Get Your Time Table Down
Before any filmmaker can start making a movie, a screenwriter has to have written a screenplay. Sometimes the filmmaker and the screenwriter are one in the same, i.e. independent filmmakers. Whatever the case may be, you need a script.
Prior tot writing your script, you need to figure out how you write best. Do you write well by scheduling time one hour a day? Or, are you an all day writer? Would you work well with a partner? Once you figure out the answers to these questions, stick to it. It will keep you focused.
Now that you know your writing timetable, you need to know what your story is about. This is your premise. The premise of any story, whether it be screenplay or novel, revolves around the emotions of a person, or character, the conflicts that the character faces and the denouement or conclusion. While you may have subplots (a plot within the main story that still has a character, conflict and resolution), the subplot needs to advance the main story.
The main character of your story is the protagonist, and the person or thing (i.e. nature, monster, etc.) that works to oppose the protagonist is your antagonist. An antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be evil. He or she just needs to thwart the protagonist. You wouldn’t say that Cameron Diaz’s character in My Best Friend’s Wedding is evil (annoying maybe), but she does interfere with Julia Robert’s protagonist character.
Besides your main character, you need your supporting characters. While these don’t need to be as fleshed out as your main characters, they should be able to add something to a scene and be memorable in some way. However you flesh out all of your characters, they need to help keep the plot moving forward.
Back-story is very important for main characters. This will help set up why the character does what he/she does. Back-story usually comes out in conversation with another character. Since this isn’t a novel, you cannot just explain the back-story. It needs to be told to the audience somehow so conversation is usually the easiest method for this.
Greek Tragedy, Three-Act Format
The typical way that screenplays are put together is based on the Greek tragedy, three-act model. In Act One, the characters and the conflict that they are facing are introduced to the audience. The main action of the screenplay, however, takes place in Act Two. This is the longest and most intensive act of the screenplay.
The conflict rises to the forefront, and the character keeps fighting to overcome this conflict until a climax is reached. Once the climax is reached, Act Three ensues. This is where the conflict has been resolved, and a conclusion is reached.
While this is the main breakdown of a screenplay, you want to make an outline before you begin writing your script. The outline is basically just a skeleton of how your scenes are going to break down. While the outline helps you work your way through your premise, it is not definitive. You can deviate from your skeleton and probably will once you start writing. This is meant as only a guideline.
While you need to set the mood with your screenplay, which can be done with visual cues, dialogue is the overwhelmingly most important part of any movie script. You need to be able to convey the point that your character is trying to get across. But, you need to do this in such a way that it is natural.
Before you start writing a screenplay, listen to those around you. Listen to the colloquialisms that they use. Then try to mimic these in your writing. It will make your writing natural and interesting.
Once your screenplay is finished, the hardest part may be yet to come. It takes endurance and persistence to get your movie made if you plan on pitching it to Hollywood. So, never give up, and never surrender, to quote a favorite film Galaxy Quest.