Scriptwriting is a creative and time-consuming process. In scriptwriting, you have to transform the idea that inspired you into a story interesting enough to grab viewers’ attention. This makes scriptwriting challenging. Without knowledge and technical know-how, it can become overwhelming.
The complex process of scriptwriting can be broken down into six main steps namely
Writing a Logline
A logline summarizes the entire script in just one sentence making it the most important step in screenwriting. The logline must be strong to arouse the interest of the readers and compel them to read further. A logline comprises four main elements “the main character, central conflict, set up, and antagonist”. It is vital to use these elements to write a description of the script in 30 to 35 words. A logline is written as screenplay readers and film producers do not have the time to go through the entire script. One tip for writing a logline is never to give away the end of the story. Some excellent examples of loglines are given below
“Two star-crossed lovers fall in love on the maiden voyage of the Titanic and struggle to survive as the doomed ship sinks into the Atlantic Ocean.” Movie: Titanic
“A young, female FBI trainee must befriend a notorious incarcerated psychopath and use his knowledge to track and stop an active serial killer before his latest victim is murdered.”
Movie: Silence of the Lambs
Creating an Outline
Script outline is a layout or a blueprint of the screenplay and contains important elements such as characters and plot. This step of scriptwriting is based on a “three-act structure”. The first act establishes the main lead and sets the scene. The first act with an “inciting incident” (major event) that begins the story. In the second act, the main lead has a goal but must face hurdles to achieve it. The third act is the climax where the main lead either achieves the goal or fails to do so. You can keep the outline simple by writing a single sentence or adding details to it. One advantage of creating an outline is that it enables you to keep track of your characters’ growth. It keeps you organized and focused and may even identify issues you may come across during scriptwriting.
Building a Treatment
This step of screenwriting provides a detailed summary of your script. You fill in the details in the outline you created in the previous step of scriptwriting to produce a short story. A treatment connects important sequences, and scenes and highlights the main points to communicate the story as briefly as possible. There is no standard length for treatment and can be between 30 to 70 pages. But if you want to sell your script, it is better to keep the length of the treatment shorter (up to 10 pages) for an easy read. Treatment must be built creatively and must always be written in the present tense. Avoid including dialogs in the treatment. Treatment Templates are available online and you can get one for free.
Writing the Screenplay
Writing a screenplay is the main step of scriptwriting. Now that you have created an outline and treatment, you have a clear idea of what to write. Let your creative imagination flow and write the first draft of your script. You must not worry about the length or editing or any technical angles. Just unleash your imagination and let your ideas flow but avoid extraneous words. The screenplay is roughly between 70 to 180 pages. Also, follow the rules of thumb for writing the screenplay, like using the present tense when writing, show, don’t tell, and do proper formatting.
Formatting the Screenplay
This step of screenwriting ensures that the screenplay follows the industry guidelines. Formatting creates a professional and positive impression. As an industry-wide standard is followed in this step of screenwriting, the screenplay is easily read and understood by producers and directors. Courier 12pt font is the standard font used and the top and bottom margin is set at 1 inch. The right margin is also 1 inch whereas the left margin is set at 1.5 inches. Screenwriters commonly use software for formatting with Final Draft being a popular choice.
Editing is the final step of screenwriting. Once you finish your first draft, you need to revise and rewrite it until you reach the final draft. Editing polishes the script by eliminating errors such as syntax errors and spelling mistakes. When editing, keep in mind the acronym CUPS; Capitalize, Usage, Punctuation, and Spelling.
The above-mentioned steps of screenwriting will guide you to carefully plan out your movie and become more prepared in terms of the requirement of equipment. Moreover, transforming what you write into a film is not an easy task and screenwriting prepares you to become more practical and enables you to differentiate between show and tell.