How to Write a Screenplay
by Paul Nattress
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Writing a screenplay can often be more profitable than writing a novel. Screenplays are bought up by studios for several reasons. The most obvious reason is to allow the studio to make a movie out of it. Sometimes though, they can buy screenplays to prevent other studios from making a movie similar to the one they have in production.
Writing a screenplay is quite different to writing a novel. The format of the manuscript is more rigid for example. Hopefully this feature will help you write your screenplay.
Finding scripts to read
Reading other scripts and screenplays is a good place to start. Drew’s Script-o-rama has plenty of examples for you. Reading a few scripts from movies you you’ve seen will allow you to compare the written script with the finished scene. If you want to read some TV sand radio scripts, then check out the script archive from the BBC’s Writer’s Room.
Reading the scripts that you can get from the websites above should give you some idea of how to format a screenplay but the following site should provide more specific advice: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (home of the Academy Awards) has a guide on formatting scripts as part of its Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting section. Also look at Screenwriting.info - a whole site dedicated to formatting and writing a script.
You can buy software that helps you format and write a screenplay too. Take a look at Final Draft (a demo is available so you can try it out first). Alternatively, why don’t you try Sophocles (which also has a free demo to download) or Movie Magic Screenwriter (this too has a free demo).
The BBC has developed a set of Microsoft Word templates designed to help writers format their scripts called Script Smart.
You should now be familiar with the format of screenplays and have maybe even read a few. The next step is to read a few tips from the pros. The best place to start is the Wordplay website. This site has articles by Hollywood screenwriters who have penned a few blockbusters.
Screenwriter Alex Epstein has some good advice available at http://www.teako170.com/faq.html in the form of some “do’s and do nots”. Also, check out his other site http://www.craftyscreenwriting.com/, which has some good articles on various aspects of screenwriting.
Finally, check out the screenwriting section of the Open Directory Project for more sites that give advice on screenwriting.
If you prefer to read offline then I can personally recommend Chris Keane’s How to Write a Selling Screenplay. His book is full of no-nonsense advice and includes a sample screenplay of his. Also check out The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier.
Websites about screenwriting
Screenwriting is not just about movies. Television also needs well written scripts. The BBC website has a section dedicated to budding TV script writers at call the Writer’s Room (home of the Script Smart templates mentioned above).
As with other established industries, there are organisations for professional screenwriters. The Screenwriter’s Guild of America (SGA) is a good place to start. For a more UK specific organisation, take a look at the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain.
Where can you get your script made into a movie? You can make a short movie and submit it to the BBC. For advice on how to do so, visit the BBC’s Film Network. This site is a showcase of new British film talent and showcases short movies from new British movie makers. Also check out their excellent filmmaker’s guide.
Selling your script
Finally, if you want to sell your script, you should keep up-to-date with what the industry is looking for. Inktip aims to match producers and directors with screenwriters and their scripts. Sign-up for their newsletter for the latest info on who is wanting what. Also take a look at the Absolute Write newsletters.
Good luck and I hope to see your name in some movie credits one day!
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