with Kristall Burke
Screenwriting was something that I just ‘fell into’ about seven years ago, but when I look back at it now it seems like a very natural progression for me. I love movies, I love to write, why not write movies? I have written several screenplays, started even more, but only have two that I would let anyone else read. After my initial attempt at screenwriting, I decided to do my research, a little backwards, I know (grin). My first attempt was a mess. There are two books that really helped me on my journey; ‘Screenplay, The Foundations Of Screenwriting’ by Syd Field and ‘Writing Screenplays That Sell’ by Michael Hauge. I recommend both of these books, the copies I have are older, but both authors are highly reputable in the industry. The beauty of screenplays is that all genres’ can be translated into one, the sky is the limit. I have compiled a list of helpful tips for anyone who may be interested in screenwriting. I am by no means an expert, but these are a few of the things I have learned along the way. Happy screenwriting!
- Screenplays have a very strict format. There is an industry standard, right down to the font. There are many books and websites that can provide this information and they will all say the same thing (see above titles). I could fill a page on the tabs, indents, capitalization… but I don’t want to bore you (smile).
- Each page of a screenplay roughly translates into one minute of screen time. For an hour and a half movie you would need 90 pages, a two hour movie would be 120 pages. Very few movies reach the two and a half hour mark or 150 pages.
- Visit your local bookstore or library and read other screenplays. I believe this helps to show the ‘rhythm’ of a screenplay and can help you find your own ‘rhythm’.
- As with other writings, remember the tenth page is important, this is where you hook your audience.
- Within the pages of the screenplay try not to add too many (or any) camera directions and director or actor notes. Within the business of filmmaking there are many creative forces that need to stretch their wings!
- If one of your scenes runs past the middle of the page and your next scene will be longer than the space you have left, start a new page. It looks nicer and makes it easier to read.
- The dialog of a character should not continue to the next page, unless it is a monologue. I do like to add one good monologue per screenplay, but that’s just me.
- Every time the story changes location, start a new scene. Some scenes can be “moving” while driving, running, etc. just be descriptive, so the reader is not lost.
- Listen to the voices in your head; these are your characters… I never “write” the end of the screenplay until I get there, the characters can sometimes surprise you as they develop. I know this is more of a “crazy lady” general writing tip, but if it works for you…go with it.
- Upon completion of your screenplay, choose 2-3 family members or friends to read it, even if they have never read a screenplay before. I find this helpful in my editing process to check for ‘flow’ and continuity which is important.
- Write a synopsis of 50 words or more and a logline (One sentence that entices the reader or movie goers). These two items can be on the same page and will accompany your screenplay.
- Print the screenplay, title page and synopsis on three hole paper. Include a cardstock cover with the title and author. Add a cardstock back and bind together with brads. Some places will accept two hole punched paper. This is just another industry standard, the cover will help protect the pages and keep everything together. It feels good in your hands at this point (smile).
- In the lower right hand corner of the title page and synopsis type your name, address, phone number, email and website (if you have one). This will be how ‘they’ will contact you.
- Copyright your work! The Library of Congress has made it really easy to file online now.
- Once you have the copyright, let people read it. Enter a film festival; there are plenty to choose from. The judges are typically producers and may be able to help you get your foot in the door.
Be creative, enjoy what you write and others will too. Thank you.