Investigate the advice given to support new writers. Make notes.
The screenplay of a film is a key, integral part of the film itself and it’s success, as without the screenplay there would not be a film in the first place and a bad screenplay would ensure the film’s reputation as a flop. There are various different websites that offer guidance and advice to support new writers when attempting to create a successful screenplay; one of these is Screen Online which discusses how a new focus on short films has lead to the emergence of a whole new host of script writers and gives a list of key questions that script writers are faced with when beginning to write a screenplay. These six key questions are:
- Who is the protagonist?
- What is the active question, which is the basis of the action in the film?
- Who or what opposes the protagonist?
- From whose point of view is the audience being shown the story?
- What is it about? What is the theme?
- What is the style of the film?
The first question is possibly the most important as the protagonist is key to the storyline of the film and in most cases narrates the film, although occasionally the story will be told by another character. The protagonist must also carry the narrative along to reach it’s end conclusion.
The next important aspect to consider is the need for a want, a need or an obligation that the protagonist must fulfil in order to drive the story along and reach the climax of the piece. Alongside the want, need or obligation must also be something from stopping the protagonist from fulfilling this, the answer to this being the antagonist of the film. The antagonist needs to repel the protagonist and in most films makes the protagonist do something out of character.
The point of view from which the story is being told is crucial to how the film is conveyed and so therefore if the wrong point of view is used then a completely different narrative would be played out. The majority of short films come from the point of view of a single character whereas a feature length film with more time and more characters could use several characters’ points of view throughout the storyline.
The theme and what the film is about are extremely important to any film but are particularly important to shorts; although what the theme of the film is and what it’s all about aren’t usually discovered until after the first draft. However certain genres of film are exceptions to this rule as they usually give a clear indication of theme from the outset. It is also important to consider the underlying themes within the film rather than focusing on the most obvious.
The style of the film is the final aspect that has to be taken into consideration when it comes to creating a screenplay; the most common style for short films is naturalism as it is difficult to place a lot of information in such a short space of time, however some shorts use other styles such as point of view.
Another website that also offers advice for aspiring script writers is Netribution; where Andrew Lowes, the writer of the piece, describes how he thinks the process of writing a short is essential when it comes to aspiring feature-length script writers. The first and foremost piece of advice given is that due to the difficulty in being able to screen shorts, particularly longer shorts over half an hour, it is best to keep your short as short as possible, bearing in mind that due to the short time in which you’ve got to get your story across, the film must be simple and direct for your audience to understand with not too many bits and pieces crammed in just to show your abilities.
The next piece of advice given is to use as few characters as possible as more information can be given in a shorter amount of time this way and you can create more complex characterisations with fewer characters.
Dialogue is obviously the main aspect when writing a script, this article says how every word has to mean something to provide some sort of information and keep the story progressing for the audience. Original dialogue is essential and every word spoken conveys something about that character.
Budget is a restricting factor when it comes to writing a screenplay as the majority of shorts have a fairly low budget and so therefore the locations and action taking place within the film all have to be fairly realistic; budget usually being the main reason for the naturalistic style of shorts.
The Script Factory is another online article which discusses script writing and the training needed to be successful at this. The article suggests that individual creativity should be prioritised over craft and techniques as focus on these produces screen-writers of a poor quality. However knowing how to construct a scene is vitally important as there should always be a meaning of some kind within the scene.