A Question About Screenwriting

Hello everybody,

I am very much a newbie in filmmaking, so I do not fully understand the process. So, I was wondering, if you wanted to write a feature film screenplay, would you just get the idea and start writing it, or would you get an idea, and take it to some movie studio where they would give you permission to write the screenplay?

I've been hearing mixed stuff about this sort of thing.

Thanks
 
What do you want to do with this screenplay? That will have a bearing on the direction you take.


Hello everybody,

I am very much a newbie in filmmaking, so I do not fully understand the process. So, I was wondering, if you wanted to write a feature film screenplay, would you just get the idea and start writing it, or would you get an idea, and take it to some movie studio where they would give you permission to write the screenplay?

I've been hearing mixed stuff about this sort of thing.

Thanks
 
Ideas are worthless, I have lots of ideas, I'm sure you do too.

Either you write a script and go through the different channels to getting it produced or you are hired as a writer to write a specific script.

There's a lot more someone more experienced can add I'm sure.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
indiePRO
Hello everybody,

I am very much a newbie in filmmaking, so I do not fully understand the process. So, I was wondering, if you wanted to write a feature film screenplay, would you just get the idea and start writing it, or would you get an idea, and take it to some movie studio where they would give you permission to write the screenplay?

I've been hearing mixed stuff about this sort of thing.

Thanks
You do not need permission to write a screenplay. You just get the
idea and write.

When it's done there are two options:

You sell it to a studio.
You produce it yourself.

But the process of writing the screenplay doesn't take anything more
than sitting down and writing.
 
I have a decent amount of experience on this topic.

It's usually as follows...

A Spec Script

Not sure of the exact definition, but a spec script is a script written without speculation that it will be sold or produced.

So basically any Joe Schmo on the street comes up with an idea. He sits down and writes it. He goes through his first draft, second draft, etc. Varies based on the individual.

Once Joe Schmo finishes the screenplay he has two options.

- He takes the script and makes it into a movie himself.

- He sends it out to an agency with the hopes that it gets picked up.

Now, you can't just send an unsolicited script to an agency for them to read. They will toss it into the trash.

What you have to do is send out a query letter. A query letter is basically an introductory letter that says, "Hey so and so, I completed a spec script titled so and so and I think it would be a perfect fit for your company. It's about so and so and this and that!"

If the company has any interest, they will request the script.

The script (along with thousands of others) usually lands on the desk of a 'SCRIPT READER' who then reads the script, ranks it and either tosses it in the trash or passes it off to an agent. This is why people stress that your idea has to be killer. It has to have a killer hook. And more importantly the first 10 pages should blow your socks off.

The agent will read it and if he thinks it could sell to a studio, he will have you come in for a meeting, talk your ear off and whatever else.

If you're good, that agent could possibly represent you.

So let's say you wrote a spec script and you now have an agent. You might land some assignment work. Basically assignment work varies. A script might be already written, but needs reworked, well, you could get that assignment. You could also get an assignment where a studio wants to make a specific film, maybe a remake or whatever...

And so on....

Hope this cleared some things up!
 
Real advice:

1. Write your first opus in all its glory.

2. Burn it. It will suck (99.99% chance).

3. Second script -- same thing (83.4%).

4. Go through my post on newbie advice.

5. Shoot some very short films that cost nothing.

6. Try and work with people who know what they're doing.

7. Watch 8,500 feature films.

8. Learn storyboarding, lighting, cinematography, drama, comedy, etc.

9. Have something to say for fuck's sake, or don't waste the viewers' time.

10. Write dirt cheap scripts and try and make them, or medium cheap scripts and try and atract indie producers, or giant budget scripts and try and win contests and get agents and Brad Pitt's cell phone number, etc.

Pick any order you want. It's a tough sell no matter.
 
I was wondering, if you wanted to write a feature film screenplay, would you just get the idea and start writing it, or would you get an idea, and take it to some movie studio where they would give you permission to write the screenplay?

Think of a screenplay as something can be gone about in a few different ways.

First - If you're going to be doing EVERYTHING, lock, stock and sinker, camera, audio and editing then you can pretty much write whatever communicates your story so that you get everything in there you want.

Second - However, if you're going to ask anyone to do anything then you're going to WANT to NOT look like a COMPLETE idiot (somewhat of an idiot is okay, seriously).

