March 26, Question: Having spent 20 years writing plays, TV pilots, that old thing now similar in popularity to the LP called a Movie of the Week we used to call them MOWsand then 15 years of writing screenplays, I just completed my first book, called Between a Rock and a Hot Place. There are, of course, the obvious differences:
Most execs, or Readers people who want to become execs will only give you about 10 pages to get them interested. That is why your screenplay must have a great beginning. Here are some of the best, time-tested screenwriting techniques to begin your story.
A police detective tries to arrest a pair of drug dealers. One drug dealer is killed, the other drives off. The detective chases him in his own car, driving fast, dodging obstacles and shooting his gun.
You get the picture. They begin their first day of work at a new company. A creepy person moves in next door. The protagonist meets someone who will be very influential Screenwriting books a love interest, mentor or nemesis.
A single mother makes breakfast before sending the kids off to school and then going to work. A lawyer might argue a case before a jury.
A doctor in an emergency room saves the life of a traffic accident victim. But the main plot may be about stopping a deadly epidemic.
You might then choose to begin with that same doctor treating someone who has a strange, unknown disease that turns out to be related to the epidemic. An inner-city teacher helps a disadvantaged child to learn how to read.
Then we discover that she will fight an uncaring bureaucracy that wants to shut down a youth center to Screenwriting books in a shopping center. Or we may learn that her marriage might break up because she has given birth to a learning-disabled child.
The trick to making this opening work is not to let it get boring. Quickly give us a reason to root for the main character. Perhaps show them as an underdog in some way or introduce some conflict in their life. It can be related to the main story or not, but quickly give the reader a reason to care.
These are a few of the screenwriting techniques to get your movie off to a great start. Consider using them when you begin your next screenplay or perhaps do a rewrite on an existing one to give it a better beginning.
The Critical Elements of the First Act The great writer and director Billy Wilder offers this piece of advice on screenwriting and movie making: The first act has several functions.
It establishes who your main characters are, the setting, the time period, the theme, mood and the genre. It is in this act that we meet the protagonist and the antagonist. In some movies we may not meet the antagonist directly, but we are at least introduced to them, with hints at an ultimate revelation, such as is often the case in mysteries.
Although we may not see them yet, we are made well aware of their presence and the negative, sometimes devastating impact they will have on other characters in the story. The first act establishes the premise of the story: A huge shark menaces a beach community at the opening of the summer tourist season: A young fighter pilot must rescue a kidnapped princess and destroy an evil empire: The first act must really grab the Hollywood Reader by the throat within 10 pages or they will stop reading and move on to the next script in their pile.
The first act of a screenplay is usually longer than 10 pages, but that is all the time and space you have to convince someone to keep reading.
The majority of screenwriting teachers believe that the first act should be about one-fourth of the screenplay. But many first acts are much shorter. All first acts end with the inciting incident, which is an event that happens that either encourages or forces the protagonist to take his or her path in a new direction.
The first act, coupled with the inciting incident, establishes the central question of the story: They are not to be confused with stereotypes, which are one-dimensional characters we've seen in too many movies. Archetypes represent elements of our personalities on a deep level -- the mother, father, artist, teacher, king, etc.
They've appeared in countless stories for thousands of years. They reach us on a subconscious level, which is perhaps why they have endured and still have the power to touch our emotions.Online Screenwriting Courses at the New York Film Academy Learn Feature Writing, Television Writing, or Comic Book Writing with NYFA If the purpose of film is to tell stories, then the screenwriter is the one who breathes initial life into the characters, worlds, and dramas unfolding on screen.
Screenplay is ideal for the beginning screenwriter however, advanced screenwriters will also find this screenwriting book very helpful.
It’s a great book to reference back to when stuck on certain plot issues. ANDREW HORTON is the Jeanne H. Smith Professor of Film and Video Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is an award-winning screenwriter and the author of twenty-six books, including Screenwriting for a Global Market..
JULIAN HOXTER is an associate professor of cinema and screenwriting coordinator at San Francisco State University. Since , he has run tranceformingnlp.com, offering his screenwriting books as well as proofreading and story comments to screenwriters, and advertising opportunities to people and businesses selling services and products to help screenwriters succeed.
Lajos Egri () wrote The Art of Dramatic Writing back in the 40’s. The book is not about writing film but theatre. Still, it’s considered chronologically as the first “how to“ work ever made about screenwriting -even if the author didn’t know.
The Hollywood screenwriting guru picks the best five books on writing a blockbusting screenplay. Aristotle knew what he was doing. It's all about the story. Less is more. One word is better than lots of words. Simple really. Richard Walter Richard Walter is a professor at UCLA and has mentored many.