How To Write a Screenplay: The 5 Step Process

In a visual age, with the decrease of traditional publishing, you may seek to script writing as a method to produce the “literature of the future.”

Have you ever wondered how to compose a movie script? Have you fantasized about writing a Hollywood movie or, with a little luck, creating the next excellent TV series?

However what is the process of composing a screenplay? How do you even start? And why is it crucial to know how composing films are various, however also can be comparable, to writing a novel?

In this post were going to look at the five action process expert film writers utilize to write a screenplay.

Find out how to write a movie script that filmmakers– and an audience– likes!


Why Im Thinking About Writing a Screenplay

After all, at least, its great writing practice. And, like always, practice is always good for your writing procedure.

Previously today, a pal whos a lawyer approached me about a composing opportunity. He was closing a terrible but fascinating case, and he believed it had potential to be a significant film.

Screenplays are like books, everybody thinks they have one in them, however then he informed me the story, and it was incredible– a households look for the American dream, drug dealerships under the scrutiny of the law, cops corruption, an adrenaline powered shooting, whatever you might want in a major movie.

Initially, I shrugged it off.

The hardest part of making a movie isnt composing an excellent film script. Its getting somebody to money the process of bringing the story to life (do you have a hundred million dollars lying around to fund a movie?).

” Hmm …” I believed. “Maybe this isnt a complete waste of time.”

Fortunately, said the attorney, hes buddies with a number of individuals at a significant Hollywood studio. He told me, “We have whatever we need … other than for a terrific screenplay.”

Still, I kept back.

In my experience, the majority of writing tasks like this dont exercise, but when they show up, its essential to offer them your finest.

Are you thinking about writing a movie script? Examine out Oscar-winner and TV-hitmaker (The West Wing), Aaron Sorkins masterclass.

How I Learned To Write a Screenplay

Craft Your Logline.
Write a Treatment: Your First Sketch.
Structure Your Screenplays Outline.
Compose a Flash Draft.
BENEFIT. Movie Script Format Must Haves.

But its been a number of years since I attempted my hand at writing a screenplay. My default is novelist, not screenwriter.

Afterward, I wrote three brief screenplays, among them with a producer of MTVs Made.

A good story that was worth a production companys investment.

” Whats the most fundamental part of a screenplay?” he would ask at the beginning of nearly every class.

After getting my mind around the unusual script composing formatting (which is most convenient to master by using a solid screenwriting software application), I learned that producing special stories for film production in such a compressed form is hard.

In college, I took a class with John Wilder, a veteran Hollywood movie and TV writer, who started the class by writing, “STRUCTURE! STRUCTURE! STRUCTURE!” on the blackboard.

I needed a plan that uplifted my pals pitch with an amusing plot and STRUCTURE.

While this does not imply you must follow these steps precisely, hopefully this will be a practical how to guide as you write a screenplay of your own.

The 5 Steps to Write a Screenplay.

The most vital part of screenwriting is STRUCTURE.

A great story that deserves a production companys investment begins foremost and first with a strong structure.

I came up with one. In five steps.

Something more than script format alone. (Although, since script format is crucial when writing a script, I will offer you some pointers on this at the end of this post.).

It was apparent what he believed. Not screenplay format. Not the industry standard. Not even main characters.

I required an action by action procedure that would permit me to compose a spec script I was proud to share.

A lot of film writers follow these five steps to compose a screenplay.

Prior to I started working on this new project, the one pitched by my legal representative good friend, I had to re-familiarize myself with the script composing procedure.

1. Craft Your Logline.

For instance, the logline of Star Trek might be:.

A protagonist (primary character).
An antagonist.
An objective.

Loglines usually include three aspects:.

A logline is a one-sentence summary of your story, and theyre primarily used as a marketing tool.

Its also valuable to put a summing up adjective in front of your characters to offer a sense of their characters. This, actually, may even be more efficient than using a characters name.

When a studio executive asks you to give him your finest pitch, your logline is the first thing youll discuss. (It likewise needs to be used in your elevator pitch.).

Loglines also work as a valuable guide to focus your composing on the most important elements of your story. In other words, loglines help your story stay on track.

A headstrong orphan and his Vulcan nemesis must conserve the Federation (and themselves) from a revenge-seeking Romulan from the future.

Not too hard, ideal?

For specific guidelines on how to write loglines, visit my post on writing a storys facility. This post also includes a facility worksheet to help you nail the 3 elements mentioned above.

