Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tips to Write a Screenplay

Screenplays are the most challenging forms of writing to go for. This article shares some tips on writing one, for beginners. Writing one and selling it, takes loads of hard work and patience. Read to know how a movie takes shape, in a screenwriter’s mind.

A screenplay is a manuscript that details every visual, audio, conceptual, technical aspect, and storyline of a film. In short, it is a movie, written on a paper. It is the literary version of a movie, as seen from the writer’s mind. Writing a screenplay and getting better at it is an evolutionary process. The basic requirements are a highly imaginative mind and a willingness to learn to write, adapt, and work hard.

Tips on Writing One

A screenplay could be written for a full-length feature film, a short film, or a soap opera. The basic writing style, for all of them, is the same in principle. The tips shared here, are written with the assumption that you are writing a movie screenplay. So, let us get into the crux of the matter. Let us see what all it takes to make a great script and how to go about it.

Listen, Read, Watch, Absorb
To write any soulful piece of writing that captures a reader or a movie viewer, one must feel it, experience it inside. Great screenwriters and novelists are like sponges who absorb everything that they see, hear, and experience.

The process of being a good writer starts with living life and minutely perceiving all its manifestations. Read as much as you can, watch as many classic movies as you can, listen to world music, and enjoy all the forms of artistic expression.

All this will help you in enriching the world within you, which will eventually come in handy, when you start writing. Start with writing short stories, short plays, and poems. To learn to write better, one must keep on writing. Read what you wrote and keep improving. Remember that the greats were also as clueless once, as you are now.

Read Great Screenplays and Learn How it’s Done
Another thing that will help you is reading the screenplays of some of the greatest movies ever made. You must become a student of the movies and the entire business. See how the masters do it. The scripts of many great movies are available online.

Find them and read them. Look at the arc of the story, the dialogs, and the detailing. Watch the movies, in detail. When you watch them first, watch them for the fun of it. Let the second viewing be a study of all the finer detailing that the movie has.

Everything, in every frame, should be studied. Observe the quality of dialogs, the philosophy, camera angles, composition of scene frames, visual impact, smooth dissolving of scenes, story buildup and make your own script analysis. Making notes is also a good idea. They will help you later.

Brainstorm Ideas
You must spend a considerable amount of time in this ‘Movie Study’, as this will guide you, once you start brainstorming for your own screenplay ideas. Brainstorming your own idea for a story, which will be the progenitor of your script, is the first step. Once you get an idea, start putting it on paper, until you finalize upon one idea.

Begin with the Story
Just like a journey of a thousand mile starts with the first step, a script or screenplay begins with the typing of the first words. It all begins with the story. I can’t tell you what kind of story to write, but I can underline the characteristics that make a good story.

Every good story has a ‘conflict’ in it. The conflict may be within people, within a person’s mind, or even a social conflict. A story connects a point A to a point B and how good it is, depends on how difficult, how intriguing, and interesting the path from point A to point B is.

It could be a comedy. The more the twists and turns, the better it is. If you are a movie buff, (which you must be, if you are writing a screenplay), you will understand what I am talking about. The audience must be kept guessing about what happens next.

Considering all this, write your story and rewrite it until you find it satisfying, by filling in as many details, as you can. Visualize your story and characters in as much detail, as you can. This will take many weeks and even months.

Understand all the Technical Aspects of Writing One
Now that your story is ready, it’s time to write and put the movie running in your mind on paper. Before that, understand all the technical aspects of writing a screenplay. This is very important. If you have read movie scripts before, you’ll have an idea.

The screenplay is a series of successive scenes, each written with explicit detailing. This includes the time of the scene, the place, the graphic detail, background sounds, and ultimately, the dialog. There are certain rules of writing a professional screenplay like, one page of the script has the content of one minute of the scene.

That way, most Hollywood movies being 120 to 150 minutes long, your manuscript should be 120-150 pages long. There are script writing software applications available now, that can take care of all the technical details, while letting you focus on the quality of your script. Install one on your computer and learn how to use it.

Visualize the Story in Your Mind and Think in Terms of ‘Scenes’
Keep the story in front of you and divide it into logical parts, scene wise. You can write a one liner outline for each part of the story and from that outline, start writing your scenes. This way, you get an idea about the flow of the whole script.

Begin Writing, Scene by Scene
Start visualizing your story, scene by scene and write one at a time. Explore all scenarios and settings, while writing your scene. Give full rein to your imagination and see the things happening in your mind’s eye. Let the dialogs be crisp, appropriate, and as catchy as possible. Place yourself in that scene and think like the character and say what he wants to say, in the best possible way.

First Draft, Second Draft, Third Draft
This is a long and arduous process of connecting every scene with the next and creating a coherent whole. The scenes need to be ordered and you need to ensure that the story is building up nicely. Once the first draft is done, you can start reading everything back again from the first scene. Polish and think about how you could write this better. This process is complex and may take months and your final draft may even be the eight or ninth draft.

Read it out to a Confidante or an Honest Critic
Once you think that it’s ready, give it to a close confidante for reading or a person who knows about script writing and movies. Take his opinion and note his suggestions. These opinions are very important, as a third person can point out errors or improvements, which our biased self may not see. Again, make improvements if you want. Once you think that it’s ready, after being evaluated by your inner circle of critics, including yourself, it’s time to sell your script.

