There is a multiverse of advice out there in every nook and cranny of the interweb for screenwriters wanting to break & enter burglar style into the industry. I decided to compile EVERYTHING* into a handy guide, so everyone has one version of the truth** to refer to.
PART 1 – WRITING THE SCREENPLAY
STOP! What the Scooby-Diddly-Doo do you think you are doing? You don’t start by writing a screenplay! You start with an idea in the form of a logline that’s so compelling complete strangers of every known gender will offer to have your babies and demand to read your script.
Do not write a word of the screenplay until you have the PERFECT logline, elevator pitch, 1-page synopsis, 2-page synopsis. 4-page synopsis and complete outline so detailed it makes War & Peace look like a shopping list written in crayon. It all must be memorised so you can pitch the entire story verbally in one minute or less if required.
Every word, every syllable and nuance must ooze your theme and be crammed with subtext so that the emotional and spiritual driving force behind your message rams into the cerebral cortex like Rick Grimes stabbing a zombie in the brain with a crowbar. And we’re not talking rotten zombies who have decayed in a sewer for a year here, we’re talking a solid noggin’ fresher who just delivered the milk, said “Heck of a day, ain’t it?” then slipped on a cat and impaled themselves on one of the bottles.
Remember, one does not simply walk into Mordor and write a screenplay. One must be able to answer two questions. Why you and why now? Why should you be the one to write this and why is it relevant now? Or to be more accurate as screenplays take years to produce, why are you willing to put yourself through so much torture and why will it be completely futureproof? If you can’t answer these questions or produce the above materials to the most impeccable standards, apologise profusely on social media and write blogs like this.
You also need to decide what structure to follow, otherwise, your screenplay will collapse like the Klingon Empire in Star Trek VI. Feeble-minded fools will tell you all you need is a beginning, middle and an end. Well, sir, I LOL at such statements, if not ROTFLMAO, and so should you! Most people pick the Hero’s Journey (or The I Will Not Conform to Any Label’s Journey as it’s more commonly known as these days) yet there are eleventy-three different types of structures out there with more being added every few nanoseconds.
If you began this process at the sprightly age of, say 23, you will be 26 now and ready to write the screenplay. Just remember these golden rules:
- Fancy fonts and graphics on the title page can get you noticed or executed depending on the reader.
- Fade In is so Fade Out.
- Only a brave or demented soul uses bold slug lines.
- Show, don’t tell until it is time to tell, don’t show.
- Structure is your friend until it becomes your most despised adversary.
- The use of we see, we hear, and camera shots are allowed if you are a famous writer/director who can tell anybody who claims you can’t use such terms to go f*ck themselves.
- Screaming amateurs should learn how to be more discreet and not include any aspect which identify your screenplay as written by a screaming amateur.
Size matters not, but the first 10 pages matter the most. Concentrate every ounce of your creative power on those golden pages. No one reads beyond page 10, not even when they are producing the movie so make sure EVERYTHING happens there. The rest? Who cares, write what you want. I don’t know what happens on page 11 never mind 102.
With that in mind though, whitespace is King. There is nothing worse than words spoiling a perfectly good blank canvas so keep your writing as lean as possible. Think of it like the English language deciding to go on a soup diet before a wedding to shed enough words to fit onto a Post-It Note.
Remember to make it all about the characters. Characters are incredibly talented and attractive versions of the audience, so you need to drive this home and make the audience forget how average they are.
If you want to stand out in the slush pile, discover your voice. Try different accents and singing in the shower until you discover a sound that rings true then shout at the page as you are writing. The screenplay will be imbued with your voice which will resonate with the readers. Colourful metaphors (swearing) in the screenplay also screams ‘unique voice’ so fucking go for it!
Congratulations! You are 28 and the first draft is done! You’ve celebrated this achievement on Facebook, then been forced to explain to people why it won’t be on Netflix next week and now you are ready to share it with a few readers, write subsequent drafts and enter it into competition. All of which will all be covered in PART 2, coming soon.
* Everything does not encapsulate the whole kit and caboodle.
* *This version of the truth is not guaranteed to be true.