The first step for many aspiring filmmakers is to make a short film. A good short will show people what you can do. Demonstrate your style, your eye for detail and if you can get a handle on working with actors and a crew . So where to begin? You can write a script! Wait a minute though how do you write a script?
Don't worry though this is much easier than it sounds even if you have haven't written anything since you were down the back of English class in school. The first question is what exactly is a movie script or screenplay?
A screenplay is a story told using dialogue and images either pictures or video footage or both. To write a script you have to think visually about everything. Unlike a novel where the writer can just tell you whats going on inside the main characters head - a script has to show it. Either through the characters actions or through the dialogue they have with other characters. Which brings us to an important point in script writing show don't tell. In other words use actions not words where you can.
If you take any number of films at your local cinema you will find find striking similarities in terms of story structure. A film typically follows the journey of a character as they try to get something they need. It can be anything; love, happiness, escape, money or safety. The main character has a goal or desire to accomplish something and the film is the story of how they go about getting it or not getting it!
The story has a beginning, middle and an ending. Simple! To make the story more interesting we need to inject some conflict. A villain or obstacle arrives to make the characters journey more difficult. Otherwise their story is going to be pretty straightforward and boring. Just look at all the great shows on TV of the last few years - they thrive on conflict. The more conflict the better it gets! Think Breaking bad, the Wire the Sopranos the more conflict the better it gets!
I want to focus on a short script for a short film. Short films can be anything from 2 minutes right up to 30 minutes long. For our purpose here I am going to talk about a 10 minute short film. Each page of the your script should be equivalent to about 1 minute of screen time. So for our 10 minute short film we will have to come up with a 10 page script.
So lets get started! In the beginning of your story you set the scene, introduce the characters and we find out what it is they need or desire and set them on their merry way to find it. In the middle part you introduce the conflict, villains and other speed bumps on their road to their success. In the final part our hero tackles the obstacles, nearly fails but emerges victorious to save the day rescue the princess or what ever! Or maybe he fails spectacularly but at least there is a resolution of the conflict and an end to their journey
Ok so now you have an idea or how to go about writing a screenplay what does a screenplay actually look like? Well it looks a little strange - there are a few weird formatting rules about headings, indentation and it has to be all written using the font - courier? Really? Anyway I wont go into all of this you can find many many websites that explain the rules. You can learn the rules and then type it up on Word or whatever text editor is on your computer. I like to use a program called celtx - its free to download and is a script writing program designed to do all the formatting for you - perfect!
Now in a 10 minute short film you are going to find it tough to have 5 or 6 characters or villains fighting it out so keep it simple. One character with one desire who achieves one resolution should be plenty.
Now you know how to do it go and find a great idea and get cracking on that script!