1. Ron Aberdeen

    Ron Aberdeen Banned

    Jun 26, 2010
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    W.Midlands - UK.

    So you have an idea for a film.

    Discussion in 'Scripts' started by Ron Aberdeen, Jun 28, 2010.

    The trouble is people in the film industry rarely buy an idea and certainly not from somebody they don’t know.

    They may buy a screenplay but only if it is written well, formatted and presented correctly and contains an entertaining exciting premise the likes of which have not be seen before, but the sad truth is the market place for speculative scripts is vanishing at an alarming rate.

    New and wannabe writers often think scripts are an easy way to make money and enter the film business. With 80,000 new screenplays registered every year and less than 300 movies made a year in Hollywood and only a few hundred more as Indy movies making it to a cinema and making a profit, nothing could be further from the reality of a scriptwriter’s world.

    Somewhere in the dark recesses of a first time scriptwriter’s brain they have a glimmer of an idea for a film, but before they can realize their dream they face a major problem; going from Head to Paper and taking the idea from a concept to a working document, known as a screenplay.

    In the safe haven of your mind you can imagine anything you want, including great success for your film idea, top stars queuing up to play the roles, a major director jumping with excitement at the prospect of directing it and a producer finding pots of gold to make it.

    Yep! You can imagine anything you like.

    But before you get totally carried away in your world of Make-Believe, you have to get that idea out of your head and written down on to paper.

    In a way that others can visualize the conception, enjoy the emotional ride and want to be part of the project.

    They will have to be astounded by the dialogue, engaged by the characters, impressed with the premise, pleased with the structure, happy with the formatting and amazed by the magic.


    Hold on. What’s this structure thing, or formatting requirements, visualization, emotional ride, what dialogue and where’s the magic come from?


    Didn’t anybody tell you, films are part of a collective business, full of other creative, informed, intelligent individuals, who expect high standards from the others they work with.

    And like any other business in any other industry, it is cloaked in mystique, jargon, expectancy and mistrust.

    But unlike other industries it is bombarded with applications from amateurs and wannabes who think they can do the job, without training, experience, back-ground knowledge, contacts and worse of all, skill.

    I mean, would you apply to be a brain surgeon without training, an airline pilot without learning to fly or a deep-sea diver, when you can’t swim.

    Maybe, in a world of Make-Believe.

    Hang on!

    Film is the world of Make-Believe, so it could happen. Of course it could. On film!

    Now here’s the rub. For it to happen on film, in a world of Make-Believe, someone somewhere has to write it in a structured form so others can visualize the concept as they follow the emotional ride, made believable with the dialogue, the believable characters and all brought together by the writer’s magic.

    Unlike any other form of writing, a script for stage or screen is a plan to be executed by others. It is probably the most demanding form of writing because it is where creativity interfaces with business in a way, no other type of creative writing does.

    So, no matter how good your idea is, unless you can write it in a way others can convert your words to a visual presentation, your idea will join the ranks of the, ‘if only’.

    Understanding what makes a film exciting, believable and entertaining gives a writer insight into what is necessary in a script, but not how to do it.
    Although it’s a good place for any budding writer to start. Everyone has favorite movies. Question yourself, why are they your favorites.

    Is it:

    The action, the characters, the jokes, the dialogue, the scenery, the drama, the music, was it the lead actor, or the story?

    Hopefully you noticed I left ‘The Story’ to last. It’s because everything else listed is part of the story and unless told well, the story is lost.

    What ever your idea is, it will only work as a film if it is structured to accommodate all the components necessary and as the writer that means getting them down on paper.

    To give your idea a chance, the first step is to take your idea and make it, mould it and shape it into a STORY.

    For a story to work it has to have a beginning, middle and an ending. Often referred to as the three act structure.

    Act One is the set up: This establishes the setting and the situation. For any good story to work it has to be about something, which in reality is about somebody.

    That somebody is the main character and sometimes characters. In the first act you should outline their goals, the task, the objective and the start of their journey to come.

    What ever it is, in the first act you introduce the main character/s and what it is they are expected to achieve by the end of THEIR story.

    Normally to make it interesting the writer introduces a conflict. The reason their journey is not straight forward.

    If it was, what would be the story?

    Stories are about people reaching a different place from where they started.
    That can be an end of a journey, but more often as not, it is about a person becoming a different person by the end of their story.

