Screenwriting Tips RSS

ACE VENTURA, establish the problem, first ten pages, INDIANA JONES, Introducing the lead, JAMES BOND, JOHN WICK, statement of intention, THE MATRIX -

The first ten pages are the most important because they often determine if anything from page 11 on will be read. It’s a common wisdom among reps and producers that name talent (i.e. movie stars) rarely read past the first-10 if they don’t see their character, and/or if the character doesn’t grab them as interesting. Given that financing is frequently contingent on attaching name talent to the leads, those first ten pages – and how well they can introduce the lead characters – can literally determine if the movie gets made or not. The second key thing the first-10 needs...

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audience, writer -

A script is a blueprint for a movie, and a movie only has value insofar as it can play in front of an audience, and connect with them on some level. Thus, it’s very important for the writer to be thinking of the audience at all times. In a novel, the words are the end result. In a screenplay, the words that, via production and post-production, are converted into sound and images to create the true end result: The movie. However, in thinking of the audience, we should never lose sight of the most important member of the audience of...

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backstories, Character's inner life, off-the-shelf choices, personalities, tropes -

One way to develop characters in writing is to ask questions, to mentally interview the characters. It is by asking these questions that we get a sense of the character’s inner life, their personalities, their backstories. And it’s also how we develop characters out of the trap of stereotypes, tropes, and off-the-shelf choices. For example, there are one hundred million (or so) scripts about detectives solving a mystery and/or chasing a serial killer. Many of the protagonists of these scripts are variations on a single detective character; if you have seen one, you have seen 99% of the others. Even...

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logline, narrative focus, protagonists, structural beats, sub-plotting -

I sometimes see scripts that are pursuing multiple ideas. For example, we might have a horror script that is about two characters; one is contending with a cult, the other is contending with a slasher. It’s one thing if the cult and the slasher are connected. But if not, then we have two protagonists of two different A-stories uncomfortably residing under one title. There is of course such a thing as sub-plotting; narratives with an A-story, a B-story, a C-story, etc. But making each of those story threads reside within its own context is an approach that better works in...

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protagonists, tropes -

More common tropes to be understood, avoided, and/or subverted per your desire. I see dead people. The protagonist is grieving a dead spouse, a dead child, or both. Screenwriters have murdered more fictitious children on the page than the Bubonic Plague. So many tearful scenes over gravesites. The traumatic past. The protagonist is haunted by a traumatic XYZ that happened in the past. If this is an action or thriller project, very often we’ll get a flashback to the protagonist dealing with a harrowing situation in a military setting. So many dead soldiers in so many locations in Iraq/Afghanistan. This...

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