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Tips on How to Write a Film Script

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/20/2010

Here is a look into what is needed to write a film script.

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    So How Do You Write a Film Script?

    Screenwriting is not just an art: it's a craft. Writing itself is a creative enterprise, but screenwriting is very specific because it needs to transfer to another format and must appeal to a common language because so many parties have to look to it for their job interpretation. Because of all this, you have a lot going on when looking for tips on how to write a film script. What you have to look to is the negotiation between format and story, characters and production translation, prose and dialogue. Here are some useful tips on how to write a film script, looking at how to get started and using it as a vessel for storytelling.

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    The first thing that you need to think about, and the most important tip for how to write a film script, is to create a fully realized character. This does not just mean a person with a name, sex, and a job, but a real character that has a full history and an entire social environment. A full character will then drive the story forward, and will allow for the peripheral characters to also be much more substantive. You can have more than one main character, but usually one is going to be the best choice.

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    In tandem to creating a character you should also begin considering the story, which is fundamental when considering how to write a film script. The challenge in screenwriting is always whether character or story is more important, and the answer is really that they both are equally. The story should be fundamentally coming from the character, and the character should be defined by how they fit into the story. If you are considering a story you should begin developing ideas that you want to express, archetypes that interest you, events that are meaningful to you, and begin piecing together this story. Allow it to adapt to your character and let it flow organically from you.

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    Three Act Structure

    The pressures of how to write a film script often come from the standards that have been put on the format by audiences, producers, and the general factory of the film production industry. Much of the standardization comes out of the dramatic traditions and is based on a three act structure. What this means is that you will be building a successful film script out of a solid first act where you establish the characters, the problem that separates them from their regular life, and them accepting the challenge. You will go into the second act where the bulk of the events will take place, where they will be challenged to continue on. From here you will head into the climax and the third act, which is where the problem will be taken head on and re-ordered, before moving into the final actions that bring things down to a new normal. The story of how to write a film script is based around the three act structure, though it is just a guideline and not a principle that must be followed.

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    Leave Some Out

    The film script is only going to exist as a map from which the director will be inspired to make their film. This means that much of the physical action is going to be up to them and the actors to interpret, which means that the direction in the film script itself needs to be limited. Avoid too many directions outlining exactly what the actors should be doing, giving us too much internal information, or going into excessive detail.