14 Tips on How to Write Movie Scripts

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Are you one of the many people that have great writing skills and ideas but lack how to organize them into a well-documented movie scripts? Hello, welcome to celebtips24, I am going to breakdown to you how to write and compile a movie script point by point. Writing a movie script is a gift many has however, not all of them know how to pen them down in a professional way.

I will not say that this is a perfect guide, of course, no guide is perfect, but what I am sure is that this guide will help you in your journey to becoming a great movie scriptwriter.

First of all, you have to understand what a script is.

1. Understand what a script is

A script should be able to pinpoint all of the elements (visual, behavior, audio and dialogue) that are needed to tell a meaningful story through TV shows or movies.

  • Writing a movie script most times is not the work of a single person, because it has to go through revisions and rewrites, and will ultimately be interpreted by the actors, producers, and directors.
  • TV shows and movies are audio-visual mediums which means that you will need to present your script in a way that will encompass the auditory and visual aspects of the story. You should focus on writing pictures and sounds.

2. Go through movie scripts of some of your favorite movies 

There are reasons why people have mentors, reasons why people read before exams and all whatnot. For one to have success in a chosen career, it is appropriate and of great importance to go through the works or experiences of those before you, from there you’ll gain insight on the best way to follow to achieve a better result in your journey.

So, to be able to understand and write a movie script, search for some movie scripts online, or ask friends/colleagues for one. Go through the feel of how the action was portrayed, how characters were developed and how the dialogue was written. Then make a decision on what you like (and don’t like) about them, pick the ones you like then move to the next step.

3. Flesh out your concept

If you already have an idea of what you want to write about, make a sketch of the necessary relationships, plot details and personality traits that will likely guide your story. Choose the elements that are most integral to your concept, how you want your characters to interact and why? Are there any plot holes? What is your larger point? Make notes addressing these points in any format you want.

4. Outline your story

Start with a basic flow of your narrative. Be more focussed on the conflict of the story as conflict drives drama.

  • Make sure to keep length in mind. In the script format, each page is one minute of screen time. The average length of a two-hour script is around 120 pages. For dramas, it should be around the 2-hour mark as comedies should be shorter and around one and a half hours.
  • You should also keep in mind that except the writer is a well known one, probably has connections, or is well bankable, a long script does not have a chance of getting picked up. Note that if the story you need to tell can’t be minimized into less than two hours of screen time, it may be better to turn it into a novel.

5. Write your story in three acts

While writing movie scripts, this is one of the important points you should never neglect. The Three Acts are the pillars of a screenplay. Each of the Acts can operate independently, and when put together, they provide the full arc of a story.

  • Act One: This Act is the set-up for the story. Here, you introduce the world and the characters. You also set the tone of the story (romance, action, comedy, etc.). You also introduce your protagonist and begin to explore the conflict that will likely drive the story. Once the protagonist is set towards the objective, then Act Two can begin. For dramas, Act One is 30 pages while for comedies its 24 pages.
  • Act Two: This act portrays the main portion of the story. Here, the protagonist will encounter many obstacles on the path to the resolution of the conflict. Subplots are also introduced in this act. Throughout this act, the protagonist will be showing signs of change. For dramas, Act Two is 60 pages and 48 for comedies.
  • Act Three: The story reaches its resolution in this act. It contains the twist of the story and comes to an end with final confrontations of the objective. Mostly because the story has already been established in the second act, the third act is much faster-paced and detailed. For dramas, Act Three is 30 pages and 24 for comedies.

6. Add sequences

The parts of the story that operate independently from the main conflict is known as sequences. They usually have a beginning, middle, and end. A sequence will mostly be about 10 to 15 pages in length. It also tends to focus on a specific character.

These sequences operate with a separate tension from that of the main story and sometimes affect how the main story will play out.

7. Start writing scenes

The events of your movie are known as scenes. They always take place in specific locations and also help to drive the story forward. When a scene does not do this, it should be cut from the script.

8. Start writing dialogue 

The moment you have scenes, you will definitely have characters interacting. Dialogue is one of the hardest things to write as each character needs to have its own unique believable voice. You’ll have to read more on this as you set out to write your movie scripts

9. Cutaway the dead weight. 

Now that you have all your ideas on paper, go ahead to look for weak distractions, links, or anything at all that drags, then cut them away.

10. Set your page size. 

Most screenplays are written on 8 ½” x 11” paper, mostly 3-hole punched. Top and bottom margins are set between 5” and 1”. The left margin is always set to 1.2” – 1.6” and the right margin is set within 5” and 1”. Page numbers always go in the top right corner. The title page should not be numbered.

11. Set your font style

Movie scripts are written in Courier 12-point font because of timing. A single script page in Courier 12 is one minute of screen time. So you will have to set your font accordingly.

12. Format your script elements 

There are different parts of a script that need specific formatting so they can conform to industry standards. In your course of learning how to write a movie script, you’ll need to abide by these standards to succeed. They are as follows:

  • Scene Heading: This is also known as a “slug line.” It sets the perfect stage for the reader by describing the location. The scene heading should be in all caps. First, confirm if it is an interior or exterior scene by writing “INT.” or “EXT.”  And then follow it with the location, then time of day. Don’t end a page with a scene heading, make sure to push it down to the next page.
  • Action: The descriptive text of the screenplay is the action. It should be written in the present tense and an active voice. Always keep the paragraphs short to hold the reader’s attention. A good paragraph size is between 3-5 lines.
  • Character Name: Before the start of any dialogue, the character speaking should be typed out in all caps and indented 3.5” from the left margin. The name can be the character’s real name or a description only if the character is not named in the movie, or still by occupation. If by any chance the character is speaking off-screen, then “(O.S.)” is written next to the character’s name. Whenever the character is narrating, “(V.O.)” for voice-over, it is written next to the name.
  • Dialogue: Anytime a character is speaking, the dialogue should be indented 2.5” from the left margin, and should be between 2-2.5” from the right. The dialogue always goes directly beneath the character’s name.

13. Revise your work as many times as necessary. 

This may be stressful at first, but when all is said and done, you will be very glad you took the time to properly portray your vision.

14. Show your written movie scripts to a few friends. 

In learning how to write a movie script, the best way to get to know the quality of your content is from people’s reviews. Select people with different backgrounds and tastes to get different opinions. Always be sure to ask for the cold hard truths; you need constructive criticism, not flattery or lies of any sort. Take note of their observations and contributions, go back to your scripts and make necessary corrections.

Phew! There you have it, as you can see much effort is required to write movie scripts. Now you have a guide on how to write all those stories you’ve been carrying about in your mind. Start now as procrastination is not good. Once you start, you can then take it at your own pace.

Don’t hesitate to ask your questions, share your thoughts or give your own recommendation using the comment box below.

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