( Check out loglines on IMDB for other examples.).

2. Write a Treatment: Your First Sketch.

Title of the Film.

For many of the history of art, paint was excessively pricey, therefore before Monet or Picasso would attempt a full scale painting, they would do a “research study,” a sketch of their subject (artists do this today, too, obviously).

Likewise primarily a marketing document, treatments give executives an idea of whether the story is worth their cash. Like the logline, it serves as a practical tool for the author, a kind of very first sketch of the story.

In the very same way, a treatment is like a first sketch of a film.

Treatments are generally 2 to five page summaries that break the story into three acts. Here are the 3 main aspects of a treatment:.

Filmmakers can evaluate a treatment and have an excellent idea on whether or not your script is worth buying (they can most likely forecast a ballpark range it will cost) and producing.

Treatments might include bits of discussion and description, but the main focus is on synopsizing the story.

If a sketch wasnt coming together, they may save their paint and not make the painting, or else modify the study till it looked beneficial.

3. Structure Your Screenplays Outline.

The most notable book to comprehend the structure of a movie is Save the Cat by the late Blake Snyder. If you desire to discover more about how to compose a good screenplay, and even a good story, I extremely recommend it.

Having spent many years in the writing world now, I do believe you can take Blake Snyders fifteen beats a bit more.

Your movie scripts outline is the primary step you need to completely focus on developing. You likely will never ever show this to anyone but your writing partners.

Write as little or as much as you need to.

As the screenwriter, your job in the outline is to map out the setting and major occasions of each scene. You might consist of significant dialogue too.

In this (exceptionally essential) step, you focus on the structure of the story. As Wilder stated, in order to master screenwriting, you must master, “STRUCTURE!

Regardless of what structure you choose, remember your screenplays overview is primarily for you..

Most feature movies are from 90-120 pages, and have around forty scenes. These scenes likewise follow a strict 25-50-25 breakdown, with twenty-five percent provided to acts one and three, and half using up act two (which can be split into two even parts).

Ive invested a long time developing The Write Structure to do this, and while writing a function film has its differences when it comes to specific details, like formatting, structuring stories has its core similarities.

4. Compose a Flash Draft.

Screenwriting software can save you a great deal of time with formatting, too. Last Draft is the market requirement, but Scrivener, which is what I utilize to write books, has practical screenwriting tools, too.

And others, like Celtx, are free (advised if youre beginning, and just want to writing a specification script a shot).

Compose rapidly.
Dont believe too hard.
Dont modify.

This is the fun part, your very first genuine draft, and the same standards apply here as to your fiction writing:.

By the method, if youre not sure how to format your movie script, do not forget to check out the bonus offer action below.

Wilder informed me his goal was to compose the entire first draft of a movie script, about 120 pages, in three days. If youve done the tough work of structuring your story in your overview, this must be simple.

5. Edit.

In your second draft, focus on major structural changes, including filling gaping holes, deepening characters, eliminating characters who dont move the story forward, and even rewriting whole scenes from scratch.

When your script is complete, its time to get feedback and start sending it to studios. Bear in mind, the majority of production companies dont take unsolicited scripts, and if this holds true, youll require an agent.

Similar to books, I advise doing at least three drafts.

In your 3rd draft, focus on polishing, particularly, on making your discussion pop. If this is your final draft, dont forget to add a title page and double check all other screenwriting formatting musts.

After you complete your first draft, read it through once without modifying (you can bear in mind though).

P.S. Inspect our certified Story Grid Editors if you desire to employ a developmental editor to examine your storys structure and make it the finest draft it can be.

All the best!

The movie market is collaborative.

This is something Ive been thinking about as I deal with my brand-new job.

This is a formatting that the majority of screenwriting software application takes care of when you utilize it.


Action lines go underneath the scene heading. They are as descriptive as brief however possible, concentrating on the action occurring and visuals.

Its not simple being a screenwriter in Hollywood. Often, the first writer on a screenplay will not even get credit due to the fact that so much of the initial movie script has actually been modified.

Extensions tell the reader how discussion is heard. These go next to the character name in parentheses.

” Thats why structure is so important. They can completely rewrite the dialogue, the action, and the setting descriptions, however if you have a strong structure, youll still see your name at the end of the movie.”.



Like characters, all extensions remain in ALL CAPS.

