SCREENWRITING? WHERE TO START?

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

I read this from a newsletter from Hollywoodscript.com  and wanted to share it.  I did not write any of this and I have made sure to include who did.

SCREENWRITING? WHERE TO START?

By Judy Kellem

It seems like more and more artists with a love for words are redirecting their passions away from short stories, poetry or books and trying their hand at screenwriting. But many are finding that it is a very daunting task – an endeavor that is surprisingly unwieldy – especially for seasoned writers who are exceedingly talented at those other writing forms.

Indeed, screenplay format is very tricky, as we are used to prose writing and the parameters of literature. From the time one learns the “A,B,C’s” one is taught to think of “writing” in terms of that which one finds in nursery rhymes and books. A script is really a visual medium, a “motion picture” mapped out in words. Writing a script is therefore a test of whether or not one can suspend the reader’s disbelief, make the reader feel as if they were a VIEWER. The reader must forget that they are reading and feel themselves watching. A silver screen must drop down in their minds and the script must project a series of pictures in their head.

For artists used to playing with language, taking up lots of page space to conjure mood and tone, employing metaphors, double-entendres and so on, it is very difficult to create visual equivalents. Prose writers get log-jammed trying to make dialogue and stage directions evoke the texture they are going for, and add the rich layers they are so used to massaging into their text. Screenplay writing is a tough art form to get used to.

So where can one start?

As all writers know, reading really good material can only benefit one’s own craft. Read professional screenplays. Get a deep feel for how they are written – deconstruct each act – how is the story being unfolded? What happens in the first fifteen pages? Where is the story by mid-script? How are the characters introduced and how do they experience gradual change with each scene? Do a microanalysis of the way each scene is handled – how much dialogue is needed to nail a scene – what kinds of visual cues are employed?

Consider the overall style of the screenwriter. Is there a heavy reliance on dialogue? Where has the writer used imagery to unveil the tale? Take note, scene by scene, of what choices the writer has made – how has the writer used the tools of screenwriting to cinematically “tell” their story?

Then watch really good films and do the same – take them apart, scene-by-scene, until you get a hold of how they were built.

But while training via pro scripts and top rate films, most importantly, one must really work at one’s own material. Everyone assumes that writing a book will be a bear of a job. They expect it to take years of their lives, a kerzillion drafts, desperate nights and so on. There is a trend, however, when it comes to screenplay writing to think that it’s easy. People seem to think great screenwriters just crank out their movies in no time, sell it as a third draft and laugh all the way to the bank, before hitting the red carpet to receive their Oscars.

Writing a stellar script is certainly less demanding than writing a Pulitzer-worthy piece of literature. That goes without saying. But screenwriting is in no way simple.

One must stay patient, know that it will take many revisions to really finish a script. Like all writers, screenwriters need smart feedback on their material, and must have the discipline to revise and rewrite over and over again.

One can dissect professional screenplays, understand the design of the best films out there, but above and beyond this all, it is writing that makes one a better screenwriter. The more one works at the process of developing a script, the more one trains oneself – in general – to be a great screenwriter.

COPYRIGHT HSCL 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan_Peace, Becca L. Becca L said: SCREENWRITING? WHERE TO START?: http://wp.me/pIJ51-32 […]

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