    I hope you noticed I changed it from being YOUR story to THEIR story. Once you begin your script it should be about someone other than you, unless it’s your autobiography.

    Act Two takes the main story and complicates it with additional stories. Known as the SUB PLOTS. They can be introduced in Act One, but are definitely developed and expanded in Act Two.

    As is the profile of the main character/s and the obstacles that may prevent them from completing their journey.

    This is where depth and meaning of the story becomes layered.

    At about half way through Act Two, a place some referred to as the “Point of no Return”, normally an event occurs that changes the direction of the story, or ensures your main character becomes committed to completing their journey.

    Act Three is the conclusion, the winding up and the tidying up. Achieved by a Climax which results in a resolution. It brings the Sub Plots to a point of recognition and conclusion as well as the MAIN PLOT.

    Everything is clear, unless it’s a point you want left unclear. But to achieve that it won’t be your first script.

    Finally, Act Three allows the audience to be satisfied with the outcome that your main character/s have successfully completed their journey and it is clear they and you have reached THE END.

    Many new writers make the mistake of writing their script before they have fully considered the story.

    Would you leave home, jump in the car and drive a 120 miles without knowing where you are going? Starting a script without full consideration of the journey is just that.

    Or 90 to 120 pages, without a map, any directions and a destination.

    A treatment or outline is a working tool to help the writer consider the story, based on their idea before starting the script. It should be the map, which guides the writer when writing their script.

    So a writer must plan the journey. When you first think up an idea, thinking of the ending is probably the most important element in making your story work for the screen.

    Then the journey in between and who is coming on the journey with your main character.

    All stories are basically about people in situations that they have to deal with; it is the beginning of the beginning. Who is the story about?

    Somewhere in the creative process of taking an idea from paper to screen other people have to visualize your vision. Actors have to understand the characters and be attracted to the role presented in the script.

    They have to want to play the part. If your script is destined for a big budget production almost certainly the actor will want to know the character’s back story, even to the point of the character’s history that is not part of the script.

    They will need to feel comfortable with the dialogue and that the voice on paper fits the voice that will be on screen. So along with the treatment it is a good idea to write character profiles.

    In committing your idea to paper that you hope to present to professionals in an industry that you know little about you have other hurdles to clear.
    Formatting a script to the industry expectancy is just one of them. So many times beginners ask questions which indicate they haven’t bothered to read any books or researched the standards expected.

    Consider a script as an architects plan for a house. Architects study for years before they get someone to build a building based on their drawing. Why would a builder invest or raise millions to build a building based on a freehand sketch presented unprofessionally.

    A script is the same; it is a plan for a film that someone has to raise money on to take the concept from paper to film. Therefore it is not unreasonable to expect the writer to present their work in a professional manner.

    If you are serious about being a scriptwriter research the way scripts are presented. That doesn’t mean asking questions on any of the numerous Internet boards, it means reading about the craft, studying the nuances and researching the market place.

    Oh yes, the market place, another hurdle.

    To enter this industry your work needs to have marketability and YOU have to find a market for your work.

    You won’t get an agent, a manager or a representative when you begin.
    That comes when you have had some success with your work created by you own efforts.

    Successful writers have gone through this process; don’t think YOU can do it any other way. Don’t have any illusions except what you write in your script.

    Be prepared for years of hard work, stacks of rejections, hours of writing and re-writing and the likelihood of failure. If you are prepared to go through that then start writing your script.
  2. madhoca

    madhoca Contributor Contributor

    Dec 1, 2008
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    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    That was interesting, Rob, and you raise some valid points.

    But hold on a moment--you say:

    ...films are part of a collective business, full of other creative, informed, intelligent individuals, who expect high standards...it is cloaked in mystique, jargon, expectancy and mistrust.
    But unlike other industries
    (Surely you mean, LIKE MOST other industries/professions? Hands up wannabe actors/singers/journalists/management consultants/interior designers/life coaches etc)
    it is bombarded with applications from amateurs and wannabes who think they can do the job, without training, experience, back-ground knowledge, contacts and worse of all, skill.

    Then I notice from your profile that, like me, you are a mature person who has (re)turned to writing after a successful first career, which no doubt gives you inspiration for your writing. Also, you say you have only been writing for 5 yrs.

    What I mean is that you need to be careful about slapping people down. It's all very well being a voice of warning and wisdom, but you obviously do not include yourself among the 'amateurs' etc who according to you, need a miracle in order to succeed.

