Topic: Screenwriting

All right, all you hacks!  Meh has ok'd me to start a screenwriting thread, so here goes.  Whatever the genre, whatever your level of experience, this is the place to ask questions, seek advice, or pimp yo stuff.

I figured for starts, I'd address a couple FAQ's all screenwriters should know.

1.  Sharing your work.  You've all heard the stories; you write something, show it around, somebody steals it and gets rich while you sit there feeling like a dope for having shown it.  This is a myth.  Stealing another person's work is a rarity; it's cheaper for someone to just buy or option your script rather than steal it, dump millions into producing and distributing it, make millions back off of it -- then have to pay you every penny they made from it.  Still, better safe than sorry; if you're uncomfortable showing your uncopyrighted material, register it with the Writers' Guild of America (www.wga.org).  You can do it online, and it's cheap.

2.  Submitting your material.  Never send in anything unsolicited.  Always contact the agent/prodco (production company) or studio first with a query letter, stating the title and general gist of your script (including genre), any previous script experience you may have and an SASE (though this is optional).  Send your script to Warner Brothers without querying first, they won't even bother reading it.

3.  Format.  Presentation is important, and a lack of correct screenplay format will only tell the person reading it you haven't done your homework -- so they won't waste their time. 

These are just a few very generalized FAQ's and can be elaborated upon as needed. 

Tally ho!

Re: Screenwriting

just stickied.

Re: Screenwriting

Amazing thread guys, I am salivating already

Re: Screenwriting

Awesome thread, guys.  I was actually going to ask Meh if we could start a filmmaking/screenwriting thread to discuss the shit, but it looks like my prayers were answered.  Thanks a heap.  Anywho, onto the discussion...

First off, as Lon pointed out, formatting is very important.  And what better way to nail formatting than with a screenwriting program!  Costly?  I think not!  I've been promoting this program ever since I joined this community and I honestly feel it's up there with Final Draft, Sophocoles, and what have you.  It's called Celtx and it's FREE!  Check it out:

www.celtx.com

Also, have you guys heard of the new program titled "iscript"?  If so, what's your take on it?  Honestly, I think it defeats the purpose.  Scripts are supposed to be read, not heard!

I'm done...

Last edited by TiM the Zombie (2008-01-01 13:40:49)

Re: Screenwriting

I use Final Draft 7; it comes with a voice assignment feature if you want it to "read" your script to you.  I don't know about iscript, but in FD7 the voices sound like those automated answering systems, flat and robotic.  I tried it once and didn't bother with that feature again.

I've never tried CeltX, but your favorable description has piqued my interest.  Thanks for the info!

Re: Screenwriting

No problem.  Just keep in mind that it is free.  wink

I also have a question.  I've noticed, I'll start writing a script, knock out the first few pages, but then instantly hit writer's block.  So bad, that it usually prevents me from ever finishing anything, which is the main reason I'm still struggling.  What would be your advice (or anybodys) in this situation?  Or, better yet, how do YOU cure writer's block?

Thanks.

Re: Screenwriting

Writer's block is typically one of two things:

One, an idea not yet fully realized.  It happens to every writer.  Happens to me all the time.  I'll get fifteen pages in and not where to go next -- because I don't have enough of the story determined to proceed.

Two, too many ideas or outside distractions at once.  Staring at your screen, unable to focus on a single thing to write because you've got TOO many ideas to settle on one, or you're distracted, wondering if you paid the water bill on time or why your girlfriend told you "We need to talk."

The only cure for the first one is to develop your story before writing the script.  You can start with a synopsis, a treatment, or just a general list of fragmented ideas.  Some kind of base to build upon.

The second is  mixture of discipline and compulsion -- the need, not the want, to write.  Telling yourself that when you sit down at the desk, you're there to write.  Nothing else exists but your story, your characters, your twists, your turns.  Focus.  It takes practice but once you get it down, you'll be fine.

As for the compulsion...a lot of aspiring writers cling too tightly to the concept that writer's write -- if you don't write, you're not a writer.  They get down on themselves if they sit at their desk and come up with nothing.  They feel they have to meet self-imposed requirements: "I have to write at least five pages today," or "I have to finish this first draft by the weekend." 

News flash: you don't.  Unless you're a professional writer, and you HAVE to have that draft or those pages in because your livelihood depends on it and you're paid and contracted to deliver, you can write when and wherever you want.  If you're sitting there having difficulty summoning your muse, it's okay to walk away. 

Go watch a movie.  Grab a bite to eat.  Hang out with your friends.  Surf for porn.  When you're ready to write, you'll know it -- it'll be all you can think about.

Hope that helps. smile

Re: Screenwriting

LoudLon wrote:

Writer's block is typically one of two things:

One, an idea not yet fully realized.  It happens to every writer.  Happens to me all the time.  I'll get fifteen pages in and not where to go next -- because I don't have enough of the story determined to proceed.

