I’ve got a great movie idea, but movie scripts look so weird.  Can you help?

It’s no wonder you don’t know how to start!   We see the end result of screenplays all the time on TV, at the movie theater and when streaming a film, but very few people have actually READ a screenplay.  And frankly that is where every aspiring screenwriter should begin.  You wouldn’t try to write a novel without having read one first – would you?

 The best way to go about this is to visit a website like http://www.imsdb.com  or   www.simplyscripts.com and download the scripts for a couple of mainstream movies.  Then read them from beginning to end. Now go online and find the film version of the script you just read. With script in hand, hit ‘play’ and begin to watch and read.  STUDY the first 10–15 minutes of the film – then actively compare it to the script.  Pay particular attention to the opening image that sets the story in motion or signals ground zero for the storyline.  What is the inciting incident that turns the world on its ear and sets the story in motion?

The next thing you should really examine is the way the script moves the action from scene to scene.  NOTICE the ‘slug lines’ in bold print (INT: APARTMENT– DAY) and the often very brief descriptive text that follows. 

Pay attention to the DIALOGUE in the script and what’s actually spoken by the actors.  Compare it to what’s written on the page.  Is the dialogue accurate word for word?  Or is it a hodge-podge of both literal transference of dialogue and some ad-libbing on the actor’s part?  And finally, pay attention to PACING.  How quickly do the film and script move the action along as they ‘set up’ the story and relay to you the quest of the main character?

The more screenplays you read the more comfortable you will find yourself with the strict formatting and structure once you sit down to put you own great idea on paper.  Strive to be comfortable with the rigid structure of scripts first.  Then allow yourself to write creatively within its limits.

 I hope this helps.  And good luck with your screenplay!