What is screenplay and screenplay writing?
“Movies are a combination of art and science” – Syd field
The screenplay is a science, whereas art is your imagination. The screenplay is the substance which holds all of the elements in the movies we watch. If a tale or story is a conceptual idea, then a screenplay is the plan for implementing that idea. The screenplay includes the dramatic structure from the beginning to the design, the emotions and the nerve-racking climax.
In technical terms, screenplay writing is tieing a series of scenes and sequences together to convey a story with impact.
Elements of the screenplay in filmmaking :
Like a tree that has branches, roots, and leaves, the screenplay can be divided into Scenes, shots, plot points, locations, special effects, music, and sequences. Sequences are nothing but a series of scenes. Every scene comprises a beginning, a middle, and an end. All these elements constitute the elements of a screenplay.
In a typical scene, description/Action, character, time, location, dialogues, and transition are the vital components.
Tip: Study the elements of a screenplay before starting your scriptwriting journey.
According to mainstream cinema, Syd field is often referred to as the god of the screenplay; in his book the foundation of a screenplay, he says screenplay can be divided into different parts
- 1. Set up
- 2. Confrontation
- 3. Resolution
set-up or act-1 is the first 30 pages of a screenplay, where the main characters and their goals are introduced, and at the end of a set up, there is plot point -1, which is typically the catalyst that changes the course or journey of the main character.
Confrontation or act-2 is the following 30 pages of a screenplay. The main character is driven with purpose and faces obstacles in act-2, and at the end of act-2, plot point-2 is introduced; plot point 2 puts the main character with a much more significant obstacle, i.e., a do-or-die situation.
Resolution or act-3 is where the main character finds the solution to the problems faced and finishes the goal in style. The resolution is also called the confrontation or climax.
Tip: In the world of screenplays, Syd Field’s paradigm is considered to be the bible for most successful movies. Creating your screenplay structure based on this paradigm is a go-to option for beginning your filmmaking and screenwriter’s journey.
Outline and theme of the story:
The outline is a map of the story. Knowing the outline before starting the screenplay is crucial because without knowing where the story begins and ends. You would lose track of the path.
The theme is stating the story’s purpose or main idea, for instance
Good vs. evil is the theme in the game of thrones, and humans vs. robots is the theme of irobot. Destiny vs. fate in Lord of the rings.
Tip: Decode the theme of your favorite movie to understand the underlying theme.
Main character’s motive:
Every story has a main character who carries the story on his shoulders with a purpose. If your screenplay lacks the purpose of the main character, then it would revolve around the same space.
To understand your main character, write about his beliefs, characteristics, nature, and background.
Tip: First, Fix the goal for your main character or purpose for telling the story and start writing your main character and screenplay.
Plots and subplots and plot points:
Plots are the main events in a story contributing to the course of actions that take place. Subplots are stories that are told within the story. For example, when a villain takes the girl captive and the main character/ hero tries to save the girl is the plot, whereas the subplot is the love story of the main character/hero and the girl.
Plots and subplots are present in a story to enhance the storytelling aspects.
Plot points are nothing but turning points in the screenplay; there are two plot points in a screenplay. Plot point 1 and plot point 2.
Tip: putting the main character through emotional or dangerous turning points or plot points will set the audience on their seat edge.
Editing Scenes without mercy:
After you finish your screenplay’s first draft, revise the scenes and sequence and edit them without mercy. Yes, it’s hard to rewrite a scene that you think of as a remarkable scene, but once you edit you will understand its depth and layers. So rewrite, and edit them.
Tip: Narrate your scenes to a friend, observe their reaction, and make corrections.
Writing remarkable Dialogues:
“Hasta la vista baby” from Terminator. “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” from Godfather are some of the unforgettable dialogues that stay even after decades. Try to write dialogues with an emotional impact from the character’s point of view.
Tip: Dialogues have a beginning, middle, and end, work on them and edit them if necessary. Write them from the Character’s POV, considering their age, goal, and current state of mind to crack the dialogue part.
Confrontation and resolution:
This is where most well-written screenplay fails; writers fail to process the importance of a killer resolution. So, at the end of your screenplay writing process, write as many resolutions as possible and pick the one which fits on the right note for conveying your story.
Tip: Study the resolution of famous movies and try to decode them before writing your resolution scenes.
Web series vs. Movie screenplay writing
Screenwriting for a web series differs from writing for a movie. Web series are attention-grabbing dramatic episodes written based on the length of the episodes and character’s journey towards the goal/ emotions.
To write a selling screenplay for a web series, break down your favorite web series and analyze each episode and critical moments in the web series and then start your own screenplay and finish them with a curious note for the next episode.
Tip: The beginning and end of each episode should be a cliffhanger moment in a web series to keep the audience hooked.
Stepping into the second draft, third and fourth:
Writing is a complex process, completing a screenplay is like climbing a mountain but rewriting it and getting a satisfying version is like climbing mount Everest, which typically involves writing draft after draft.
The most classic movies of all time have seen more than 10 drafts. Don’t worry about rewriting your screenplay, kill your ego and arrive at your perfect space.
Tip: To get a kickass screenplay, rewriting is the key.
Best screenwriting books:
- Syd Field: Foundations of Screenplay
- Save the cat the last screenwriting book you’ll ever need
- The Hero’s journey.
After all the exhausting rewrites, you will arrive at a space and feeling which cannot be described in words. That space is called satisfaction. Once you are satisfied with the final version of your screenplay, give it to your fellow trustworthy film buff friends and get their opinion, and make further changes.
In the end, screenwriting is a process of evolution with a purpose. Start writing and shoot a web series/ film and monetize them to get back the returns for your efforts.
The 5 essential elements of a screenplay are:
a. Scene Heading: Describes the location and time of day.
b. Action: Narrates what happens in the scene.
c. Character: Includes dialogue and descriptions of characters’ actions.
d. Dialogue: Speech from characters.
e. Transitions: Indicate changes in location or time.
Start with a compelling concept to write a good screenplay, develop engaging characters, structure the story effectively, write authentic dialogue, and revise rigorously for clarity and coherence. Incorporate visual storytelling techniques, create vibrant scenes, and maintain a consistent tone throughout.
Improve screenplay writing by studying successful scripts, analyzing storytelling techniques, practicing writing regularly, seeking feedback from peers or mentors, attending workshops or courses, and experimenting with different narrative styles. Refine your ability to convey emotions, build tension, and create memorable characters to captivate audiences.
The 3 C’s of writing a good script are:
a. Conflict: Every scene should involve conflict to drive the story forward.
b. Character: Characters should be well-developed with clear motivations and arcs.
c. Crisis: Each act should end with a crisis or turning point to keep the audience engaged and propel the narrative forward.