Putting together a script and eventually turning it into a film is a dream of every screenwriter, but the script typically goes through many drafts before it ends up even being seen by investors. And unless you are already an established screenwriter with produced credits, it is not uncommon you will be required to do several free rewrites for interested parties as well as spend some money on getting it covered and critiqued by professional consultants and readers.This is a step by step process that helps screenwriters build off of their script, improving it with each edit.
Before the script is even created, there should be a concept or idea in mind. If this concept or idea is based on a true story or book, you will need to secure the rights prior to proceeding. I will cover this on my upcoming blog. You should also know what you’re trying to get across to the viewers and why you want to make this film in the first place. Don’t assume that just because this is a story you would like to see made into a movie, someone will buy it. The Buyers of screenplays work on solid Business Model of numbers and statistics and though the content is king, you must do some research and see what type of audience you will reach with this concept. The full story doesn’t need to be figured out quite yet, just a general idea. Try to think of a sentence or two that would describe the main idea of the film. This is called the ONE SENTENCE PITCH. If you can compare it to two films (called COMP), what would those films be? Spend as much time as you need to in order to truly develop your ideas and start visualizing how to make your ideas come to life on the screen. Who are your characters? What is their journey? What is their goal? Where are we and who are the antagonists and challenges?
After you know what your concept is, you can begin writing up your story’s treatment. This should be divided in 3 clear acts- beginning, middle, and end. It is a common industry practice that executives may read a few pages, in the beginning, some in the middle and the last pages, in the end, to save time and see if the story is worth reading in full. If these segments make sense and are cohesive you are off to a good start. Your first act is the setup, gives us a picture of the character’s world and personality and challenges ahead and the triggers to the journey. The second act is where the “movie trailer “moments can be found. It’s the meat of the story and usually ends up in a climax that prepares us for the grand finale, where all comes into place (or does not) and our characters change internally as well as the external conditions. This step is where you should start thinking about the manner in which you’d like your story to be told. Are we in for chills and thrills? Romance? Redemption? Action-packed sequences? Visual Effects Extravaganza? Conflicts of Beliefs? Laugh out loud moments? Epic and strange worlds we have not visited before?
After you’ve spent some time curating your idea and developing your concept, it’s time to get started with a draft. Most screenwriters use their first draft as a way to establish what the major actions are going to be in the film and wait until further down the line in the process. This is EXTENSIVE work. It requires a lot of homework. You need to have the right software (Final Draft), the right structure, and you need to have already prepared your story beats (usually there is about 5 per act) which are the ebb and flow of the story. Every beat (scene or couple of scenes) needs to end with a plus or minus moment (good or bad) that leads us to the next scene. Most of all we need to LOVE your main character and want to go on the journey he is on. It is vital that through the script there are things that we as an audience can see but he/she can’t such as “oh look there is a killer behind that door!” or something that he or she sees and we can’t predict -yet- such as a plan he sets into action and we can’t get inside his or her head to know what he will do next – but he or she knows and we can’t wait to see how it all goes down.
After you’ve completed the first draft, take some time away from it if you can and revisit after a couple of days. Make sure your spelling is PERFECT (they will trash your screenplay with a couple of grammatical errors). Does the story grab you from page one? Do we want to keep reading? Maybe ask a friend to tell you – whoever represents your audience. This is also the time to read some screenplays of hit movies in your genre. What made them great? You should be able to tell what were the things that stood out and try to mimic them. After that Revise any ideas that are confusing, adding anything that will complement the storyline. There is no right amount of times to revise your script, but you should make sure that you are completely happy with it before moving to the last stage which is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP for a new writer. Do not send a script out that has not been covered by a Professional Reader! Of course, this can be an expensive endeavor but so worth it if you choose the right professional. Sending a script out that is not ready will close the door for your future work. If it’s logged in the computers with a bad review they will never give you another chance unless a major star or director becomes your ally. I will go over helpful tips on how to hire a professional reader, and not get scammed in the process. Whether you choose to work with me or someone else, I can tell you what to look for to get maximum return on your investment.
By the time you’ve reached the last stage in script development, you should be confident in your story and be ready to pitch the idea to studios and possible buyers.
Stay tuned! In an upcoming blog, I will go over what you have to know how to write the right query letter that will attract the attention of a producer or buyer or investor.