Tips for Writing a Script
Of course, you have to have an idea about what kind of script you want to write. You could start by narrowing down which genre you are interested in. You could even write a cross-genre film. Brainstorm all your ideas. Maybe it’s a coming of age film but also a thriller such as Calibre or Mean Dreams.
Ben Stranahan is a partner producer at Tip-Top Productions, an award-winning independent house founded in 2011. TTP collaborates with established cross-company affiliations to produce high-quality projects for a variety of budget levels. Because of Stranahan’s extensive knowledge in this area, we are consulting him for suggestions as to how someone can begin writing a script today.
Just accept that your first draft will not be the script you end up with. Stranahan is always looking ahead. Still he continues to maintain a good attitude. His advice, “Do not get frustrated. Just write!” Remember the plot diagram from your days in school? Sketch it out and fill it in. Start with the exposition, who are the characters? List all their characteristics, focusing on the protagonist and antagonist. Set up your conflict. What will be the issue between these opposing characters? Develop the rising action. What will lead to the main climax or the part of the film where this issue will be dealt with? Then, how will this issue be resolved? This all seems obvious, but while you are brainstorming, keep the setting in mind. How has the setting shaped these characters?
Stranahan says, “Dialogue is essential to a script.” How does the setting influence the characters? For example, where the story takes place might greatly influence the accent and word choice. It also affects their beliefs.
Don’t forget about direct and indirect characterization or subtext. Stranahan elaborates, “Rarely, do we say what we really mean when we are speaking to people in our daily lives, so a great deal of dialogue will actually say one thing, but mean something totally different, and of course, the actors will need to portray it that way.” When you are at this stage you could add the subtext in captions. There is a format specifically designed for scripts that includes all of this. If you do not include this in the final draft, your script will be rejected.
Stranahan encourages writers to start rewriting the script the way it is meant to be formatted, and to begin editing and revising your work. Clarify any parts that are unclear and make sure you can answer questions about the character and setting. Make sure that you have clearly identified characteristics that coincide with that particular time and place. This seems obvious but it is the easiest mistake to make when creating a script. You have to fully immerse yourself in the world you created. This might take an extensive amount of research on your part. You could also make a synopsis of your imagined movie so that you have a clear idea of where the script needs to go.
You need critics that you trust. Stranahan claims that writers need people that are supportive, but that are also willing to tell you the truth and provide notes. You could provide a few copies of your script to people you trust and ask them to take notes in the margin or use track changes in Word or Editing in Google. Just make sure that the notes are legible because even if you don’t totally agree with the criticism you receive, you need it. You need to be able to see it.
Submitting Your Work
Stranahan ends by saying, “You need to get as far as you can in the process. Preferably finish it or come close before you start submitting your script to producers. This shows that you intend to proceed with your script and take it all the way to production.”