Two, too many ideas or outside distractions at once.  Staring at your screen, unable to focus on a single thing to write because you've got TOO many ideas to settle on one, or you're distracted, wondering if you paid the water bill on time or why your girlfriend told you "We need to talk."

The only cure for the first one is to develop your story before writing the script.  You can start with a synopsis, a treatment, or just a general list of fragmented ideas.  Some kind of base to build upon.

The second is  mixture of discipline and compulsion -- the need, not the want, to write.  Telling yourself that when you sit down at the desk, you're there to write.  Nothing else exists but your story, your characters, your twists, your turns.  Focus.  It takes practice but once you get it down, you'll be fine.

As for the compulsion...a lot of aspiring writers cling too tightly to the concept that writer's write -- if you don't write, you're not a writer.  They get down on themselves if they sit at their desk and come up with nothing.  They feel they have to meet self-imposed requirements: "I have to write at least five pages today," or "I have to finish this first draft by the weekend." 

News flash: you don't.  Unless you're a professional writer, and you HAVE to have that draft or those pages in because your livelihood depends on it and you're paid and contracted to deliver, you can write when and wherever you want.  If you're sitting there having difficulty summoning your muse, it's okay to walk away. 

Go watch a movie.  Grab a bite to eat.  Hang out with your friends.  Surf for porn.  When you're ready to write, you'll know it -- it'll be all you can think about.

Hope that helps. smile

I've had writers block for over a year on a certain script....it's ridiculous.

Re: Screenwriting

usually when you stop trying to think about what to do next, it'll come to you.  That always happens to me.  I'll get up and make a sandwich or something and it'll hit me.  I hear showers are very good for creative thinking.  Part of it is just relaxing, the other is probably the shower itself.

I'm new to the whole writing business and so far this is the only thing I've ever done that I've actually been excited about.  I finished my first draft a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to let it sit for a little while, get the holidays out of the way before I get back to it.  But just because I haven't written anything more since then doesn't mean I haven't been productive.  I've been researching how to format scripts, looking up contest, etc.  I also started a journal, or an idea book.  Doodles of creatures, ideas that pop in my head for a good story.  I've got about 5 solid story ideas so far, 1 in particular that I'm really excited to get writing after I'm done with this first one.  Like the other day I had some wicked dream, and I woke up and wrote some of it down before I forgot about it and it could perhaps make its way into a script.

I'm glad this thread exists, once I hop to it again I'm sure I'll be on here asking questions.

Re: Screenwriting

DeathbyHighKick wrote:

I've had writers block for over a year on a certain script....it's ridiculous.

Not to get all deep and philosophical, but maybe you haven't finished it because it's not the story you want to tell? 

Anyway, plenty of ways around this.  Some suggestions:  try changing a couple plot points, lose a character or two or, conversely, combine a character or two.  Hell, maybe even add a character or two.  You could try changing the perspective of the story from one character to another (you always see movies from the "hero's" point of view...how about going at it from the sidekick's, or girlfriend's or the antagonist's?).  That kind of thing.

If all else fails, put it away for a month and work on something else, then go back at it with a fresh eye.  Or even start it over again from scratch. 

Just some suggestions, nothing written in stone.

Last edited by LoudLon (2008-01-02 13:58:39)

Re: Screenwriting

*pokes head in door* not to interupt, but i just finished reading your script Lon, and it was really good i couldent stop reading!

Re: Screenwriting

My Final Draft Version 5 does not allow me to save my script as a PDF. How can I save it as a PDF?
Shake

Re: Screenwriting

In my experience with writer's block - I'll usually start a whole new script idea and if that doesn't help or if I am flat out of other ideas I'll read - Creative Scriptwriting magazine or Script magazine or any countless books on the subject - my favourites being Story by Robery McKee and Stealing Fire from the Gods by James Bonnet.

Loudlon may I read your script?
I'd also like you to read mine as soon as I know how to post a link onto this site - I'll do so.
Shake

Last edited by Shakingman (2008-01-06 14:09:59)

Re: Screenwriting

I think my main problem is that my stories aren't fully developed.  I'll often times dive right into a script without doing any prep.  Like, I'll think of an idea and just start writing.  I realize that's not the best tactic, but after doing a lot of prep (synopsis', beat sheet's, treatment's, etc. etc.) I often feel worn down on the idea.  That, or another idea will pop into my head that intrigues me even more.  It's very frustrating and hard to work around.

Re: Screenwriting

When I write - I do not outline - except for the last idea - but that was for someone. I find that's excactly what happens you lose interest. I like to write what they call RED HEAT - just write and DON'T READ IT - DON'T EDIT - JUST WRITE - let the flow and/or muses take over - with a solid idea I never have problems writing at least 10 - 20 pages a day - don't worry about what it says or what you wrote - get your story idea out and when you think you are done - THEN EDIT - that's the fun part.