The Hardest Part: Selling your Script
Selling your script is the toughest part of all. Good creative writers are usually not great salesmen. However, you must learn to sell your script too. Get a literary agent or go and meet movie producers with your scripts. With a combination of true quality and a lot of luck, your script may land into the hands of a good producer and director, who will then buy the rights of your script. Here is where you get paid for your month long or sometimes, yearlong efforts. There is a one-in-a-million chance that your script will be selected, but if it gets selected, it’s all worth it. It is a tough profession to choose, but when it pays off, it pays off really well.

The joy of seeing what you saw in your mind’s eye, in your own imaginative world, taking shape on-screen, in the form of a movie, is completely worth all the efforts you put in.

Tips to Produce a Marvelous Movie

Have your eyes set on filmmaking? Here is a basic and precise guide on how to produce a movie, which will certainly give you an idea of what all is involved in getting a story to feature on the silver screen.

So, you intend to take your career Hollywood-wards and dream of making some of the most prominent names of the Tinseltown to feature in the cast and crew of your cinematic inception? Well, if you prefer breathing life into your own ideas rather than working on making someone else’s ideas alive, you certainly have the makings of a genuine film producer. In this article, I am presenting a precise outline of how to produce a movie by enumerating the steps involved, one after the other, in making a movie from scratch.

Steps In Producing a Movie

Right from the inception of an idea through its material conceptualization leading to its successful completion as a film, the steps below will give you some insight into how you should proceed with producing your first film. Add your individual dexterity, creativity, right choice of cast and crew, adequate financial backing, and organizational skills to these and you’ll definitely have a blockbuster in your hands.

Come up with a Concept
This one goes without saying. Unless you plan on creating a random video collage, you need to zero in on an idea if you plan on making a movie. It is better to come up with 3-4 similar ideas and then decide upon one. When you have more ideas than one to work upon, you have the flexibility to decide on the best among them by checking in which direction each idea has possibility of further developing.

Scripting the Concept
Once you have successfully decided on your main theme, you should start preparing the script by further developing that idea. During this phase, it is advisable to carry writing equipment with you all time, as you never know when and where you get a cinematic inspiration that you would like to note down for adding sub-themes or twists to your main theme. Work hard on the dialogs as catchy movie quotes and their effective delivery are remembered even decades after the movie was released, and become imbibed in the common parlance of the global audience. Think of I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse from The Godfather and you’ll know what I mean.

Draw a Storyboard
This especially helps communicate to the tech-guys how you visualize a particular shot―say, an action sequence. A series of pictures is a better way to give your stunt directors an idea on how you see your film’s protagonist and antagonist positioned against each other in that final showdown.

Get the Money Rolling
Once you are final with your movie’s script and storyboard, you can assemble these together in form of a project and show this project to financiers and companies which may take interest in your project and finance your venture. The cost of producing a movie depends upon how big your project is, besides whom you hire as your cast and crew. Remember, how you present your script and storyboard is very important when approaching financiers. If you are not very confident about your drawing and writing capabilities, get professional writers and sketch artists to do the work for you so that your film project floors the big guys with the money.

Cast and Crew
These are the most vital components that would determine whether or not your film would be successful. A talented and cooperative crew coupled with the right star cast can go ways in making a film successful even if the idea is not very original or extraordinary. On the other hand, a lax crew and the wrong cast can make even an ingenious idea fall flat. Work hard to find the right cast, take auditions and screen tests to zero in on the right actors―don’t just hire any actor just because he/she is popular and has previously delivered many hits.

Hunt for the Locales
After your cast and crew is assembled, hunt for locations based upon your script and its central idea if you plan to shoot the film outdoors. Also, when hunting for locations, keep in mind the scenes that are to be shot in those locations. The proper visual backdrop defines the mood of any scene. Hence, a proper sync must be reached between the two.

Prepare the Shooting Script
This is the actual script based on which the film is shot. This contains the actual cinematic situations, dialogs, effects, and other things which you intend the audience to see once the film is screened.

Organize a Well-defined Schedule
Make a well-defined timeline for each day of the shooting and plan ahead on what proportion is to be completed each day. Make optimum exemptions for re-takes, etc., but make sure these things don’t take up more time than usual and delay your project.

Prepare Call Sheets
Call sheets contain information and schedule regarding which members of the cast are to arrive for make-up, which crew members are due to arrive at the sets and at what time, a record of the scenes to be shot and which cast members are in it, etc. In short, these sheets show a summary of each day’s activities and attendance along with time. Distribute a copy of the call sheet to each cast and crew member so that they know what is expected of them and at what time.

Get the Equipment
Once everything is set, concentrate upon the filmmaking equipment depending upon the requirements of the script and the scenes. Besides the basic lighting and shooting equipment, you may need advanced digital support if you intend to incorporate special effects in your film.

Arrange for Sounds
Arrange for the sounds, background score, and audio effects of your movie, and keep in mind the theme while doing so.

Lights, Camera, Action
Now that everything has been finalized, give your director the green flag and proceed on commencing the shooting of your first cinematic project.

So, now that you know the basics of how to produce a movie, go ahead with your dream venture and create history. Imagine―Sir Sean Connery walking up to the stage, opening the envelope and announcing, “And the award for best debutant filmmaker goes to ……..” followed by your name. I’ll be right here, waiting to read movie reviews of your debut film and seeing footage of you attending the Cannes Film Festival. All the best.