the major Hollywood studios. It is simple to understand how challenging the endeavor actually is when you take into account that somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 new screenplays are registered with the WGA each year. Don't give up, though. The majority of individuals simply attempt to create a screenplay without spending enough time understanding how to do it well. Your scripts will start off well ahead of the competition if you fully commit to the craft. 

When creating and writing your script, there are a few stages to take. However, keep in mind that there are no true rules, so they could occur in any order or not at all. It depends on the story and, ultimately, on you.

Why Write a Screenplay?

A screenplay is a script for a movie or television programme. Hollywood producers engage experienced screenwriters from the film industry to compose the scripts for feature films. Unlike playwriting, there is a standard for how a script should be formatted and how it should look on the page—right down to the precise use of Courier type. The right software is crucial, and many screenwriters use programs like Final Draft that provide templates and standard screenplay styles for things like character names, time of day, transitions, locations (EXT. and INT. ), scene headings, slug lines, and title pages.

Writing a Screenplay: How to Get Started

The process of developing a decent script for a short or feature film differs from screenwriter to screenwriter, so there is no one universal approach to starting. If you're writing a script for the first time, you don't have to start with the first scene. Instead, you can pursue the concept that inspires you the most, follow the plot it leads you to, and see how new scenes and characters appear. 

Beginners can also begin with a logline, which is a succinct description of the movie. Give yourself plenty of time to write; a peaceful, focused period of time can assist you in generating ideas. When developing your story, you can create a framework for the entire script, rework it, and collaborate with editors, directors, and reliable peers.

A Screenplay: 

Traditionally, a character is introduced in stasis at the start of a script. The character's reality is then broken by an inciting incident, which causes conflict and ends with a resolution. To start writing your spec script, think about the following cinematic resources:

  1. Fade in: This is frequently the first sentence you write in a script after the title page. A transition known as a "fade in" might indicate the start of the narrative. You may use a fade-in to reveal the beginning of your story, going from a darker to a brighter tone to show a world coming to life.
  2. The camera may pan across a town, city, crowd, or location before slowly zooming in to give viewers a greater view of the area before gradually focusing on the primary subject.
  3. Voice-over: The protagonist might speak in a voice-over and talk about a concept or idea that is discussed in the story or share a personal anecdote.
  4. A movie or TV show may begin an opening scene with a close-up of the primary character to quickly introduce them, highlight their traits, and establish them as the focal point of the narrative.
  5. A scriptwriter may start a scene from a character's past in the opening sequence of a movie, then insert a dissolve transition to show that time has passed.
  6. A cold start: a cold start plunges viewers into a storyline and gives them a sneak peek at what's to come. A chilly opening, often called a teaser sequence, usually introduces the main characters and establishes the tone of the story.

7 Steps to Writing a Good Screenplay:

Step 1: Write a logline
The protagonists and their objective, as well as the antagonists and their struggle, are all described in a logline, which is a succinct description of your story that is often no longer than one phrase. The protagonist is the story's hero or main character, whereas the antagonist is the bad guy or opposing force. The purpose of a logline is to communicate both the main idea and the story's emotional overtones. What does the story concern? What style do you have? How do you feel?

The logline used to be put on the screenplay's spine back in the day. This gave the story's producers a fast sense of the plot, enabling them to determine whether or not to spend the time reading it. The logline still performs the same function today, although it's frequently delivered verbally or as part of a treatment.

Step 2: Compose a Treatment
The title of your script, the logline, a list of the key characters, and a brief synopsis are all included in a treatment, a larger (2–5 page) summary. Treatments, like loglines, are mostly employed for marketing objectives. A producer may first read a treatment before determining whether or not to read the script.

The primary themes and turning moments of your novel should be highlighted in the synopsis. Anyone who reads it ought to have a clear understanding of the plot, the characters, and the writing style. They should have sufficient knowledge to identify with the characters and wish to accompany them on their adventure in order to see how it turns out. 

Before you go into the specifics of writing each scene, writing a treatment provides you with the chance to evaluate your tale as a whole and see how it reads on the page. It can also help you identify what is working and what needs improvement. Include your name and contact information as well, because your treatment will be used to promote your script.

