Screenplay: How to make a frugal short film, part 4

The quality of your screenplay can really make or break your film. Not only does this apply to the final product, but also in attracting people to work on the project in the first place. One thing I've always appreciated about Pixar's films (and one reason they constantly produce hits) is that they obviously spend time on the script. It's that important.

So much has been written about screenwriting, that I'd be crazy to try to teach any kind of formal lesson in such as small space. What I can do is share some tips that have helped me bring a short outline to finished script.

While I go into more detail in the video, here's the gist of it:

Stick to format - use software that makes formatting easy and remember to show the audience what is happening instead of having characters tell the audience what is happening.

Keep it brief - use good, efficient writing instead of bloated prose. You're writing a screenplay, not a novel. Action blocks should be no longer than three or four sentences, and descriptions of any kind should only be one sentence. When something new happens, start a new block of action.

Write solid dialogue - your characters need to be realized enough so they say things those people would say. Get to know them so they can speak through you. Everything they do say should reveal character traits, move the story forward, or both.

Avoid camera angles - your script is not a literal shot list. Disguise camera angles in your writing so there is only one way to interpret the script visually. This will make for a better read, and make whomever directs your script think they came up with all the stellar imagery.

Keep it interesting - no one likes a dull story with dull people. Keep things lively and make your script a page turner. While you're not writing a novel, your screenplay should be just as engaging as one.

The film script is so important. It's the foundation upon which all aspects of your eventual movie is constructed upon, and needs to be given the time and respect that this responsibility commands. Nothing can save a bad screenplay, So go write a good one!

P.S. Screenplay archives are a great place to download the real thing and see how its done by professionals. Remember to get the real thing and avoid "transcripts" which are just summaries and not the writer's real work. Here are a few to get you started:

Simply Scripts
Drew's Script-O-Rama
Internet Movie Script Database

The How to Make a Frugal Short Film Series
Part 0: Cultivate an audience
Part 1: What is it?
Part 2: Reviewing resources
Part 3: Coming up with a story