Writing Screenplays is Hard Stuff!

March 24, 2010 in Uncategorized by pacejmiller

We finally started learning how to write a script in our screenwriting class last night.  About time, considering we have to hand in a first draft of an original screenplay in a couple of weeks.

I have decided to go with a short film as opposed to a feature.  This is, after all, my first screenplay (the old crap I did with a friend doesn’t count — those were never finished anyway).  After last night’s class, I’m sure I made the right decision, because writing a screenplay is so much harder than I had envisioned.

You do learn a lot from reading screenplays, watching films and reading up on screenplay writing conventions and basic principles, but it’s not until you sit down to write one that you realise how difficult it is.  How do you structure it?  How do you describe the characters?  How do you transition from one scene to another, from one Act to another?  So many problems, and yet there’s so many ways to solve them!

I keep making the mistake of putting in too much aesthetic detail as opposed to capturing the essence of the tone and mood.  Who cares about what the characters are wearing or if they are shaven?  Wardrobe and make-up can take care of that.  It’s about making the script director and actor-friendly, so when they read it, it gives them an idea of what they have to do, while still allowing some level of creative freedom.

The short film I have in mind is a simple concept, but hard to pull off.  I’ve got the major plot points and the characters (I literally woke up in the middle of the night last week, had a sudden burst of inspiration and developed all the main characters before going back to bed), and last night I finally learned how to use a screenwriting program.  The one I’m using is Celtx, a free program (that can be downloaded here).  I can’t compare it to the many other free programs out there, but so far I have found it easy to use and navigate.

Whilst mucking around online, I also found this event called “Script Frenzy“.  It’s the screenwriter’s NaNoWriMo.  Write a 100-page screenplay in the month of April.  Sounds too challenging for me.  I’m going to stick to my 15-page first draft for now.

Lastly, we watched this Aussie short film last night by Nash Edgerton called “Spider”.  I’m not usually a fan of short films but this one was superb.  Check it out below.