Micro-Budget Filmmaking: Screenwriting | Dustin Curtis Murphy | Skillshare

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Micro-Budget Filmmaking: Screenwriting

teacher avatar Dustin Curtis Murphy, Director, Writer, Filmmaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (38m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:43
    • 2. Vision: What's In Your Goldmine?

      4:20
    • 3. Vision: Choosing a Concept

      7:16
    • 4. The Emotional Writer vs The Structured Writer

      2:59
    • 5. Character Development

      9:52
    • 6. Outlining Your Screenplay

      3:21
    • 7. The Balanced Writer & Three Act Structure

      1:52
    • 8. Screenplay Formatting

      5:30
    • 9. Go Forth & Write Your Screenplay

      1:30
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About This Class

This is the first part of the Micro-Budget Filmmaking Series where you’ll be guided through the entire filmmaking process by award winning filmmaker Dustin Curtis Murphy. Murphy's work has screened at BAFTA/BIFA qualifying festivals and his latest short film was a semi-finalist at the Academy Award qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival. Part one is a beginner-to-intermediate class about developing your creative vision and bringing that vision to life on the page when writing a screenplay for micro-budget productions.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to narrow down all your ideas to one that will bring you the most success
  • How to choose a passion project that is achievable when you have limited resources
  • How to develop compelling characters
  • How to effectively manage your time as a writer
  • Screenplay formatting, writing strategies and techniques

This class is perfect for anyone with the passion to become a screenwriter/filmmaker, but who struggles with taking the initial step. It’s also great for those who’ve already made a film or written a screenplay, but had difficulty getting the final project to match their initial vision. 

About the Micro-Budget Filmmaking Series:

If you’re looking to propel yourself forward in the craft of filmmaking - whether that be an eventual goal to be a screenwriter, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, sound designer, you name it - you need to know everything you can about what it takes to actually get a production off the ground. It’s great to work with a team of artists who are at the top of their craft, but unless you’re fortunate enough to have a large budget or be hired by someone who does, it’s likely that for a time you will find yourself coming up with your own projects, self-financing and filling multiple roles yourself as your hone your talents. 

Multitasking a variety of roles on a micro-budget production is great practice for when you eventually join larger productions. Understanding the basics of every role will only make you a more effective communicator and leader. It will allow you to empathize with the challenges that specialized workers face and help you to set reasonable expectations for collaborators.

The next two classes in this series are available now!

Parts 4 & 5 (covering Post Production & Distribution) are Coming Soon

Meet Your Teacher

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Dustin Curtis Murphy

Director, Writer, Filmmaker

Teacher

Dustin Curtis Murphy is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles, CA. After winning Best Student Short at the age of 18 at Shriekfest, Hollywood, Murphy has continued to make films that have screened at BAFTA/BIFA qualifying film festivals. His latest film Samaritan was a Semi-Finalist at the Academy Award Qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival and is now available to watch online via Omeleto. His previous film festival hit, Nora, premiered at the British Film Institute as the centrepiece of a TED Talk event and is now available on Amazon Prime after winning 19 awards at various festivals, including two for best director.

