There are no hard and fast rules to this.
But if I had to do it again.
This is probably a route I would consider taking.
- Do you have an idea that you think will make a movie?
- Is this an idea that you think you can expand and turn into a story?
- How long have you been letting this idea brew in your subconscious?
- Have you written down lots and lot of ideas and notes for it? Characters, scenes that you would like to see in it? The beginning, middle and the end of the movie? How will your main character get from A to B to C?
If you have all this, that's great. Now you need to structure everything into a story and put it into screenplay format. But you've never done this before. You have no idea where to start.
Before you get started:
Read 20 produced screenplays. Ones that are in the same genre as the one you want to write. If you want to write a horror. Read horror. If you want to write a comedy, read comedies.
Then watch the movies and see how things translate from the page onto the screen. Have a look at how they do it. When do things happen to the main characters? At what point does the main character's life change? When does the protagonist leave their comfort zone?
These are the types of things you need to be looking for.
After you've done this. Reread the screenplay.
- Read Screenplay
- Watch movie
- Reread Screenplay
Now you need to join a peer review site where you can read amateur screenplays. Out of all the ones on the web, my favorite one is Trigger Street Labs.
Lots of information.
And the best thing. It's all free.
You need to start reviewing screenplays. If you've never done this before. It can take a bit of getting used to. Especially if you don't actually know what you're looking for because you're just starting out yourself.
So before you do your first review of a screenplay. You need to go to the forum and check out how the spotlighted reviewers do their reviews. Find out how they review and evaluate a screenplay.
This is one of the best ways to learn how to structure a screenplay.
You now need to start reviewing and giving feedback.
It doesn't matter what genre you get. You're here to read and give an honest evaluation of the screenplays you read.
Before you even consider even writing that first screenplay.
You will need to read and evaluate around 20-30 screenplays to start. You'll find that the more amateur screenplays you read , the better your feedback will get. You'll start noticing things and trends that will help when you come to writing and structuring the story of that first screenplay.
While you're doing this, you should be coming up with plenty of ideas for your screenplay. The more you have, the easier it will be to structure your story.
Once you've done this. You need to start structuring your story.
Setting up your main characters.
What does your main character want and need?
What are their internal and external goals?
Probably the toughest of the acts to write.
What's the main plot?
What are the secondary plots?
Does the main plot cross the secondary plot?
This is where you get the ups and downs of the story.
Does the guy win the girl?
Does the good guy defeat the bad guy?
Usually the ending is the opposite of the start?
Not all the time. But usually it's the opposite.
The above is pretty simplistic. But it gives you a rough idea as to what should happen.
I wouldn't buy any books at this stage either.
You pretty much want to write this on your own, under your own steam with no one else's influence.
You now need to write it.
Give yourself a deadline. Twelve weeks should be enough. Especially if you've planned and outlined it well.
Once you've written it. You need to put it away for a couple of weeks. While it's sitting in a drawer. Come up with other ideas for other projects.
After two weeks, come back to it and go through it.
Rewrite scenes if you need to. Change dialogue etc.
Now you need to upload that sucker onto Trigger Street Labs and get some feedback. This can be quite daunting and you need to grow a thick skin. Because some reviews will get under your skin. But remember, this is for a good cause. This is to improve your story in the long run.
While reviews are coming in. You should continue reviewing.
You'll probably want around 10 to 20 reviews.
Make sure you print off the reviews before taking down your screenplay.
Put it away for a week and come back to it and the reviews with an open mind and fresh eyes. As writers, we can get too close to our work.
Look for common areas and problems that have been brought up.
Perhaps ACT 1 is too slow.
Maybe you have a couple of characters that could be combined into one.
Maybe you need to cut pages because it's too long. Ideally 85 – 115 pages or less.
Then the rewriting starts after this.