How To Write a Movie Script. Like An Oscar Awards Winning Screenplay Writer (Examples + Format + Definitions)


Are you interested in learning how to write a movie script? 

Not just at a basic level. I mean, at a professional level, exactly the way a Netflix, award winning screenplay writer would? You’ve come to the right place. In this article, Chidera Onyeabo will explain everything you need to know about writing successful movie scripts. You’ll get a glimpse of a  movie script format, screenplay examples and more tips on how to write a movie script that film directors will absolutely love.

Everything You Need To Know About Writing A Screenplay That Netflix Directors Will Definitely Love..

Learning how to write a good movie script must involve knowing what a screenplay or a script is. So we’ll start by defining a script or a screenplay.

What is a screenplay?

A screenplay is a written piece of work by a screenwriter for a film, television program, or video game.  A screenplay must follow a movie script format.

These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expressions and dialogues of the characters are depicted and narrated.

Writing a script is a great way to explore creativity, whether you intend to use it for a short film, movie, or TV show. Each script starts with a good premise and plot that takes your characters on a life-changing adventure. With a lot of creativity, ideas and correct script formatting, you can write your own script in just a few months!


How To Write a Screenplay

The Difference between Screenwriting and Script writing

A lot of people are often confused as to what the difference between these two are. There’s not much difference between them. As they can be used interchangeably.

However for clarity, the main difference between the terms script and screen play (or screenplay as one word) is this:

  • Scripts are used for theater
  • whereas a screenplay is clearly the term used in the film industry.

Writing a Screenplay: A Detailed Guide Of How To Write A Film Script.

Screenwriting is a fascinating process which, in the end, requires talent, passion, dedication, creativity and technical skills in order to succeed in such a competitive industry

Writing a movie script is like juggling. How many balls can you get up in the air? All the ideas keep floating out until they crystallize into a definite pattern. People often wonder what it takes for one to be able to know how to write a movie script. And much more, how to create a good screenplay.

There’s also the issue of screen time. Often you have only 110 pages (approximately 110 minutes) to show everything your movie has to offer.

According to industry standards, one page of screenplay equals one minute of screen time. A movie should have no more than 110 pages. 

You have taken a challenge that is exciting and fun and yet so daunting, but there are various techniques to make your screenplay stand out and be a hit on the big screen.

I will take you through the many things that will help you achieve that big movie dream of yours. Certain steps need to be taken in order to produce a good movie script, format and all.

 

The following tips will help you to figure out how to write your movie script.

Answer Pre-scripting Questions Prior To Writing Your Screenplay.

Before you write your screenplay, save yourself months, and even years, of frustration by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is your story about? 
  • Why do you need to know this? Well, you need to understand your story so you don’t get lost while writing. Writers tend to stray and include many unnecessaries when they don’t know what their stories are about.
  • What genre is it?  Comedy? Drama? Thriller? Horror? You need to know these things first so as not to swerve.
  • What is the mood of the film? For example, is it mysterious, comic or frightening? This is very important.
  • Who is the main character and who is going to be opposing your main character? Here we are talking about the hero and the villain (protagonist and antagonist).
  • In what order are you telling the story? Are you telling it sequentially or not?
  • What conflicts are going to be in the story?
  • What does your character want? And what obstacles are you going to give your characters.

You must ponder on these questions and find the right answers to them. And when you do, you’ll be one step closer to writing that great script. Completing this phase will give you enough confidence to market your work and become that successful TV writer you aspire to be.

 

Think in Pictures

Film is a visual medium, so when you are writing a script for a movie, think in pictures. Think in terms of pictures that tell stories through images that linger in our minds and through dialogues that are believable and concise. And try to set off each new scene with a creative description, each scene must be a drama in itself. 

The whole movie should be a series of drama because every scene is important. As you conjure up the script, think of it as an action being taken, being acted upon, being brought into motion.

