Friday, May 4, 2012

Tip Time! How To Get Started As A Screenwriter



Just the other day I received a lovely email from a new follower, Eru Nenharma, of which some went as follows:

"...do you have any tips for me on how to do indie films and write screenplays? I've been interested in doing both, but never got arond to it, because it seems too complicated."


Well, one of the first things I told her were:

"...to hone both crafts of screenwriting and directing, the two best books I can recommend are: Screenwriting for Dummies and it's counterpart, Directing for Dummies. I've had both books for years and have always been my primary resource :)
Also, for screenwriting since it's a bit of a formatting chore, you can get the free online program called Celtx [www.celtx.com], which is designed for screenplays and makes it easier to get everything formatted correctly ;)"

After that, I said that I wanted to give the rest of my "tips" so to speak in a blog post. so here it is! 

Concerning Screenwriting:

Assuming you already read my first piece of advice, which is to read "Screenwriting for Dummies,"one of the next things I suggest to hone your skill is to watch movies - a lot of movies - and imagine what was written to get those images onto the page. 

It's not that complicated at all. Formatting is a very small hill to get over, and once you do-- the rest is you! Also, remember than screenwriting is slightly... unconventional, I think. There's no set rule on how to write them, past formatting. They're not the end goal-- their mission is to equip the filmmaker to get the story onto the screen. It's far more informal than novels, and less involved when it comes to the words on the page. (for links & more help click the screenwriting tag in my sidebar and scroll through)

You do, however, have to think a lot more about the impact of events, and scenes, and your characters have to be strong. Way strong. And there's a lot of emphasis on dialog.

The best screenwriters, though, use their words to literally paint the pictures on the page. Particularly their use of adjectives to present colors and shapes and emotions in your mind. For a very good example, go find the Jane Eyre (2011) screenplay online. It will be well worth your while. 

Of course, since most of us amateur screenwriters will not be writing the next Hollywood blockbuster, prime to shoot right out of the gate, here's something to keep in mind-- firstly, write things you will enjoy, but think practical. 

Meaning.

You ain't gonna write the next Star Trek and expect to shoot it: but something closer to E.T. is totally doable. It sure won't look perfect, but you'll be working towards doing the stuff you will wanna do when, ya know... you have money.

You can also have a sick, sick, story while staying contemporary (which is a good idea since even with several million dollars on your hands you can still have major errors in a period piece). For instance, I'm working right now on a contemporary script in which one of the characters is immortal (don't ask...). No need for historical costumes or sets, but with a little out-of-the-ordinary flair anyway ;)

But never mind me ;)

One last thing: start off with shorts. It helps to hone your craft, learn how to work with characters and sharpen dialog and tighten your plot-- so when you write your first feature, you've got all (most) of the tools you will need ;)

Anything else I have to offer? 

Consider investing several hundred dollars in soundtracks to listen to while you work. That's it. 

***

Okay, y'all, did I go in the right direction? Did I assume too much that you've already covered technical basics? Let me know in the comments! If I missed a whole section of information or if you have any questions, sound off below! Thanks :)

4 comments:

Charley Robson said...

Awesome tips! I'm no screenwriter - too attached to my pretty prose, and too lazy to bother typing out all the changes in camera angle, expressions, movements etc of the characters and stuff.

Still, pretty cool post! Looking forward to the next one :)

Eruantien Nenharma said...

This is awesome information! Thanks so much!

Kismint said...

Neat.
Quite helpful indeed!

...man there are so many things I wanna write but can find the time to get 'round to...

Errrgg.

Farjag said...

It's funny, because I love directing, acting, and especially producing (Finger in every pie!), but I can't write screenplays for shucks. Guess I gotta work on that :P. But thanks for the tips! Maybe one of these days I'll knuckle down and actually bang out a script.