So I wrote my first feature length script earlier this year. I’ve been making short films since high school, but never gave myself the time/confidence to write a script that is more then 10 pages. Now those that knew me in high school are saying to themselves, “but Chad, you moron, didn’t you make a feature film in high school that you roped all your friends into doing for you?” And you wouldn’t be wrong. However, I never really finished the script for that and pretty much made it up as we went along. If you watch it, I’m pretty sure that’s obvious.
I’m currently finishing up a second feature length script, “Crossing the Transversal.” It’s less of a comedy compared to my first script, also there’s a complete absence of puns. A script that I wrote without puns? Surely it’s the apocalypse.
Having written almost TWO full scripts, I feel that it’s my duty to enlighten those that want to give screenwriting a go. Attending art school, I only took one screenwriting course. They only had the ONE course. Yes, give me “Video V,” I’m certain that will help me more then learning how to structure the film. So of course, I’ve had to look elsewhere. This is a list of resources I use, but in a no way a complete list to help get you started.
Trying to write a musical? Check out the script book for the Book of Mormon. Are you trying to write a television spec with characters that don’t talk at all like normal people? Pick this book up. Trying to figure out how to write a non-linear script? Grab this one. Personally, my bibles are the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer script books.
A good page of script should include lines of dialogue with a few paragraphs for actions and description. Someone working in the business does not want to read a script that has a first page of nothing but action with no dialogue. That’s not a script. That’s a Michael Bay film. Reading a script book will help you see how the pros write a scene.
A great practice would be to pick a scene (approximately 5 minutes) from a film or television show. Now try to write it in script form. Rewatch it as many times as you need. Is it about 5 pages? Well it should be (one page = about one minute of film). Does each page have a balance of dialogue and action? After you finish, look at the script book and compare. This is much easier then asking your friend, who isn’t a filmmaker, to read your script.
Also, some of these books are expensive. There are other means of attaining them. Also, used book stores are a gold mine for these. I can pick one of these books up at a local used book store for about $10
My friend, Kerry, turned me to podcast last year. I was only somewhat aware of them at the time. I assumed they were some kind of internet radio for people that like to hear themselves talk and aren’t receiving enough attention posting videos on Youtube. Most of these podcasts are about an hour in length. I recommend if you have a long commute or find time to listen to music at work, listen to a podcast instead. You’ll learn more from these then from Ke$ha (or whatever the kids are listening to these days). There’s obviously hundreds of film related podcasts out there, so here’s just a few I listen to.
This podcast is hosted by Ben Blacker and recorded in front of a live audience. Most episodes have about 4 writers on the panel that range from television to film (although more from television). This podcast focuses heavily on how to break in as well as working in writers room and pitching ideas. Breaking in is something that everyone that wants to make it in film wants to know, but is seldom taught in school (or at least mine).
The Nerdist network also has a podcast, Making It, exclusively about breaking into the industry. It’s taken a possible indefinite hiatus, but there’s plenty in the back catalogue to keep your ears busy for awhile.
Love him or hate him, Kevin Smith knows films. He also knows how to put together some good podcasts. Most of the more in depth filmmaking podcasts are posted quite infrequently though. Although if you want to hear Kevin Smith talk movies you can listen to Film School Fridays (new episodes relocated here), Smoviemakers, and of course Smodcast (which, is nsfw mixed with wisdom).
This podcast features people in the field of comedy, actors and writers. They do movie trivia in front of a live audience with host Doug Benson (Super High Me). This…yeah, this isn’t really deep or entirely helpful, but it’s a great listen for those that like movie trivia and like to be happy.
There’s so many books about film. Who has the time? I don’t. Luckily there’s audiobooks. Regardless if you’d rather read or listen, these books are essential for those wanting to write for a living.
This post is coming up all things Nerdist. This book was written by Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead, Attack of the Show!). It has nothing to do with being screenwriting. Think of this as a self help book for nerds. This book will help you be more productive and help you to not get in the way of yourself. Hardwick sets up a system of rewards and achievements to follow to help you to success. It’s like Dungeons and Dragons, but for real life.
A good companion piece to the Making It podcast. It’s a step by step list of what you need to do to make it in Los Angeles. From where to park at each studio to how to pitch a movie. There’s a great chapter early on that tells specific on how to properly format your script for each of the main studios in LA. These details could possibly help to give a head’s start above the competition. And yes, these two authors have made terrible films, but if you look past that, you’ll find some valuable nuggets of information.