Guest post by Eric Beltran
It’s said that the average time given to a professional screenwriter to finish their first draft for a film or video production is 10 to 12 weeks. Now, depending on your personality, this may seem like a lot of time, or not even close to enough.
If you lean towards the latter school of thought, do not fret. That is a standard for those that are professionals in the business and, if you are reading this, that is not a place that you are probably at yet.
However, if that is a place that you would like to be at in the foreseeable future, then your goal should be to write your first draft within that time frame, or at least close to it.
For now though, let’s throw out those constraints and instead focus on some of the more fundamental aspects involved in the process of writing a screenplay.
Like anything, it all starts with an idea.
Everyone has ideas, most of them bad, some of them good. The important thing to do when you discover, or are confronted with one, is to write it down, even the bad ones.
By sorting through the bad ideas, you will be cutting through all of the stories that you do not want to tell and narrowing in on the story that you do want to tell. For more info on pure concept development, check out our previous blog, Before the Lights, Camera, or Action…There Must Be a Concept.
The reality is, cutting through the bad ideas is something that you simply have to get used it if you truly aspire to be a screenwriter or a storyteller in any medium, not just film and video production.
Now, while you want to take your time choosing the idea for the story that you want to tell, don’t take too much time. People often stall early on in the process, so you have to keep pushing, no matter what.
Now comes the breakdown.
The number of scenes that a full script for a film or video production should have varies depending on, among other things, the genre. For instance, a talky project like a rom-com typically has longer and, therefore, less overall scenes whereas an action film or video may have twice as many scenes, with a shorter average length per.
It’s not just the genre that influences the length of scenes. There are too many variables to get into here, but ultimately you’re aiming for between 90 to 120 pages for a full-length feature. At one page per minute, that should result in an hour and a half to two hour film or video.
So, we know how long the script should be, but that should not concern us at the moment. We are getting a little ahead of ourselves, so now let’s get into scene specifics and where you may want to start.
An in-depth outline makes things a lot easier.
First off, instead of jumping right into the script and writing the scenes somewhat randomly, which may work for some, let’s instead write down a line or two that will roughly explain what is happening in each one.
Remember, something has to happen in every scene. There should always be a conflict of some kind. This may seem like a silly thing to point out, but there will be times after writing a scene when you look back and realize that nothing happened, at all.
It may just be a scene of people talking in a room that doesn’t move the overall story forward in some way. That’s why getting the ideas for a scene laid out beforehand is crucial. The scenes may change when you start writing, but at least you’ll have something to work with.
One good tip to is to use index cards for each scene and place them on a cork board. This way, you can see the story unfold right in front of you. It is also important to remember that each scene that you write for your film or video production should be able to stand alone. Try to imagine each as its own short.
Your characters should have something they desire in the scene and there should be something that is in opposition to them. And don’t forget to tie the theme of the overall project into each scene, always.
What’s the greater good, the larger lens to look through?
Now, before you tie in the theme(s), you need to decide what they are early on. Idealistically, themes should be discovered and discussed in the earliest stages of brainstorming and concept development.
You must decide just what is it, exactly, that you are trying to say in your work. Now, there are times when you may not even know what it is that you want to say, and that’s okay. That should not detour you from writing the story.
However, once you finish your script, read it through. If you still don’t know what it’s all about on a bigger level, then chances are you don’t have an immersive story that the audience will be able to connect to.
If your story has nothing to say, then it is not likely a story worth telling. Your work should have a voice, an idea that it is trying to get across, almost constantly.
Without that, the story you write could come off as a series of disconnected events, which won’t make for an effective film or video production.
It’s not easy, but these tips can make it manageable.
Writing a script is not an easy task and there are many things to consider when setting out to do so. These are just a few tips to help you get on your way.
If you write down your ideas as succinctly as possible, preferably in one or two sentences, consider basic structure and length early on to ensure the story has a rhythm, and make sure to discover and always work towards a larger theme, you’ll give yourself the best chance to truly connect with an audience.
Screenwriting can seem daunting at first. That’s why it helps to create a formula that works for you. We hope this advice helps, but it’s really about applying these concepts to your own process.
You want to simplify things as much as possible to make the story seem like a machine with moveable parts. Then, you can figure out the best way to put it all together.
KVibe Productions is a full-service video production company. Whether it’s a product video production, a corporate video, or a commercial production, KVibe offers the total package of multimedia services from development through distribution.