So, you gotta watch your A) splellin an glamatical errrers, and B) proper screenplay format.
If my sister/brother/buddy/coworker comes to me asking for my time, hands over five to one-hundred-five sheets of misspelled, unformatted goobledy-gok I'm gonna fabricate a polite reason why I cannot help despite the "obvious" worthiness of this endeavor.
Hopefully they won't ask for funds to boot.

People who routinely review spec screenplays, like potential actors and God forbid, investors!, don't want their brains bogged down by rubbish.
You gotta at least look like you halfway know WTH you're doing.

The more people you'll be bringing on this project the more knowledgeable you'll need to be about not only the screenwriting process, but the whole kit and kaboodle.

Until then just play your cards close while you self educate.
Write some <5min shorts then shoot & edit them yourself.
Cultivate an appreciation for how a budget gets spent really, really fast!

Third - You wanna sell a product to someone else to invest $XX into.
Well, now you're starting to learn a whole new trade.
Download Celtex for FREE: http://www.celtx.com/addons.html?dlfile=CeltxSetup-2.9.1.exe
Learn some proper spec screenplay formatting basics: http://www.scribd.com/doc/12721428/Professional-Screenplay-Formatting-Guide
See if this map looks vaguely familiar: http://i879.photobucket.com/albums/ab352/rewriteitagain/ScriptStructure.jpg
Watch a hundred DVD/BluRay extra bonus feature director/producer/actor/screenwriter commentaries.
Cultivate an understanding of just how much changes from studio approved script to screen.

FIGHT CLUB has one of the best commentary collections I've seen.
A couple other notables are SHAWN OF THE DEAD/HOT FUZZ, THE GREEN ZONE and (of all things) THE EXPENDABLES.
You wanna listen to a worthless director & producer commentary? Try PREDATORS.
Ugh.

Write a dozen shorts, get peer review (not buddies and family), compile ideas for your feature and start working on it.
Nothing's more heartbreaking than to see someone pour four-hundred+ hours of work into a hundred-fifty-eight pages of mis-formatted rubbish.
People who know WTH they're looking at go "WTH is this?!" and then the writer (understandably) gets their little feelers hurt.

Good writing is re-writing.
And re-write it some more.
And again.
In fact, just don't get too attached to much of any of it.

GL & GB


Ray
 
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When I wrote my first screenplay, I had never taken a film or screenplay class. I downloaded scripts from my favorite films at that time (actually someone gave me a gift - PLATOON, screenplay by Oliver Stone). I also downloaded some others I can't remember now. But reading them gave me a pretty good idea of how I at least had to structure things, so other people would understand what I was writing.

I have since taken screenplay classes. Believe you me, nothing taught me how to write, better than reading other people's screenplays. Professors are just that, professors. They 'teach' you how to do things, they've never done themselves, such as 'how to write a successful screenplay.' Tell them to get back to you when they sell their successful screenplay. Until then, download your favorite script online and read.

Good Luck!!
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
indiePRO
I have a decent amount of experience on this topic.

It's usually as follows...

A Spec Script

Not sure of the exact definition, but a spec script is a script written without speculation that it will be sold or produced.
I would change "without" to "with the". A writer writes with
the hope (speculation) that the script will be sold - not writing
without that speculation.

Spec is short for speculation. A writer writes a script with the
hope it will sell. A writer who is paid is writing with the facts
that the script has sold.
 
First up, I don't recommend worrying too much about selling your screenplay just yet. The most important thing is to sit down and write the damn thing! In no particular order of importance, here are a couple of tips to help you out.

1) learn how to format a screenplay (there's lots of software out there that will do this for you, Final Draft, Celtx, even Word templates can format your screenplay for you.

2) read other screenplays to get an idea how they work.

3) write, write, write...

4) write some more...

5) when your screenplay is finished, decide what kind of movie it is. Big budget or low budget.

6) Enter competitions, submit to film festivals, submit to agents and submit to production companies.

7) never give up! writing a good screenplay takes time and effort. But if you write a good script, people will be desperate to buy it off you. Remember, "if you write it, they will come."

Good luck!
Brian
Editor
Talent Mailer (www.talentmailer.com)
 
Brush up on format and start writing. You can figure the other stuff out as you are writing. So, start writing. Why are you still reading, start writing.:)

I think for a lot of people, just getting the thing written is a big hurdle. I know it is for me because of work. I work a lot. So my advice is write, write, write. Whenever you can. Selling it and all that other BS will come later.
 
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