Saturday, May 4, 2019

Basics of Screenplay Writing : Screenwriting Guide for absolute beginners

Screenplay is a play written for screen. Play written for television is known as teleplay. Play written for stage is known as stage play. Therefore the play for screen should be written in a specific way. It should not similar to the plays written for any other platform. So we need to understand how screenplays are written. The best way to begin understanding the screenwriting craft is to understand first why screenplay came into existence.

basics of screenplay writing screenwriting guide for absolute beginners

Screenplay came into existence because of following five reasons
  1. Budget estimation
  2. Arrangement of properties, costumes, equipments and cameras before the shoot
  3. Arrangement of technicians, other staff before shoot
  4. Grip on Budget flow
  5. Easy workflow design
Yes because of the above reason screenplay came into existence. Screenplay has a format. Industry strictly follows this format. If a script no matter how good it is but has not followed the industry standard screenplay format then such scripts are immediate ignored.

History behind Screenplay Format:

Were there any other factors responsible for the screenplay format?
When motion picture came into existence, camera man used to shoot live actions such as train leaving from platform, gardener pouring water, cook cooking in the kitchen etc. But later on, Edwin Stanton Porter, director at Thomas Edisons Company, discovered that he could tell stories through moving images. Edwin Stanton Porter is considered father of editing in World Cinema. Sooner studios started making fictional contents. Studios explored that to shoot fictional content they need to list down scenes. Because it would not only grant studios a space to visualise the story on screen in advance but also going to provide a space to estimate the budget, change the document according to the budget, control the flow of the budget. Such initial documents were exactly to scribbled notes (Roughly written information for each scene) that was used to shoot scene in the studio. Gradually, when two hour - three act long stage play adopted for the screen, stage play script format also adopted for the screen. And so on, screenplay format came into existence.
Remember in the earlier days, there were no sound in movies. So screenplay used to carry only visual details. But later on when sound capture technique invented, dialogues and other sound effects included into the document.

Screenplay Format:

Screenplay or commonly referred as movie script contains scenes in certain order. Each scene contains five important parts:
  1. Slug line or scene heading
  2. Action
  3. Character cue
  4. Dialogue
  5. Transition
Scene Heading: Carries information about the location of the scene taking place and time duration of the scene. Scene heading is written in capitals. Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0"
Action: What are the activity audience going to watch in the scene. Written in small letters. Indent: Left: 0.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 6.0"
Character cue: The character cue in the scene. Character cue is written in capitals. Indent: Left: 2.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 4.0"
Dialogue: The character in the scene said information to another character in the scene. Dialogue is written in small letters. Indent: Left: 1.0" Right: 1.5" Width: 3.5"
Transition: Time passage information between two scenes. Transition is written in capitals always. Indent: Left: 4.0" Right: 0.0" Width: 2.0"
If you are developing screenplay in a text editor such as Microsoft Word or Pages (Mac os) then you have to maintain the margins for each part of scene. But if you are using screenwriting software then you donĂ¢€™t have to bother about the margins. Because such softwares are taking care of the screenplay format.

Screenwriting Softwares:

  1. Final Draft (Paid Software, Trial Version available, Desktop Application)
  2. Celtx (Free and Paid software, Desktop Application)
  3. Fade In(Paid Software, Trial Version Available, Desktop Application)
  4. Adobe Story (Paid Software, Trial Version Available, Desktop Application)
  5. Trelby(Free software, Desktop Application)

How to learn screenplay writing (Screenwriting)

Screenwriting is a craft. Craft can be learned with proper training and lots of practice. Luckily there are lots of websites who are providing screenwriting training step by step approach in various languges. The problem part, most of the aspiring screenwriters believe screenwriting is only about scene after scene writing where as screenwriting is vast, complex and a challenging process. With out training or sufficient guidance it is hard to learn the craft of screenwriting. The best option is to learn the craft of screenwriting is to follow online tutorials or film school trianing or assisting a screenwriter.

Educational Qualification to Pursue Screenwriting Training

To become screenwriter in the film industry, there is no such requirement but to pursue training in a film school, the minimum requirement is graduation. But if you want to learn from online websites, then pay the training fee and learn the craft.

How to write a screenplay for a feature length movie?

If you are planning to adapt a novel into a feature film then;

  1. Understand every character
  2. Understand the story structure in the plot
  3. Understand each character arc
  4. Choose a protagonist
  5. You write your version of story based upon the novel.
  6. Develop the treatment (How you are going to show your version of story on screen)
  7. Breakdown the treatment in terms of scenes (Step outline / Oneliners)
  8. Construct each scene in narrative form
  9. Work on dialogues for each scene
  10. Rewrite entire screenplay / script

If you are planning to develop original screenplay then;

  1. Find one potential idea for a feature film
  2. Find the end point from the idea
  3. Develop the story / plot
  4. Understand each character arc
  5. Decide a protagonist
  6. Develop the treatment (How you are going to potray on screen)
  7. Breakdown the treatment in terms of scenes (Step outline / Oneliners)
  8. Construct each scene in narrative form
  9. Work on dialogues for each scene
  10. Rewrite entire screenplay / script
Warning: If you are serious to build a career in the screenwriting field, then its a suggestion, go through a proper screenwriting training.

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