More info at: www.dcmfilmmaker.com

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hi. My name is Dustin Curtis Murphy. I am an award-winning filmmaker and throughout my career I've had to wear many hats. We started out as playing in the backyard with mom's video camera, quickly turned into me taking the craft of film making seriously. By the age of 16, I had already written and directed a 70 minute length film and won the best under 18 category at Shriekfest Hollywood. From there I option my first feature screenplay at the age of 18. I've also successfully crowd-sourced four seasons of the sketch comedy web series, Happy Hour Sketch Comedy. I've made several short films, many of which have won awards at international film festivals. If you're looking to propel yourself forward in the craft of film making, whether that be in screenwriting, directing, producing, editing, cinematography, being an editor, an assistant AD, whatever it is, you're going to benefit from learning everything you can about how to get a production off the ground. This is the first video in my three-part series on micro-budget filmmaking. Throughout all of those classes, I'm going to talk you through the entire filmmaking process, but you have to start somewhere, so today we're going to talk about screenwriting. We'll be talking about how to focus your creative energy and consciously develop your vision while setting yourself up for success by choosing a concept that's achievable on a micro-budget. We'll talk screenplay formatting, screenwriting techniques, styles, character development, dialogue, and how to write a compelling logline and synopsis. By the end of the course, you'll have written your own screenplay, got some feedback on it, and you'll be ready to put that screenplay into production. Let's get started. 2. Vision: What's In Your Goldmine?: I'm one of those people who has a long list of unwritten films in my head waiting for the moment until they can come out. My problem is not writer's block, but writers focus. To those suffering from writer's block, it may seem like a better position to be in. However I often find myself starting a project, getting partway through and then abandoning it when a new shiny or idea comes along. I end up with a bunch of partial screenplays and I get nowhere. I don't have enough time to write all the screenplays that I want all at once. How can you narrow down your creative energy to make sure that you're focusing on the right project at the right time. Well, first let's start by looking at the gold mine that you're sitting on. The first two sections of this class will be dedicated to helping you choose the right concept to write, so you're set up for success. If you've already whittled down your ideas and the main idea that you want to be focusing on when you write your screenplay, you may want to skip ahead to the fourth video, but before you go, just know that in this section I'll be challenging you heavily as a writer to dig deep into the creative goldmine that you have so you can really analyze your raw creativity. I'm often surprised by how many people choose to make a film before they've thought it out completely. Maybe they have a first scene and the last scene in mind, but they don't really know what goes in between. Maybe they just have a character or a topic they'd like to explore, or they want to share a life experience, whatever it is, they find themselves wanting to tell a story. But since film-making is a collaboration, eventually, what a screenwriter puts down on the page will pass through the hands of other artists, from actors to directors, editors, to animators. How can you prove to others that your idea is a really good one? A logline is a brief, usually one-sentence summary that states the central conflict of your story. Often providing both a synopsis of the story's plot and an emotional "hook" to stimulate interest. It sounds like a unimaginable challenge. I know. How do you describe the immensity of your idea in just one sentence? Simply put, a logline should contain the following. What's the genre of your story? Who's the story about, and what's the general plot? Here's an example of a logline for Jurassic Park. Archaeologists run for their lives after their visit to a theme park full of real dinosaurs goes haywire. Throughout this entire micro budget series, I'm going to teach you how to be your own producer. However, it's best to start practicing brevity now just in case you do end up in front of a Hollywood producer and able to pitch your idea. For better or for worse, Hollywood producers aren't known for their amount of patience. I recently heard a story of a screenwriter who submitted his 100 page screenplay with an 82 page synopsis. Don't be that guy. We're going to hop straight in and start with an exercise, or as I like to call it, this is the beginning of your vision quest. Before going on to the next video, take the time to write down every single one of your concepts. You don't have to go into detail, but just a simple logline for each. Remember the three elements that should be in your logline: genre, character and plot. Perhaps you're making a romcom, perhaps you're making a horror movie or an action movie, or perhaps you want to match a couple genres together and make an action comedy. Perhaps the character is obvious to you. Perhaps the character is someone close to you, or it could be so close that the character is you. There's no shame in using your own life as the canvas for your creativity. Stephen King has made an entire living off of writing nothing but leading men who are writers. You don't have to fully develop your character yet. We're going to get to that in our character development workshop a bit later. But for now, I just want to encourage you to get a strong mental picture of who this character is, so you understand who you're writing about and whether or not they'll be complimentary to the genre. You'll notice that I ask a lot of questions. That's because I don't have the answers to your story. Only you do. If you don't have a clear idea of genre, character, and plot, then I challenge you to dig deep into your creative energy until you emerge with an idea that is so real that you can reach out and touch it. You don't have to spend hours mining for gold. This is just a quick survey. If you come out of this with two concepts, then great. Five, even better. Feel free to post your loglines in the discussion for feedback from classmates or you can send them to me and I'd be happy to give you feedback directly. Once we understand what ideas you're sitting on, then I can help you choose the right project that will bring you the most success. 