3 Things I Learnt About Scriptwriting
In June 2021, Action On The Side ran a virtual Work Experience for Level 3 Media students. This article has been written as part of that, by Jaskaran U.
Jaskaran completed the UEL Introduction To Screenwriting course on FutureLearn. Here is what he learned...
Cinematic story and form
The first one is cinematic story and form and what I have learnt is that screenwriting is a dramatic form, which means that we’re creating a script for actors to perform in front of the cameras. A movie story is told ‘in the cut’, or in the editing process. The film will be composed of many short fragments of action that come together. The screenwriter uses this fragmentary process to shape the rhythm and pace of the story. The story is constructed to take advantage of the considerable power of cinema. The visual experience happens to us. Describing a story in a pithy yet effective way is a formidable challenge for many of us. Actually, it’s downright terrifying for some people. There are many strategies to cope with this particular challenge, most of them ineffective, which is that reading a pitch is dull. It just never sounds natural. Then, memorising and reciting the pitch can be worse. And forgetting your place is totally humiliating. Moreover, bullet points on index cards get closer to the mark, but it’s too easy to start reading them.
There is another way for an alternate story structure which is why films must be told in this particular arrangement of three acts, with its 25-50 rhythm. Modern stage plays seldom feature more than two acts; television drama is often constructed in four acts, to accommodate the adverts; and “serial” television films often break a single story into many parts, each functioning as an act. Some stories may find a different rhythm or a different act structure. There are still other ways to organise a screen story, some intended to break the emotional hold of the immersive three-act structure. A treatment or synopsis puts your ideas together in a more story-like prose form, but it will remain relatively general. Beat Sheet or Step Outline lists each dramatic step in the story. It needn’t contain great detail, but it helps to see the steps from start to finish. A script is akin to a set of instructions for a film like blueprints. It is intended for the workers, not the final audience. It is also designed to be interpreted by the actors and other filmmakers. That is really important because scripts are timed at roughly one minute of screen time per page. What is not in the script is showing behaviour, but don't try to describe a character’s exact thoughts or feelings. However, We can not tell the director where to put the camera or the cinematographer which lens to use and try to design the soundtrack. Is there another way for story structure?
Workflow writing first draft
There is a workflow of writing the first draft of a feature film screenplay. When developing story ideas, others find story ideas from any number of sources - a character, an incident or situation, or a theme – but it soon comes back to basic questions: Whose story is it? What does he/she want? What’s keeping her/him from getting it? If we’re employing multiple storylines, what unifies the individual stories? Creating the pitch gives the building on the base idea to see if it has the heft to carry a ninety-minute film. A good n
ext step might be to create a Five Finger Pitch. This will force some clear questions about your intentions. Once you have done the pitch you might try to take it further, perhaps by thinking about the key turning points in the story. There are many books and websites devoted to codifying the three-act structure, so you may take a look at one of these structure outlines or paradigms. Creating a beat sheet is the most important step in the process, but it can be tedious. On the other hand, Once we have a complete outline, we begin to write the script. Script formatting software is very useful here, as it automates the otherwise time-consuming task of creating the correct format. Some people start with the major scenes first, while others start at the end and work backwards. I would recommend that you start at the beginning and work straight through the outline: no stopping; no editing; no going back.
This is what I would do if you're new to scriptwriting. Do a course to gain more experience but you can do more if it helps you but it can be challenging and renewing the practices of scriptwriting.