Scriptcat’s 3 tasty screenwriting tips…

April 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

script revision photo copyI’ve decided to change things up a bit here on MY BLANK PAGE and add a short post and share various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this new feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey. So, in addition to my Twitter tips (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time.  Thanks for the read and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting.

When I consult on screenplays, I can’t tell you how many issues I repeatedly find that harm the screenplay. I know with a little knowledge and insight on the part of the screenwriter, these issues could be easily cleaned up and push the script to a professional level. It only takes one or two issues that repeatedly appear to make your project go from a “RECOMMEND” to a “PASS.”

And yes, contrary to popular belief, good ideas are everywhere, but it’s all about execution.  You may have an interesting idea but a poorly executed screenplay and this will kill your chances every time. Too many screenwriters don’t take the time to figure out if they have enough of a premise to sustain a feature-length story. In addition, too many screenwriters don’t make the time to craft a solid treatment before they start.

The extraordinary fact is 99% of writers fail at the premise. This is the great unknown gatekeeper that keeps most writers from being successful. If you screw up the premise, nothing you do later in the writing process will make any difference. The game’s already over.”John Truby

During the process of feedback from a trusted group, your script is in a protected place, but once you unleash it upon Hollywood—all bets are off and your script will live or die by 1,000 details.  So, here are three tips to consider on your screenwriting journey. Check back often and sign up to receive posts via e-mail.

Tip #1:

Do not write your WGA registration number on the cover of your screenplay. It screams amateur hour and will immediately set up the reader to consider you an aspirant. No one cares about your registration number. In fact, most professionals have already taken care of their business with regards to “protecting” their work and they don’t need to put up warning signs. Any professional reading your script will assume that you have done this. It’s like building a new house and putting up “NO TRESPASSING WE SHOOT LOOTERS” signs on the front yard. What is on your screenplay cover? The script’s title, your name or co-writer’s name, and contact information. That’s it!

Tip #2

Do not write a screenplay that is barely 90 pages or is over 120 pages. I once consulted on a script that was 250 pages long. I told the screenwriter to grab an axe, chop it in half and have two movies!  Seriously, folks. Many times when I read a script that fizzles around page 85 it shows me the writer didn’t have enough of the story figured out to sustain a complete movie. Also TV movies will have commercials and usually break into eight acts while feature scripts have a bit more wiggle room. Trust me, the first thing a reader does is pick up your script and flip to the final page to see the page count. You don’t want a “chunky” screenplay. As no one likes to read, a lean and mean script will get their attention every time. First impressions can last, so 90 pages is a bit lean and 120 is a bit long. Try your best to come in around 100 solid pages.

Tip #3

Please do not write in the past tense in your screenplays. I know it may seem obvious, but I’ve read screenwriters who write: “Frank walked into the room.”  Traditionally, screenplays are in the present tense because we are reading and seeing the action as it happens.  So, “Frank walks into the room.” On the subject of action verbs like “walks”—please find more creative active verbs to convey emotions from the action. Change the boring verb “walks” to lumbers, ambles, wades, glides, marches, etc. It will make your screenwriting pop and convey vibrant images to the reader.

Keep up the good work and best of luck with your screenwriting journey.

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