COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 4:
“To make a great movie you need three things: a great script, a great script and a great script!” – Alfred Hitchcock
A film script is measured less by its language and more by its architecture; it’s a blueprint that informs the ‘construction’ crew ‘building’ the film. And if this blueprint is flawed then the integrity of the film is at risk. Therefore, a well-crafted script is essential to guide cast and crew through production.
Anyone who’s written a script will know that it’s no easy task; Scriptwriting is a craft, an art form. Attempting to write a screenplay immediately fills you with respect for those who successfully carve a career writing for the stage and screen.
There’s nothing more daunting than the blank page… that cursor blinking at you… taunting you!
In the last post, we talked about how the story for COSMOS actually came about, in this post we want to just share a bit of info about our script and the writing process.
COSMOS is actually our second feature film script; our first being ENCOUNTER (which we wrote back in 2010), and thanks to the lessons we learnt with that first script, COSMOS was developed and co-written in just under 4 months, between August to December 2013. Our target was 80 pages which grew into a first draft of 96.
We typed the script up on Final Draft which is our personal choice. There are many other options on the market, but many industry pro’s favour Final Draft, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
COSMOS is also following some of the golden rules for Independent filmmaking:
- Popular Genre
- Minimal Characters
- Minimal Locations
- Under 100 Pages
Anyway, without further ado, here are the top 12 Lessons we’ve learnt from writing two feature film scripts. We hope they prove useful for your projects.
If you want a taste of the process we went through for COSMOS, feel free to check out the video blog at the end of this post!
12 LESSONS WE LEARNT WHILE SCRIPTWRITING
- Work in a team.
There’s nothing quite like spit-balling ideas with a friend and getting carried away in a creative flow. Trying to get that momentum on your own is tough.
Spielberg, Lucas and Kasdan locked themselves in a room for a weekend and came out the other side with Raiders of the Lost Ark on a notepad; Kasdan then penned up undoubtably one of the greatest scripts ever written for one the most beloved films of all time.
- Planning is everything.
80% of your time should be spent pre-writing, 5% typing, then 15% re-writing.
- Learn from the Masters.
Read as many screenplays as you can! And not just film similar to the one you’re making – ALL scripts; learn from those who know how to do it best. You can download them from Script-o-rama and IMSDB.
- Go ‘buy’ the book.
Read every scriptwriting book you can get your hands on, these manuals are worth their weight in gold! Our favourites are:
TEACH YOURSELF SCREENWRITING by Ray Frensham
THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO SCREEN WRITING by the late, great Syd Field
- Trust your instincts (Luke).
This is your film, your story, your voice. Write the film you want to see up on the big screen. Listen to your heart and you’ll produce something truly unique.
- Show don’t tell.
Don’t assume that just because a script is text-based, it’s a wordy medium. Film is a story told through pictures, so write in images.
- Eavesdrop to steal dialogue.
Although movie dialogue isn’t the same as real chat, it’s still invaluable to study how people talk – it’ll help you write dialogue full of life.
- The shorter your script the better.
Keep it short and sweet. 97 pages is the new Holy Grail (apparently), and can be read in just over an hour; it’ll make it easy for people to say “yeah, sure I’ll read it”
- Use scriptwriting software.
It’s fast and formats for you. Final Draft is our personal choice. If you want to be taken seriously by professionals make sure your script is correctly formatted and bound; if it’s not it’ll quickly end up in the trash!
- Listen to feedback.
Everyone will have an opinion, some good, some bad but let people read it.
- Get some distance.
After finishing your script, stick it in a draw, go do something else for a month. Then return to begin your re-write; the distance will give you a very objective perspective and you’ll be able to judge your work honestly.
- Finish it… AT ALL COSTS!
It can be done. Yes it’s hard, but it’s also one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do in your creative life.
Think we’ve missed any points? Let us know in the comments below.
The video below charts our scriptwriting process on ENCOUNTER (on MS Word as well… what were we thinking?!)
Next time we’re looking at ‘Breaking Down’ the script and making the STRIPBOARDS. Be there, or be a Quad-rangle!
Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver