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To all would-be screenplay writers

I'm pretty sure the conversation I had on ICQ today was a secret message from the powers that be that said Dude, finish your screenplay... dammit. That's definitely something I gotta do.

Before I post this conversation, I do NOT claim to be an expert on screenplay writing, but I have studied the proper methods of getting one together. If you are new to the craft, get Syd Field's video (along with final draft if you can afford it). It is the BEST how-to on screenplays I have seen and Syd's methods DO WORK.

That being said, here's what happened. I've changed the guy's name I chatted with to "that guy". The following you will see is completely unedited.

One more thing. I'm pretty sure the advice I gave this guy is accurate, although I'm not positive. I was just trying to help him get in the right direction.


that guy:
hay can I ask you some thing

me:
if it's a polite question, yes

that guy:
its about film making

me:
sure

that guy:
ok where to start I wont to be a film maker and I wonted to know

that guy:
how do you start you screen play

that guy:
I mean

me:
are you referring to the idea of a screenplay or how to write it

that guy:
not the format I know all that stuff I mean where and how do u put it on the paper

that guy:
like

that guy:
ok I have this moive in my head

that guy:
but I dont know where to start

me:
the basics are like this

me:
this is from syd field's workshop http://www.finaldraft.com/products/sydvideo.php4 by the way

me:
you start with the end

--

This is my personal way of getting a screenplay done. My first idea is usually how it ends. I build the rest of it after that.

--


that guy:
ok

me:
meaning you know first how it ends

me:
then you develop the beginning and the middle

me:
the middle is the hardest part

me:
in classic screenplay structure, this is how it pans out:

me:
beginning, plot point 1, middle, plot point 2, end

me:
beginning introduces characters

me:
plot point one is where the story actually starts

me:
middle is "filler" more or less

me:
plot point 2 is the "twist" and the beginning of the ned

me:
the end is the resolution (guy gets girls, lives happily ever after, etc)

that guy:
ah right ok got u

me:
average movie is 120 minutes in length

me:
so,

that guy:
thats why im geting stuck

me:
each page is one minute of screen time

me:
the beginning should be around 15 pages long

me:
plot point 1 should be 20 to 40 pages

me:
middle is another 30 or 40

me:
and so on and so forth

me:
the plot points are your keys to the story

me:
that video i referenced will help you out a lot

that guy:
on the characters how much time should I spend on linking every one in the story ok the story is about this kid who has this gift for racing but

--

I could already see that this guy was getting too hung up on character development and didn't have his story done. It's also my personal belief that character development should come after your story. No story = too many disconnected ideas without structure.

--


me:
in this order, this is how it goes:

me:
get the story done first

me:
what i do is this:

me:
starting the screenplay with no story is wrong

me:
so,

me:
you write out a short story, maybe around 20 to 30 pages long

me:
then you start the screenplay based on your story

me:
your short story (which no one ever sees) is the "guide" for you

me:
it makes the actual screenplay 10 times easier to write

me:
when the story is done, then you work on character development

me:
trust me, when the story is actually finished, everything falls into place

that guy:
the father wont have any thing to do with it couse the grandfather who was a F1 racer back in the 60,s was all most killed in a bad crash and there is a riff between the father and the grandfather becouse he was never home hes was all over the world racing

me:
that sounds like part of a backstory

me:
to the main plot

me:
which would be plot point 2

--

I was guessing here as to what part of the story he was talking about. It sounded like something that should be near the tail. In actuality after reading this, this would be something right before plot point 2.

--


that guy:
so

that guy:
there is a fight bewteen the two over the boy who just wonts to race gocarts

that guy:
and the father will not have him race ever now

--

At this point he was flying all over the place with characters and wasn't concenrating on the story at all.

--


me:
if you're getting stuck on the character development, you need to go back to the story and fix it first

me:
meaning, Beginning, Middle, End

me:
summarize

me:
if you get too deep into it without the structure you'll run into a wall

that guy:
the son gos to spend the summer with the grandfather on his farm where he finds out about the new race track in town there

that guy:
thats what I mean

that guy:
i start and im all over the place

me:
try this:

me:
can you summarize your entire movie into two sentences, such as:

me:
"A man loses his son, swears revenge against his killer, and kills him."

--

That's one sentence, but you get the idea.

--


me:
that's a summary

me:
very basic, but that's what one looks like

that guy:
hehehe im gonig blank

--

Hence the problem with getting the screenplay going. If you can't summarize you've haven't got anything.

--


me:
can you say what the end of the movie is? the resolution?

that guy:
his wis the big race of the top cart racers in the us

that guy:
wins

me:
now you develop -how- he got to that point

me:
did the main character have to prove himself to anyone?

me:
was there a love interest involved?

that guy:
its the act 2 thats killing me

me:
instead of doing act 1, 2 and 3

me:
do it as beginning, plot point 1, middle, plot point 2, end

me:
spreading it out makes it much easier

that guy:
ah

that guy:
ok I see

--

I assumed when he said he knew all about the formatting, he knew what plot points were. It seems he didn't. So I explained it the best I could.

--


me:
like i said, beginning is nothing but the introduction of characters

me:
plot point 1 is where the story actually starts

me:
middle is an extension of plot point 1

me:
plot point 2 is the turning point leading to the resolution

me:
the end is the resolution

that guy:
its a bad and evil kind of story

me:
nothing wrong with that

that guy:
sorry good and evil

that guy:
the kid has to race with what he has

me:
to put the story into structure perspective

me:
plot point 2 could be "the big race"

me:
it's the part of the story that leads it to its end

that guy:
I have to tie the son with the rich kid that has every thing

me:
that's the beginning - introduction of characters

me:
all characters in the movie are brought in within the first 20 to 30 minutes

me:
story is what you need to focus on

me:
all the character stuff is in the beginning

me:
the rest is all story

that guy:
ok sorry to bug u I just wonted to ask some one that has done this

me:
no prob

that guy:
ok later bye

me:
bye

This guy gave up; he didn't know what I was talking about.

If you're writing a screenplay, the first and foremost thing you have to have DONE is your story. Story is always first and there's no way around that. If your story is hung up in a bunch of disconnected ideas, you will run into a brick wall - just like this guy did.

It is a bad idea to just start writing lines of dialogue without knowing where to go next. The reason you see so many screenplays that say "Based on the book of..." is because the screenplay writer had a book in front of him. He knew the beginning, middle and end. It was all laid out. All he had to do was tell it in pictures. For your own ideas, you need to follow suit. Write a short story, then write it out in pictures. In addition, know where you're going. The formula of beginning, plot point 1, middle, plot point 2, end does really work. Syd explains it a lot better than I can. 😉 Get his video.

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