We live in a world driven by “on demand” digital content. Streaming video coupled with advances in mobile technology has led to increased accessibility to the world of digital storytelling. Everyone has become a creator. Are you a creator? Is that idea you have the next big web series or short film?
Before you jump in and start writing your masterpiece, you should ask yourself a few pointed questions. These questions may seem very basic, but you will be surprised how many people write without considering these things, ending up with a subpar project, if they ever finish it at all.
Question #1: What is my film about?
Identify the true story you want to tell. Identifying the narrative will ensure that you are consistent to those parameters as you write. Freewriting is one of the best ways to flush out a story. Sit in a quiet space and write down whatever comes to mind about your idea. What is the theme of your story? Who are your main characters? Where will the story take place? From your freewriting, chose the ideas that you think work best to begin putting your story together.
From here, you can chose to write a treatment that details all of your major plot points, or take a more organic approach and work from an outline. Whatever method you use, organizing your how your story progresses before you start writing helps to create a pleasant writing experience.
Question #2: Can I invest the time to write?
In the words of Robert McKee, story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts. Writing a script takes time and commitment. Being realistic about the time frame needed to complete your first draft can help you remain motivated and avoid unnecessary stress. Stress can impede the creative process. Also, a preset time frame helps with setting writing goals and scheduling dedicated time to writing every day. Whether you plan to write a scene a day, or to write 10 minutes a day, the process is always easier if you are writing a story you truly believe in (see question #1). If you tend to procrastinate, the idea of a looming deadline may also keep you on track.
Question #3: Do I know the rules of writing a screenplay?
Screenplays follow a strict formatting structure. The way the margins, font and dialogue are positioned are somewhat of an exact science. Generally, this structure is used to estimate the length of a finished project, and to make reading and breaking down a script easier as a project moves into production. Also, it is important to note that a screenplay is not at all like writing a book or a magazine article. Novelists and journalists have certain flexibilities that screenwriters do not. Read a few screenplays before writing as a way to become acclimated with the craft. Read the script of a film you are familiar with. This will demonstrate how the words on the page translate to the screen. Screenplays of all types of films are available online on the Internet Movie Script Database www.imsdb.com.
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, Robert McKee
The Blacklist https://blcklst.com/help/script_standards.pdf