One of the ways to achieve a good script is through creativity! Plain and simple. Creativity has to be available at the beginning of your writing because without  creative ideas, concept or thoughts, you have nothing to write about and can’t start writing.

 

How to write a screenplay

Be Bold With Your Screenplay Idea

Creative attitude requires both courage and strength.

Major points to be well aware of while learning how to write a script for a movie, are as follows:

  • Be confident about your story idea.
  • Be certain about what you want to create.
  • Be bold to put it out there, and leave your mind open for changes along the way — there is absolutely no problem in that.

When you first begin to write a script, silence your internal movie critic. Close your mind to criticisms and judgments so you can get your ideas down on paper.  

If you don’t  do this, the writing process may stop abruptly. And you may not even be able to start or finish your movie script. 

 It is important to suspend your judgments until you’ve written your ideas. When you start developing your screenplay, concentrate on the writing process itself, first, not on the techniques.

To be a productive and successful writer, you must write from both your heart and your head, for it is the basis of great writings.

Write down your ideas without worrying whether or not they are good enough to make up a story. 

Writing in the heat of the moment helps you ro live more in the present than in the past or the future. This will promote the flow of your ideas. With time you’ll begin to appreciate how brilliant these ideas were.

It is best to write the first burst of creative imagination that comes to you in a moment of insight.

Have a Handbook To Write Movie Script Ideas

It is advisable, and good for you as a writer, to keep a handbook. Handbooks are wonderful tools that help you master, and at the same time, monitor your feelings and thoughts.

writing a screenplay
Photo by Enrico Mantegazza on Unspl

Cultivate the habit of recording your thoughts feelings and ideas.  This will serve as an “outline”. An outline is like a very short story that you write out. From it, what your story is about will crystallize.  It is your map; so keep it! 

It is much more exciting to start writing the script as soon as the idea pops up in your head, but the problem is your idea is likely to be less thrilling to you as you slump into the confusion and the despondency common to writers who have not thought their stories through. 

 Many writers don’t develop the details of their story because it seems like a lot of work. Actually, it is. This is where most of the work is. This brings us to the next important point. 

 

Creating An Outline For Your Movie Script. 

Knowing how to write a movie script is quite similar to knowing how to write a story. They both involve creativity, ideas, thoughts and narrative arcs. So, in the same way novels need outlines, so do movie scripts. 

An outline is the skeleton of your script. It is quite similar to a creative journal but it is more defined and specifically for plotting your story in your own creative narrative. 

The originality of your script comes from there, if it is strong it will most likely support 120- 160 pages of writing, yes I said that!  

Although an outline isn’t all, it helps you know the flaws in your plot and your characterization. It helps you know where you’re starting from and, most importantly, where you’re heading with your movie script. 

Writing is a wonderful tool that helps you dig out all the feeling you hid from everyone.  Having an outline brings you closer to your movie goal, now you need to move to creating your characters, plot, subject/themes and action and definitely scenes. 

 

Developing The Perfect Movie Character

Many beginning writers ask questions like, how do I write a movie script with the perfectly flawed character? An unforgettable character like James Bond, for instance?

Should I develop the character first and then the story? Or should I develop a story first and then the character?

Best Movie Character
James Bond: Photo by Irv P on Unsplash

Is the plot more important than the character? Or, is the character more important?  

The answer to these questions is very simple, you do not develop one first before the other because story and character emanate from each other, they are synergetic. 

Always remember that your character is action and action is your character.  For example, you fanaticize about that handsome boy or girl you’ve always had a crush on, who doesn’t even know you exist? 

 You have always had this three people in the back of your mind: someone you once liked, someone you once knew, and someone you once feared.  If you decide to write about any one of these people, you will likely write an outline, or a summary, on a character.

Not a plot summary. You don’t have a plot yet. Not just yet.

