Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How To Write A Screenplay in 30 Easy Steps, Part Four: The Rough Draft

I confess all...

19. Cut and Paste Your Treatment Into Screenwriting Software

You must buy screenwriting software. You want to sell this for thousands of dollars, but you won’t spend $200 in order to do the job right? Forget it. You gotta buy it.

20. Write All the Slug Lines

I immediately break up the treatment text by inserting “slug lines” at the head of every scene. These are the lines that say INT. LISA MINELLI’S BASEMENT – DAY. For me, this gives the screenplay some shape right away and makes it much less intimidating. This also means that if I get stuck on any scene, I can jump to any other scene and start writing. But that’s dangerous, because when you…

21. ...Turn It Into a First Draft...

…you have to listen to the characters who won’t do what you want them to do. Then you have to re-brainstorm until the problem is solved. So whenever possible I try to write in order, and allow myself the freedom to re-write the story as I go, often making massive changes that totally depart from that oh-so-carefully-crafted final treatment. In order to keep the right voices in my head, I’ll often listen to one of those memoirs on audiobook whenever I take walking breaks to refresh myself. Whatever it takes to push through 110 pages of dialogue.

22. Polish While You Proofread

Once again, I turn on Final Draft’s trusty “Speech Control” and have the entire script read to me by Steven Hawking. (The program lets you assign “different” voices to the male, female, and child characters, but they all sound the same to me: like Steven Hawking. That’s fine, I find it cute.) I fix the thousands of typos, but more importantly, I get to hear what my dialogue sounds like out loud. Inevitably, it sounds overly verbose, formal and repetitive. I chop it way down as I proofread. But if I rewrite too much of a scene, I always make sure to listen to the scene again from the beginning in order to find the new typos I’ve created.

23. Yet More Outside Input from Trusted Friends

For the third and final time, go back to those beleaguered friends, (Or even better, find new friends who haven’t heard of it yet. Of course, this assumes that you have six good friends, which is doubtful) and ask them how they think it turned out. Wait and bite your nails some more…Tomorrow is the big finale!

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