Stories from Miranda town
Scriptwriting advice for Choke
26 Mar 2008
-Get a few copies of scripts from places like IMSDB.com or drews script-o-rama, to get an idea of how to format things properly. You hear horror stories from within the industry where people who don't right justify the 'cut to' at the end of a scene get their scripts rejected without reading because reading a script is an awkward thing to do anyway without having people who don't justify their dialogie or leave out Day/Night on headings. The main reason for it is timing, scripts are like they are to try and keep things to a minute a page, deviation can alter this and make things awkward to film.
-Best advise i can offer is to buy a good script writing book. In the UK there's a series called 'Teach Yourself' who do a screenwriting guide by a guy named Ray Frensham that i recommend. It's not Britcentric and shows you how to do things to the Hollywood system (which is pretty much the global system). If not there are thousands of these things on the shelf. Make sure it tells you how to format correctly, that's the minumum you are going to need to get started.
-Practice makes perfect. Dive in the deep end by all means, some people can just start by doing whatever they want to and get away with it, these people are called bastards.
The rest of us will have to try hard and eventually get there. Start by writing 2-3 page scripts, base them around jokes or anecdotes and make them as original as possible. Remember that in a short script you need a bit of a punchline at the end to make it worthwhile so don't blow your wad on line 2.
From there go onto 10 page (10 minute) scripts, these are standard short film formats that festivals accept, stick to no more than 4 main characters, keep it simple. Short films need to pack a big punch to get their message across, a good strong ending will help this, everybody loves to make comedy and horror but if you can do a 10 minute drama the powers that be will love you all the more.
If shorts are not your thing (i enjoy writing them but hate seeing them) just go straight to pilots or films. Pilots are slipperly beasts, UK has different rules to rest of world on these so i'm not much help here, just remember 1 page = 1 minute and take note how many ads there are per 1 hour on shows you think your script could go toe to toe with.
Despite the dissertation sized amount of work that goes into writing a feature (90-120 minutes) they are usually the most fun to write (when not writing to deadlines!!!) You can really explore your characters and world.
Basic rules of feature writing (some also apply to above)
Hook- Have something in the first 2-3 pages that you can come back to in the end to bring the story full circle(like Josh Hartnet in Sin City or the old man on the rail cart in Oh Brother Where art thou)
ACT 1- 1st quarter of the story where you set up whatís happening (15 pages in a 90 minutes script) and establish the world as it is.
Inciting incident- Somewhere in act 1 usually about halfway through. The thing that starts your story (eg Juno getting pregnant, Indiana Jones discovering his artefact, detective getting case in crime and hardboiled fiction)
1st Turning point- The first major obstacle you character has to overcome, eg- film about a band maybe the band have a falling out after a bad gig that was their inciting incident, this underlines the inciting incident.
ACT 2 the middle of the scipt usually takes up half of s film (16-75 in a 90 minute script) This is where stuff happens, everything set up in act 1 plays out and gets people into increasing trouble.
Act 2 has 4 major events
Focus point 1 about a quarter of the way into act 2, just take the story back to the main plot at this point as a reminder to audience whatís going on.
Point of no return- halfway through Act 2/whole script- as it sounds, do something that means the protagonist cannot go back to the situation they were in before without being changed.
Focus point 2 ĺ of the way into Act 2 same as focus point 1.
2nd Turning point (TP2). Some bad happens here, worse than in TP1 or the Point of no return. The heroes biggest challenger yet.
ACT 3 Resolution, the last 15 pages of a 90 minute script Everything comes to a head after TP2, there are two things needed in this act Climax and resolution.
Climax the script about a 1/3 of the way through this act, e.g. the Death Star is blown up in Star Wars, Juno decides to give baby to Jennifer Garner, the remainder of the story is how life has returned to normal/changed after the protagonists adventure.
***Drama=conflict, if nobody fights physically, or emotionally then there is no story***
99% of films are 3 acts thatís why there is a 3 act structure as standard, even longer films adhere to this, the only person I can think of who doesnít is Scorcese (and I could still be proven wrong on this) and he directs his own movies so just plain donít thereís no point in doing it.
Plot= the things that happen in a story eg Band form, band go on tour, band breaks up, band reform
Story= The things that connect the plot together eg he meets her, they fight with someone else.
Sub plot= Other things that are happening. Each Character will have their own journey like Paulie Bleeker in Juno wants to get back with Juno or Han Solo wants to get money to stop jabba killing him, these are important to making the plot interesting. Sometimes they can cross over with the main plot. EG Hanís initial journey in Starwars is to get money but that brings him into contact with Luke and Obi Wan who have their own journey.
Emotional Plot= The real story, what the message behind the film is, even if you come from the school of thought who think films should be exactly what is seen on screen you will always have this behind the story, itís basically what you want to say through the characters.
Formatting is very important study online scripts to see what they look like, beware some scripts you buy from bookshops as they can have incorrect font (always use Courier for scripts) and sizing making them less useful.