Step 3: Develop your characters.
Consider the tale you wish to tell. What's the matter? Do you get the theme yet? Make characters that oppose the main question and go through a significant metamorphosis to respond to it. Online character profile worksheets are widely available and can be useful for bringing your characters' personalities to life. 

The most crucial aspect of character development is to make your characters sympathetic and engaging. Even the villain should have a motivation for being evil, even if it is illogical. These are some of the ingredients that make writing screenplays for a video production company generally more acceptable.

Step 4: Outline and Plot
Map out each scene beat by beat by breaking your story down into its narrative arc components. Many writers I know utilize flash cards or notebooks for this. I use Trello for structuring my screenplays. I design a board for each script, then a list of each element of the story's arc with a card for each scene. I put comments about the characters or the plot as well as a checklist of the story beats on each card.

Whatever suits you, do it. Plotting out your story is the objective. You will waste less time overall if your outline is more thorough. Remember that a story is driven by tension while you plot. The key to retaining the audience and moving the plot ahead is to build and release tension. Tension originates from the conflict between optimism and dread. The hero is compelled to change by this.

Step 5: Produce a First Draft
Scene by scene, with dialogue and illustrative action, compose your script using your outline as a road map. A screenplay's opening ten pages are its most important ones. An abundance of scripts frequently fly across the desk of a reader or producer, and they are unable to read them all. They will let a screenplay have ten pages to captivate them. They're inclined to keep reading if the script features engaging characters and the necessary structural components. Otherwise, it will be thrown out.

A distinctive literary format is the screenplay. While every tale, regardless of format, has a number of features in common, screenwriting is unique in that every word of descriptive action must take the present tense form and describe some things in such a way that the audience can see or hear them.

Although they both function quite well, word processors and typewriters, I advise investing in software that will handle the formatting for you. When it comes to screenwriting, Hollywood adheres to a rather rigid format. Even if it often leads to confusion, this used to be more of an issue. It is a pretty simple process, thanks to modern screenwriting software. The most frequently used software are Adobe Story, Movie Magic Screenwriter, and Final Draft.

Wait until you've finished writing the screenplay before going back to amend dialogue or revise action descriptions. Then you can go back through it, disassemble it, and put it back together. During the initial draught, try not to be too harsh on yourself. Simply put pen to paper.

Step 6: Stop for a While and Take a Break
It's a good idea to unwind and divert your attention after finishing a first draft so that you can read it with new eyes when you do finally return to it.

Step 7: Revise
You have a much clearer understanding of your plot as a whole now that you have a finished draft. Rework the script, tighten the conversation, and improve the action. Most likely, you'll need to repeat this process. It's better to use more white space on your pages while making the final version. It's simpler to read and seems to go by more quickly. It's discouraging to read a script that has pages and pages of detailed action descriptions and protracted monologues when a producer has to read several scripts a day.

The act of crafting a screenplay requires sacrifice and a commitment to the craft as a whole. In the end, it's a fun process where you get to construct characters and see them come to life as they make decisions to go through the challenges you've put in front of them. Your script will be finished quickly if you take the time to learn the trade.

There are a few books that most industry experts recommend as must-reads for any aspiring screenwriter if you're looking for more detailed advice on learning to develop a script. Each one provides insightful information on a certain facet of establishing a narrative, developing engaging characters, and writing a screenplay with deliberate motivation. These authors include Syd Field's screenplay; Robert McKee's story; The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri; and Blake Snyder's Save the Cat.

Conclusion

The question of how to compose a script for a movie cannot have a single, unambiguous response. If you’re a beginner writing your first draft, you’re more likely to face more challenges than a professional screenplay writer who has been writing for a video production company for a while.

In addition to the conventional instructions on how to structure a script, "create a treatment," "take a break after your first draft, and then rework it," etc., every successful writer today has reached their position by stretching their imaginations as far as they can.

Follow the obvious steps to writing a screenplay—hard work, devotion, strategy, learning about theory, reading scripts, etc.—but avoid the mistake of focusing just on learning theory and overlooking the most crucial step: exercising your creativity.

  Jul 20, 2022       by eev-hastings       164 Views

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