Re: Screenwriting

It's funny that you mention that, because that's what I have been recently doing.  Seems to be working, cause' I'm flying through scenes.  Editing will be tough, but like you said, that's the fun part.  Can't wait.

Re: Screenwriting

LoudLon wrote:
DeathbyHighKick wrote:

I've had writers block for over a year on a certain script....it's ridiculous.

Not to get all deep and philosophical, but maybe you haven't finished it because it's not the story you want to tell? 

Anyway, plenty of ways around this.  Some suggestions:  try changing a couple plot points, lose a character or two or, conversely, combine a character or two.  Hell, maybe even add a character or two.  You could try changing the perspective of the story from one character to another (you always see movies from the "hero's" point of view...how about going at it from the sidekick's, or girlfriend's or the protagonist's?).  That kind of thing.

If all else fails, put it away for a month and work on something else, then go back at it with a fresh eye.  Or even start it over again from scratch. 

Just some suggestions, nothing written in stone.

It's not that I don't want to tell it, I think it's a really great story that people would find interesting, I just sort of reached a standstill where I don't know where to go with it.

Re: Screenwriting

I'm right there with you, Death.  I've hit that spot before.  I think the best advice would be to do what Lon said and put it away for a while.  Come back to it with a fresh start.  Once you come back, it'll be as if you've never even started writing, even though you're already so and so pages in.

Re: Screenwriting

ChainSaw -- Thanks!  I like positive feedback.  My ego demands it. big_smile

Shakingman -- a link to my script: http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/WrathofGod.pdf

As for your FD5, you should be able to get free updates from finaldraft.com  All you'll need is the registration/serial number off you FD software.

If that doesn't work, there's always Adobe PDF writer.  Once installed, it'll appear as an alternate printer.  Open your file, select "print," choose PDF writer as the printer and it saves the document as a PDF file.

Re: Screenwriting

Thanks Loud,
I'll try it and get my script up in a few days.
Thanks
Shake

Re: Screenwriting

Right on, Shake.  Looking forward to reading it.  I should be done with the one I'm currently working on in the next two or three weeks and will post it as well. 

I also encourage others to post their stuff.  So as not to tax Meh's bandwidth, I recommend having your work posted at simplyscripts.com  It's free with registration (just follow the steps it provides), and you can supply the link to your script here.

Re: Screenwriting

Thank you so much. I'm sitting on a few ideas that I really think could go somewhere, yet I'm flying blind on how to get a screenplay started. I also have a question. Do you know if I could sell an idea to a studio and if so, what are the guidelines? Some ideas that i have would possibly do better in the lap of another writer. Rather than write all of them I could sell my thoughts to someone like the pitching of a movie to a studio head. Let me know if possible. All I need are basic guidelines to writing so i can get started.

Re: Screenwriting

TiM the Zombie wrote:

I'm right there with you, Death.  I've hit that spot before.  I think the best advice would be to do what Lon said and put it away for a while.  Come back to it with a fresh start.  Once you come back, it'll be as if you've never even started writing, even though you're already so and so pages in.

I'll do that...I've got some other stuff I've wanted to put on paper so I'll begin with those....maybe that one I'm stuck on will end up being something big....

Re: Screenwriting

mojo80 wrote:

Thank you so much. I'm sitting on a few ideas that I really think could go somewhere, yet I'm flying blind on how to get a screenplay started. I also have a question. Do you know if I could sell an idea to a studio and if so, what are the guidelines? Some ideas that i have would possibly do better in the lap of another writer. Rather than write all of them I could sell my thoughts to someone like the pitching of a movie to a studio head. Let me know if possible. All I need are basic guidelines to writing so i can get started.

From reading the copyright site ideas aren't able to be copywrited so i don't know so much about selling them to someone.  I'm sure nobody wouldn't front any money before learning what the idea is, and after you told them there's no legality for them to just steal it.

When it comes to writing, I write the way I do most anything else, Write what I can, sort it out later.  Just remember, you're first draft will almost always be shit, its after re-writes and constant reviewing that you get the final product.  I'd just write your story down, then add in what's needed to make it a script....like formatting, etc.

Re: Screenwriting

About the only way you'd be able to sell an idea is if you meet some chump willing to pay for it. 

Ideas are cheap; it's the execution of the idea that gets paid for.  You may have an idea for a movie about a group of teens in the woods being hunted by a masked psycho -- but so do a million other people.  It's all in the execution -- your specific script, your specific words, your written dialog, your written action.  As mentioned above, you can't copyright an idea -- you can only copyright your execution of that idea.

Same thing applies in regards to selling them.  Nobody will pay you for one.