My Process (3 of 3) Script & Assets

Okay, by now, all the parts have been shaped and I’m ready to put the actual script together. And at this point, I have to say, it’s really as simple as that. With the help of my notes I’ve got my theme to keep in mind. And with my character (and “world“) profiles to reference it’s just a matter of going through my outline and fleshing out each scene in detail and dialogue.

A brief word on formatting. Stick to standard screenplay formatting, you can pick it up easily by reading established industry scripts and fill in the blanks with Google. If you can get your hands on Final Draft, great, if you can’t then there’s a great way to set up Word so that your F-keys will be programmed with the six basic line formats you’ll need in a screenplay (location, character, dialogue, etc). You have to use the Style option (under the Format menu) and pre-program each F-key with 12pt Courier font, the specific margins for each line and whether or not ALL CAPS is necessary. It’s a hack but it does a great job.

As far as the actual writing of the script goes, as before I’m not going to try to recycle all the rules and tips about storytelling or what makes good dialogue. I will simply say, I try to give each character a voice of their own (not simply my voice) and I try to keep action lines to a minimum in the description department. I’ll gladly spend hours crafting one perfectly worded sentence that introduces a character by both describing them physically and giving the reader some background on who they are. Introductions are as important in a script as they are in real life.

And finally, the script is written. Fade out.

Put it in a drawer. Walk away. Take satisfaction in the fact that you’ve accomplished something. Do anything but think about it. Especially about how, in two weeks, when you take it out of that drawer you’re going to blue-pen it to pieces and basically rewrite it.

Rewriting is a whole other post altogether and I’ll leave that for another time.

What I did want to further include here are what I call my assets. The assets are the things I write once I’ve got my “final” draft written and am ready to send my script off into the world. Because there’s something you should know - and I mention this because I think it’s important albeit a little bit depressing, so don’t get too bent out of shape about it, fact of life and all that…

No one wants to read your script.

It’s true. For most people, even (and perhaps especially) people who’s job it is to read scripts, it’s a daunting prospect. So you have to lure them in. You have to shake your assets.

First up - and probably the most difficult so you may as well start thinking about it early - is the log line. Sum up your entire 90 page masterpiece in one sentence. No run-on sentences allowed. And if that’s not a tall enough order, make sure the log line has the tone of your script’s genre (if it’s a comedy, make the line funny; a thriller, the line thrilling; etc). Log lines are a whole other post too - maybe even a whole other blog. It’s like a marketing haiku. But if you do it right, the log line is the first thing that’s going to peak your prospective reader’s interest. Or completely kill it. No pressure.

Next up, the short synopsis or what I think of as the script’s one sheet. I usually break mine up into 3 paragraphs, (1.5 line spacing) one for each act, and try to keep it simple and to the point. Protagonist, antagonist, plot, twists, resolution. I try not to be coy by writing a conclusion that begs for an ellipsis. If you’re giving a producer a one sheet synopsis you don’t want to leave them hanging. Producers usually want to know right off the bat if you’re pitching them a ride off into the sunset or a tragedy.

Also handy is a treatment. Depending on who you ask a treatment can be anything between your one sheet and a 30 page document. But really, if you’re going to make a long winded treatment, then your reader may as well be reading the entire script. Because of the way I proceed in getting to my outline, it’s not a big stretch to transform that into a treatment. It just has to be cleaned up from my personal note taking voice and shaped into a narrative play-by-play of the story without the dialogue.

Assets. The skin over the meat over the skeleton over the heart of that little thought that popped into your head one day while you were out mushroom hunting.

And that is my process.

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