Aaron Sorkin (Oscar winner for The Social Network to name a few films and TV hitmakers like The West Wing) is a beloved screenwriter in Hollywood, most notably known for his proficiency of discussion.

BONUS OFFER. Movie Script Format Must Haves.

Discussion is the most essential part of a screenplay. It is the majority of a whats written in a script, and offers filmmakers and actors direction about how the story is told.

If ever) be more action lines in a screenplay than discussion, there will seldom (.

Enjoy As It Gets Torn Apart if You Sell Your Script.

Voice Over (V.O.): when we hear a storyteller who isnt on screen, and the characters on screen likewise do not hear the storyteller (minus some exceptions used for comedic impact, like George of the Jungle).
Off Screen (O.S.): when the character speaking is heard by the other characters on screen however is not on screen themselves, like a statement made over an intercom.
Into Devices: when a character is speaking into a gadget, like a phone.
Pre-Lap: when dialogue began at the end of one page extends onto the next page.
Continued (CONT D): when the same character is speaking as the previous line of discussion broken up by action.

Shifts inform an editor how they ought to modify a scene. This is when youll see something like CUT TO: on the best side of the page.

In the line, youll see INT. (interior) or EXT. (exterior) and the location for the scene, followed by a dash and after that the time of day.

This is because shot choices belong to the director, and they really most likely might change whats written.

Scene Heading.

In some cases, action breaks up discussion, but the exact same character is speaking. These will be marked with an extension that indicates the exact same character is continuing to talk (see extensions listed below).

Or, beat written in lower case, which shows a time out.

Sarcastically, for example. Or Laughing.

Action lines, unlike description utilized in books, will often be more direct than five sense writing, which aims to produce an emotional action in readers of books.

If youve never written a screenplay previously, you might feel overloaded by a movie scripts format. If you purchase a screenwriting software like Final Draft, the software application will take care of many of the particular requirements, like page margins (like the left margin, which is 1.5 ″).


A scene heading, or slug line, shows where the action in the brand-new scene is taking place. This line remains in ALL CAPS.

A parenthetical is composed like an extension (in parentheses underneath the character name in all caps), however rather explains how a line must be performed.

Extensions are likewise technical directions, showing where the star saying the line is, versus …

If youre wanting to learn how to master dialogue like Sorkin, you may consider having a look at Aaron Sorkins masterclass.

Some cases where you would utilize an extension include:.

I learned this last lesson from John Wilder:.

Remember, while youll see electronic camera shots in settled scripts, film writers do not constantly include this in their spec script.

In some cases Used: Camera Shots.

For most films, numerous screenwriters work on a script, and after that, in the production procedure, the script constantly changes since of feedback from manufacturers, actors, and the director.

Character names appear above the discussion and are constantly in ALL CAPS. Each time a different character speaks, we will see a new name above the discussion.

But, since screenwriters must comprehend movie script formatting and when to use certain formatting musts, heres a list of formatting fundamentals to bear in mind as you compose your very first draft:.

Others might offer a script for six digits, however then constantly stress over not being able to sell the next one.


Even if our movie is lucky enough to get bought, my opportunities of having my name on the film as a novice screenwriter and market outsider are still rather little. (I d also wish to make sure that Im part of the Screenwriters Guild).

Slug lines mark the start of a brand-new scene, and help the reader keep sense of motion between places.

Action Lines.

Wouldnt that be a treat?


Have you ever written a movie script? What is your process?

What is the process of composing a screenplay? And why is it important to know how writing movies are different, but also can be comparable, to composing a book?

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice neighborhood. He is also the author of the new book.
Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life experience story set in France. It was a # 1 New Release on Amazon. You can follow him on.
Instagram (@jhbunting).

Post your logline in the remarks area when youre finished.

Joe Bunting.


Write a logline, either for your operate in development or for a new story. You can utilize my premise template to assist you with this.

And if you post, make sure to discuss a couple of loglines by other authors. Let them understand whether you d like to see their movie or not!

To find out more about whats inside each lesson of Aaron Sorkins Masterclass on Screenwriting, click here.

Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links. We just recommend books and tools weve utilized and discovered valuable, and by buying them, you assist support this writing community. Thanks!

In college, I took a class with John Wilder, a veteran Hollywood film and TELEVISION writer, who began the class by writing, “STRUCTURE! Not movie script format. We just suggest books and tools weve utilized and found valuable, and by acquiring them, you assist support this writing community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *