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Scriptwriting 101

Look, unless you’ve got some mad improvisers in your cast, you’re going to need some sort of script for your movie. Having a good script is the first step towards actually getting a movie made. Having a great script is even better.

But writing screenplays isn’t easy, especially if you’ve never done it before. So, we’ve put together some tips for you on how to turn your good scripts into great scripts. Let’s get started.

Watch Good (and Bad) Movies

This sounds obvious, but the best way to learn how to make movies is… to watch movies. Not just watch, but to really examine and think about them. Just imagine that your English teacher is standing over your shoulder while you watch.

A good exercise for this is to take one really great scene from a great movie and just focus on that. Why is so good? What makes it good? How does each line contribute to the story, or help develop the characters? Is that joke just a joke, or does it give us insight into something else?

Doing the reverse is also useful, and pretty fun. Take a terrible scene from a terrible movie, and watch that – over and over and over. Why is it bad? Is there a layer of irony to it? Is it bad writing or bad acting? Or both? We’d like to recommend Troll 2 from 1990.

Read Your Dialogue – Out Loud

There are a lot of moments in movies that make you think, “Wow, that’s not something a normal human being would ever say.” That’s hardly ever a good thing, and it’s an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes writers get so caught up in the story of what they’re writing that they kind of forget to properly develop their characters.

A good (and easy) way to fix this is to just read your script out loud. This can be one person reading for all of the characters (maybe don’t do this in public) or a table read with the whole cast. If an actor is stumbling over a line more than once, or a scene feels out of character, it’s usually a good sign that you might need a second draft.

Improvise… Maybe

This can be kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, improvising is a great way to get really natural dialogue and pacing. Telling your actors, “This scene needs to get from A to B, make it work,” can lead to some hilarious results, and is usually just pretty fun. And there’s no need to memorize lines!

But a lot of the time, this can end… badly. As much as we hate to say it, not everyone has improv chops. Sometimes it can seem like a good idea, and then all of a sudden you and your crew have wasted 2 hours trying to get one short scene. It can be frustrating, which is why most writers/directors don’t go this route. Improv should really be saved for when you know your cast has that special chemistry.

That’s about it! One last (and obvious) tip: the more you write, the better you’ll get. Writing every day, even if it’s just a little bit, will definitely make you a better writer and filmmaker. Happy typing!


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