A screenplay in itself is a blueprint for a movie. It is not the final product. It is merely an outline that will be used by the director, production crew, actors, visual effects etc to work from.
There are many methods a writer can use to get this crucial element down on paper. A writer may use a treatment, outline, beat sheet, whiteboard, index cards or a combination.
There is no right or wrong method to this process. A writer will probably find themselves using various methods before adopting one that best suits their own needs in structuring a story.
The more detailed an outline the easier it will be to navigate from A to B. A screenplay is structure, 3 Acts. The beginning, middle and end. Consisting of setups and payoffs. The more detailed the outline the easier it will be to see where the story is working or not.
Should a writer use an outline?
Even if the outline only consists of a few lines detailing the 3 Acts. This will prove an invaluable tool to the writer who will know where the story starts and where it will end roughly.
A good outline will help with the overall sructure of the screenplay.
A screenplay in itself is an outline, a blueprint for a movie. It's the starting block that everyone will use to create something visual to put on screen. From the director, special effects department, producer, casting director, sound crew etc. A screenplay will be used by various people to bring a story to life.
In order to get this story down on paper a writer must first have an idea and a rough plan where to start the story and finish it. Otherwise they'll be writing blindly without any clear objective or goal. They won't have a clear first, second and third act. A beginning, middle and end. Setups and payoffs.
This is where creating and having an outline will come in handy. It will give structure to your three acts within the story.
Outlines can take many shapes and forms.
It could be as simple as a few lines detailing what happens in each act. Or it could be a twenty page treatment detailing each segment of the story. Usually without dialogue.
It's up to the writer to figure out which method best suits them through trial and error. They might find that they end up using a combination of processes to write.
Beat sheets, treatments, whiteboards, index card system.
Whatever works for you as a writer.
Do you need an outline?
Some will argue that you don't and as long as you have the story knocking about in your head that's all you need. If you already have the story formulated in your head, why not write it down? At least this way, every time you get an idea or thought on how to improve the story, you can add a note to the outline. And when the time comes to write it. You can decide whether you want to use these notes or not.
At the end of the day you'll still be in charge of this world you're creating. It'll just be easier if you have notes to refer to if you get stuck on where the story should go.
More detailed the outline the easier it will be to write the screenplay. It may not help with the dialogue as you won't know how your characters will react until you get to them. But it will certainly help with the locations and moving the story forward.
Any problems will hopefully be ironed out in the outline or at the very least will certainly make it a lot easier to do if there is an outline.
It certainly won't do any harm when it comes to the rewrites.
Take this out.
Move this here.
Put that there.
An outline is an essential part of the story process. It's basically a plan to help the writer create a blueprint for a movie. An outline will help the writer create and build a story with structure.
Use an outline to write a blueprint for a movie.