    If you managed to succeed, as a self-taught screenplay writer, why shouldn't others? And maybe, if you give talks on this subject, you might think about the power of positive motivation. You don't want to send people away with a really bad taste in their mouths, although I've noticed from frequent attendance at seminars and workshops that this tends to be a British failing, no offence (my family is English).

    Just saying that you need to let people chase their dream. Like it says in The Alchemist: 'You fall down seven times, that means you get up eight times.'
  3. Shinn

    Shinn Banned

    Jan 1, 2008
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    New Zealand
    I agree Mad - this sounds like he's saying that the amateurs should give up at the first sign of trouble, since they won't have any idea what to do. Well, I'm going to say screw it, and I'm going to keep writing my screenplay Ron. I am not one for letting someone else, over the Internet, tell me that I will never be successful. Just my $0.02 on this.
  4. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon

    i must agree with mad and shinn here... and if you'll accept a 'word from the wise' [i'm 71 and have been around long enough to acquire some wisdom, imo], your having been here only 2 days/9 posts and coming out with a sort of 'know-it-all' lecture will not endear you to most members... i'm sure your intent is to be helpful, but your execution could be less of an 'i am god--hear me and obey!' kind of thing, if you hope to do any good...

    also, i'm curious about your actual level of expertise... of the 17 [?] scripts you have on your site, how many are full-length feature films?... and how many have been sold/optioned, and/or produced/released in theaters [or direct to video]?

    i found only one produced film, a short [17 min.] listed on imdb... and one in development that may also be a short...
  5. Ron Aberdeen

    Ron Aberdeen Banned

    Jun 26, 2010
    Likes Received:
    W.Midlands - UK.

    I didn’t mean to slap anyone down and to a degree I don’t think I did that, what I hoped to do was to make new writers appreciate that if they want to succeed they need to study the craft and in reality they need to better than good.

    They need to be outstanding. Praising the weak only makes them weaker.


    I might be new to this site but I’m not a new writer and I certainly don’t suggest an amateur gives up; every professional writer was an amateur once.


    I’ve not sold one of my 17 feature length screenplays yet, but I have optioned a few and sold a couple of shorts.

    What my scripts have done for me is to work as calling cards and they have brought me commissions, and in my opinion that is the way into the film industry as a writer.

    So far I have been commissioned to write nine feature screenplays and a thirteen part TV series in the five years since I started writing, and no I have not written novels, short stories or screenplays before I turned sixty.

    I received my first commission just five months after I started to write following a produce/director reading two of my screenplays on InkTip.

    Two commissioned scripts go into production this year; “The Darkness” which has a budget of $5mil and an International theatrical and DVD distribution contract in place. The other, “Storm Warning” has a budget of £350K and is being made for a cable broadcaster.

    The most recent commission “Green Tea and Chips” is for an Anglo/Chinese project and is scheduled for filming in London and Beijing in 2011.

    The short film listed on IMDb “Dreamgirl” I worked on as the script consultant, it was not one of my scripts.

    Mammamaia, I'm sure you appreciate the time it takes to go from paper to screen, and the delays in credits being posted on IMDb by the producer. I wrote “The Darkness” in 2006 and “Storm Warning” in 2007.

    Madhoca, I do include myself among the 'amateurs' etc who I believe need more than a miracle in order to succeed, they need luck and knowing how to sell themselves and their work in the market place.

    And no one should give up at the first sign of trouble Shinn, overcoming obstacles is part of the ingredients for success.
  6. Northern Phil

    Northern Phil Active Member

    May 29, 2009
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    I agree with that comment. Probably the best place that I've found that has copies of produced scripts is the BBC writers room website.
  7. madhoca

    madhoca Contributor Contributor

    Dec 1, 2008
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    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    ^^ and on the subject of correct format...

    Please be aware that FRENCH FORMAT is widely used in Europe, especially for submitting for--is it correct to say, 'short reel films'?, e.g. in international film competitions. It is quite different from US style. There is a line down the centre of the page, and directions etc on the left, with dialogue on the right side. I've not found much info on the Net about it, although because its the most popular style in Turkey I've seen several books about it here.

    I mention this because I know there are a few Europeans on the forum, but also because anyone can try submitting scripts in any language for some comps. One of my students has had two shorts produced, and won an award last year, and she's only 19.

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