This week I shall be writing about what I was meant to write about last week (if that makes any sense). Any chance ranting about 3D cinema and the argument between 35mm film and digital however is always too tempting hence the delay in this blog. This week shall follow on from my blog a few weeks ago surrounding storyboarding. I shall be divulging into further pre-production tips to help get a film moving, however this time back to the very start of a project; the script writing stage.
Script writing for some is the most fun part of filmmaking and they ultimately end up wanting to purely be script writers, where as for others it’s the part that they dread beyond all belief. I can completely understand the perspective of hating to have to write a script; I love writing scripts but hate other elements of filmmaking (like the producers role; I completely respect the role it’s just my worst skill set in filmmaking). Now obviously if you want to be just a camera operator or editor then you can avoid the script writing stage altogether, but what if you don’t have that job for that specific filmmaking niche? What if you’re at the bottom of the rung and need to make films by yourself to try and get your name out there? Then obviously you have to assume every role, even the ones you don’t like. I cannot however understand people who come up with great ideas for films but hate script writing. Normally this would be because of the way they were taught on how to write scripts. It becomes a formal structure where they perhaps feel that cannot be as creative as say storyboarding or the initial concept stage. This of course is a load of bullshit.
Scripting I find is the most creative stage in filmmaking. Sure storyboarding gives you the visuals, editing gives you the pace and all the in between creates the feel and style of the film. But it all starts with the script. The script ultimately dictates what every other process within filmmaking does, and if ever in any trouble on set what do you do? You look back at the script. So I shall now give some tips for good script writing to try and get the good concept people into writing them scripts.
I suppose the starting point should be to dismiss myths about what scripts should look like. They are laid out in a very specific manner; the scene heading stands on it’s own line, a description of the scene (location, characters etc.) follows, when a character talks their name is heavily intended followed by their dialogue in centred text below, all character names are written in capitals (even when mentioning them in actions or dialogue). Now this is just the basics on formatting a script. It may seem quite daunting to make sure everything is in place, especially as Word is a bitch when it comes to formatting. That’s why I use a free piece of software called Celtx. This will automatically format your script so you don’t have to worry about. It can take a small time to get used to the functions (hitting either ‘enter’ or ‘tab’ will scroll through the format options i.e. scene heading, action etc.) but it does removes a lot of grief.
Script writing isn’t just about dialogue. I have met people who want to make a film with little or no dialogue and believe that they don’t need to script but don’t know where to begin with the project. Every film needs a script. You not only include dialogue within a script but action as well. Every scene will open with an extensive description of the scene; the location, the sounds, the smells, the furniture, the lighting, everything. When a new character enters a complete description of them follows, their genders, height, age, build, style, what they’re wearing, how they talk, the body language, again everything. This way the storyboard artist/camera operator and actors know what else to do rather than simply filming someone say a bunch of lines. Therefore a script can be void of any dialogue as there is so much more included.
It’s best to plan out your script. This is a point which is likewise relevant to writers. All good writers will agree here that you should plan ahead. Otherwise you may write yourselves into plot holes or dead ends. Now it can be easier to change round a dead end within a film compared to a novel, but nonetheless planning is needed. This doesn’t have to be extensive though. A simple breakdown of every key scene is all that’s needed. That can be as extensive as you like. If you prefer to bulk out the flow of conversation whilst script writing (I find this allows the dialogue to flow more freely and realistically) then don’t plan out every paragraph of what your characters will say before you write the script. Having the key scenes laid out in front of you means that you are able to see either what else is needed or what can be removed. Characters may suddenly seem weaker than you intended so you can bulk them out further, add transitional scenes to improve the flow of the film etc. Some great ideas come from a single scene; you visualise a complete scene in your head but now need to figure out what happened before that scene to lead the audience there and what happened afterwards. Again planning is crucial here.
So I’ll move away from planning or else I’ll keep re-iterating the point. Feedback is my final tip. This is also another fundamental point. Get people to read through your script because otherwise you’ll finish it, think it’s great when it may be riddled with holes. This obviously isn’t always going to be the case but it is difficult to remove your own bias from your opinion. Get like minded creative’s to read the script, they should be able to offer a technical standing on the script; characters need fleshing out more, scenes last too long or short etc. Also get general friends to read through it. This is for the same reason as storyboarding. They may not technical know the ins and outs but ultimately they may be your audience so if they don’t get it then will other people. Obviously cater the people you ask to the sort of films they watch i.e. don’t write a horror script and give it to someone who only ever watches Disney films. Receiving feedback is vital for self improvement; it should get to the point where by you can critique yourself enough to produce a fully developed script without needing feedback (though feedback should still be sought after) but that does take quite some time.
So there you have it, some tips on script writing which I’ve picked up along the way. I realise that they’re not so technical or massively thought provoking, but I thought I’d do a general one so that anybody who wants to write better scripts can take something away from it regardless to
what level of script writing they are at.