Your job will be to take your character and put him or her in a challenging situation and, as your story develops, so does your character. You’ll get to know your character and begin to create the right environment, right problems and right conflicts to test your character. And your plot will develop from the choices your character makes. 

In other words, the person your character is and what he or she does determines the plot and the structure of your screenplay. Your character’s actions must be consistent with his personality, must be realistic and believable through his/her inner motivation, desires, what drives him or her as well as his or her goal.

Creating interesting characters is very important in screenplays: you have to make the audience care about your character. And that is why you must make them believable. Audiences want to know why someone behaves–thinks, speaks–the way they do.

As long as you give credible reasons for his actions, show consistency of action in dialogues, your audience will accept even the most villainous characters.  A plot is created through a character’s series of actions because plot is character and character is plot.

Choose A Theme For Your Movie Script

How to write a script
Photo by Lawless Capture on Unsplash

No one starts a movie without knowing how it is going to end. Next consideration is your subject or theme. You have a subject or theme that has always intrigued you and you have decided to write a script featuring topics such as hatred, love, joy, pain, and so much more. 

You first have to create a character with issues/flaws that relate to the subject/ theme you’ve chosen, a character who will motivate the proper action for your script.  If you can’t come up with an interesting subject or fascinating character, you can start by answering the following questions:

What are your beliefs? 

What are your opinions, your feelings about specific social issues confronting you in the world that you live in. They could be world social issues such as violence, bad governance, child abuse. These are just a few topics you could write about.  

How Can You Dramatize Your Own Unique Perspectives?

You may need to create a character and a story to dramatize your point of view. It really doesn’t matter how you get your idea for a screenplay what matters is that you care about what you are writing about. Audiences tend to identify with characters and the stories of people who want what they want, who feel what they feel. 

What Aspect Of The Human Condition Moves You? 

Stories that involve personal struggles have the most impact. Stories about love, family friends and enemies–these are universal themes; they deal with the powerful emotions of love, hate, joy, sorrow, anger jealousy and fear that most people can relate to.

Take A Break.

When you are done choosing your character, subject/theme and don’t know what to do next, take a break. Think about it all day long. Let it germinate within you, visualize it before you commit any words to paper. Look for all aspects of your idea and explore all the different possibilities open to you before begin your screenplay.

How to write a movie script example

Structure your Movie Script

Your screenplay must be well structured because you want your story to survive once the director or producer accepts your work and makes it his own. Structure allows your work to endure.

Every form of writing is a work of art; every work of art requires patience and discipline. Everyone has something to say, so do not ever think or doubt that your stories don’t have a place in the industry. You know what they say; a bad script written is better than an amazing one that wasn’t.

Use Screenwriting Software.

The market is filled with screenwriting software that can help you tweak your script into the right industry-prescribed movie script format.

Common examples of movie writing software include:

  • Final draft,
  • Writers Duet
  • Celtx.

These software simplify the process of writing a screenplay. Some of these tools come with script examples and screenplay format examples. 

Also, every producer and director prefers preformatted screenplays. So there’s no way to avoid using these digital tools.

How many pages make one minutes of screentime?

According to industry standards, one page of screenplay equals one minute of screentime. A movie should have no more than 110 pages. 

Learn How To Create A Screenplay Using The Right Movie Script Format.

The following common screenwriting terminologies will help you to format your movie script:

1. FADE IN: Always written in Capital letters. This is used at the beginning of your script. It must be placed at the left side at the action margin.

2. FADE OUT: This is for the end of the script, using just END, will also do.

3. SCENE HEADING: It indicates where an action or a scene takes place, to be more specific, it can be written this way: INT.LIVING ROOM-DAY, EXT. GARDEN. NIGHT. This helps the crew understand their shooting schedule. It is usually followed by the name of the location and designation of day or night.

4. ACTION: This is a prose written between lines such as “Efa walks out on Oma” it describes an action that can be seen or heard.

