Mar 5, 2012

Valuable advice for writing a script

A young filmmaker just left my house. He had a rough script that had NFVF backing, he had a good story, and he did not know where to start. He was sent to me to make sense of the script he was and to start fresh. This is a big job for someone without experience to pull off. But it can be done. Young filmmakers are always anxious to get the script, but it takes hard work before you can do that. The following will help you do things in the right order.

·                    Synopsis: A one-page outline of your story; its characters, the plot of the story, and what the action is. No plot equals no story. Something has to happen, there is conflict, you try to resolve the conflict, have things going wrong, you reach a crisis, resolve the crisis, and resolution. This synopsis tells the people backing the story whether they are interested in making your vision a reality.

·                    Letter of motivation: Why should they back your story? 

·                    Character Bible: Make as many notes as you can about your characters. Flesh them out. Develop each character and do a character bible of each one. A good sample goes something like this; Samantha, 20s, bubbly, talkative, likes the color red, has a twitching eye, or something like that. We want to know the inner character, and this kind of information is better than just listing a name and age of the person.

·                    Outline/Treatment: What your story is about, and a step by step outline of how the story will progress. The script will be very close to the outline.

·                    Wants and needs of your characters. This is where you state what the character wants, and what the character needs to do to overcome the problem. In most cases the need to do of the character is psychological or emotional. In other words, the character has to be prepared to do something to satisfy the want. An example: the character wants to sing on stage. The father does not want her to sing in public (the inciting incident). The character needs to rise above disappointing her father to be able to sing. This is the conflict and the heart of the story.

If you have done a good job with the outline and/or treatment, you then come to the good stuff where you can finally start the script. Crossroads, my next film, starts out with the sound of running feet, and when the screen opens, sees a young drug dealer being chased across the field. The story starts out with a bang. I am trying to rope in the viewer in the first minutes of the film – very much like a writer who does this with a narrative hook when writing a book, meaning, grabbing the viewer’s attention and not letting go until the story is told. Be prepared that you will make many, many revisions of the script along the way. 

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