A friend of mine was recently laid off from his job at Google, and he decided that what he wanted to do was fulfill a lifelong dream – he wanted to write a screenplay. When he told his family and friends what he was doing, they reacted the way that most people would.
They thought he was kidding.
The fact is that he’s always wanted to be a screenwriter, but he never had the time to sit down and try to make his dream come true. He was too busy working in the corporate world to get to a place where he felt comfortable making the attempt.
The layoff provided the perfect opportunity.
Since I’m a screenwriter, he asked me for some pointers, and I dashed off some tips that I thought he might find useful.
1. Watch a lot of movies.
The first thing that I told him to do was watch a lot of movies. I told him that he needed to live and breathe and eat and sleep movies. He needed to see as many movies as possible – and not just good movies. No, I told him that he needed to watch bad movies, too. After all, you can learn from watching how a bad movie doesn’t work as easily as you can learn how a good movie does work.
2. Study your story.
Everyone thinks that they’ve come up with a great story that’s never been done before, but the truth is that so many stories are nothing more than rehashes of other stories. So, before you waste your time writing something that isn’t going to go anywhere, think about your story from every angle – study it the way that you’d study anything of importance to make sure that you’re working on something that you’re going to want to create.
3. Read a lot of screenplays.
In addition to watching a lot of movies, you’re going to want to read a lot of screenplays. The more screenplays that you read, the more you’ll see how they are put together – how the form is, what the structure looks like, the proper way to format. That way, when you send your script to a production company, they’ll see that they’re dealing with someone who actually knows how to create a script.
4. Get into the trades.
Get your hands on the various trade magazines that deal with screenwriting and immerse yourself in them. See what directors are looking for, learn how best to create the kind of compelling scripts that are selling, and discover from professional screenwriters how best to avoid the pitfalls that are out there.
This is the most important part. You need to just sit down and write. Believe it or not, even with the most poorly written screenplay, the person who wrote it learned something. With each script that you write, you’ll discover that your abilities are getting better and better.
Naturally, it’s not going to be easy, but then again, what worthwhile endeavors out there ever are?
“Writing Your First Screenplay” (www.screenstyle.com)