How to write a film script
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

5. CHARACTER NAME: All must be written in Caps, this comes right after the Action or before an Action.
6. PARENTHETICALS: This provides instruction for the dialogues delivery; it helps to tell in what mood a character is talking.

7. DIALOGUE

8. CUT TO: This is transition from one scene to another.

9. BACK TO/BACK TO SCENE: This tells when an action has been taken back to its original

10. INT: Refers to shots taken indoors.

11. EXT: this refers to shots taken outdoors.

12. I/E (INT/EXT): This refers to shots taken in both Interior and exterior locations.

13. CLOSE ON: This used when you want your audience to be able to read what’s written on a phone screen,signpost, book or letter. When you need to emphasize a particular detail, you indicate as the camera is a CLOSE ON/UP.

14. ISOLATE: shows a focus on what a character is doing.

15. VOICE OVER (V.O): also known as Narration; it is a character’s extension in which a character’s voice is heard over a scene, it is usually a tape recorded voice or a voice over the phone.

16. FLASHBACK: This used when you want to go back in time in a script.

Below is a screenplay example. It follows the standard movie script format.

Screenplay example
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

FADE IN: —– BEGINNING
SCENE HEADING———INDOOR—–INT. SITTING ROOM. DAY.
ACTION————Mr. M is having a glass wine while he is enjoying some classic music.
CHARACTER————– MR M
PARENTHESES/PARENTHETICALS——— (LAUGHING)
DIALOGUE————- What do you think you are doing?
TRANSISTION——————- CUT TO
OUTDOOR—–EXT. ROAD. SAME DAY.
BACK TO: The sitting room is now crowded with a lot of guest.
Mr. reaches out for a newspaper and it reads: CU on newspaper: “the federal government has agreed to reopens schools, churches and markets after months of lockdown.
VOICE OVER/NARRATION——– LARA (V.O)
He gave me some pills that helped me heal faster, I thought this was just a little kind gesture, but this came with a lot of price.
FLASHBACK TO: EXT. STREET.DAY.
Younger Joe holding hands with his mum and smiling.
FADE OUT/THE END.

 

Wrap Up On How To Write A Movie Script.

Learning how to write a movie script can seem daunting if you don’t know where to start.

With the tips on our list, you can figure out how to write a screenplay. Practice often. Ask the right questions about themes, characterization and formats.

 

Author’s Bio:
Chidera Onyeabo
Chidera Onyeabo

Chidera Onyeabo was born in 1998 in Abuja and hails from Ebonyi state and has lived most of her life in Abuja, she is an undergraduate banking and finance student of University of Abuja; She thinks writing is a wonderful tool that digs out emotions you hid from people; it educates, heals and promotes, she has so much love for writing and film making, she is aspiring to be an amazing writer and film maker.

 

 

9 thoughts on “How To Write a Movie Script. Like An Oscar Awards Winning Screenplay Writer (Examples + Format + Definitions)

  • Nov 18, 2020 at 7:24 pm
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    Such a good piece, very detailed and precise. I learnt a lot from it.

    Reply
  • Nov 18, 2020 at 7:57 pm
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    I’m sooo enlightened studying this piece

    Reply
  • Nov 18, 2020 at 8:29 pm
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    I personally think it was worth the effort and time plus it was quite extensive, informative and encompasses everything about script writing. WELL DONE.

    Reply
  • Nov 19, 2020 at 12:55 pm
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    Well done, it takes a lot to come up with this great ideas. Congratulations

    Reply
    • Nov 30, 2020 at 11:00 am
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      Excited I am! Reading this piece has opened my eyes wider than it was, on screenplay writing and its key terminologies. Thank you Chidera!

      Reply
      • Nov 30, 2020 at 3:25 pm
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        Glad to hear you found this helpful. Remember to share with your social media followers. Sharing is caring.

        Reply
  • Nov 22, 2020 at 6:11 pm
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    This is well detailed. Thank you

    Reply

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