3. Vision: Choosing a Concept: Have you surveyed all your concepts? Hopefully you're sitting on the mother lode. To narrow it down all your concepts to the one that will be your class project, let's take a conscious look at your ideas so you can understand what subconscious factors might be motivating you to be drawn to these particular stories. Long before you know the reasons why you want to tell a story, all you know is that you have to tell stories. It's subconscious. Art can be many things. Expressions of one's own narcissism, cleverly crafted propaganda, one's attempt to be understood, interesting pieces of history, or what I think most films are, entertainment. Keeping this in mind, ask yourself, why even tell my story in the first place? It's a blunt, tough question. What's the point of you even doing this? As artists, we're usually gravitated toward ideas that we ourselves are interested in, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you're interested in it, then it's likely that somebody else will be interested in it too. When starting out, we usually borrow our ideas subconsciously from other artists. If you're a David Fincher fan for example, then you might find yourself riffing off of ideas that you saw in his films without even realizing that you're doing it. I recently did read writes on a screenplay that I optioned about 10 years ago. At the time I was really into the graduate and doing rewrites, I couldn't help but notice my subconscious drive to re-write the character of Mrs. Robinson with one of my characters. Don't get me wrong, homage is great and many filmmakers have had very successful careers based on solely homage. As the old adage goes, good artists copy and great artists steal. However, know your homages. There's something to be said for being the grand jewel thief breaking into the roof rather than a common pickpocket. Now it's time to return to your vision quest. I'd like you to take out those log lines and assign a motivation for each concept as the reason why you want to pursue it. Are you making a subconscious homage? Do you want to share an experience with others? Do you want to help others? Do you want to make money, achieve fame? Do you just want to practice your craft? Is there another reason motivating you to do this? Once you understand clearly what your project is and why you are motivated to make it, you can set reasonable objectives. If you're just doing it to practice, then it's okay to make a small art film. It may not be a Tour De Force for the film festival circuit, but who cares? You were just practicing. If you know this going into it, then you won't waste energy and money submitting to festivals only to be rejected. Let's muse upon success for a moment. Too often in today's big budget Hollywood studio data driven model of filmmaking, we tend to define success as, how many bots were in how many seats, or how many eyes peered at how many screens. But all that says is how successfully a project was marketed, not necessarily how good of a film it is. The famous Martin Scorsese is quick to point out, as anyone familiar with the history of movies knows all too well, there is a very long list of titles. The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, Vertigo and Point Blank to name just a few, that were rejected on first release and went onto become classics. Artistic successes and commercial successes are oftentimes not one and the same. Francis Ford Coppola made many films that you know about. The Godfather films, Apocalypse Now, but I happen to love best a little obscure film he did in the early 80's called Rumble Fish. It just so happens that it's also Coppola's personal favorite as well. Once I was fortunate enough to meet Martin Scorsese. He told me that his personal favorite film of his was, Mean Streets. Because it was a project that he felt was truly his. So it's important to define what success means to you. Now back to our vision quest. The second question I'd like you to ask about each of your concepts is, who am I making my film for? Who's your audience? Are you making it for yourself? Is it going online for family, friends, or would you want to go viral? Are there film festivals that might be interested? Are there any special interest groups that might back your film? Are there any producers who've already produced similar content? If the goal of writing your screenplay and making your film is external success rather than a sense of artistic success, then it's time to ask the next tough question. Is your concept highly marketable or is it fringe? I believe that small films are just as important as big films. Likewise, not all films should be a soaring crowd pleaser where everybody leaves the movie theater going, "Yeah, that was pretty good." It's okay to make rocky road, even though vanilla, will sell more units. But if you do take the rocky road, know what you're going up against. The film industry loves a sure-fire way to make money. That's why films that are remakes, sequels or based on books on comics are an easy sell. They already come in with a built-in audience attached, and it's likely that you yourself are a fan boy or fan girl, enabling this dynamic to thrive. If you're lucky enough to have a successful franchise hidden somewhere underneath your armpit, that Hollywood is just dying to get their hands on then, congratulations. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we need to find some way to continue to tell our stories while successfully gauging what the industry is looking for. At the time of writing this curriculum, strong female leads and films with a diverse cast are quite trendy, especially in the indie scene. Personally, I love this trend because it allows me way more freedom than, let's say an older trend, teen vampire movies. It's important to understand trends, but not because you always want to follow it. If everybody is following a trend, perhaps the best way to differentiate your project is by doing something completely different. The last question of your vision quest is perhaps the most important. Is my vision achievable? Since the goal of this class is to end up with a screenplay that you can then turn into an actual film, you need to think about writing something that is achievable on a micro budget. How can you make a compelling film utilizing the resources that you already have at your disposal? Well, perhaps that dystopian Zombie versus Alien mash up will have to wait until you can have a special effects budget. Too often I read micro budget screenplays that have way too many elements, too many actors, too many locations, too many special effects and it's not that they're bad screenplays, it's just that they can quickly turn into bad movies because the producer, writer, director, whoever didn't understand their own limitations when it came to physical production. I would encourage you to look at successful debut films from famous directors. Notice anything? Take for example, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, it set in one location and has a minimal cast. He wasn't trying to make Inglorious Bastards on his first try. Before moving on to the ins and outs of screenplay formatting, techniques, etc, take some time to narrow down your log lines to that one special concept you want to write. Make sure that concept is achievable within your means, and then it's in line with your filmmaking goals so you can set your project up for success. 4. The Emotional Writer vs The Structured Writer: With any art, there's 1,000 ways to do everything and none of them are wrong as long as you end up with a finished product that you're proud of. However, I'm going to focus on two ways of developing a screenplay. I've not that these two methods are the most common. Oftentimes, screenwriters adopt one or the other full heartedly and then staunchly criticize those who take the opposite approach. These two types of writers are the emotional writer and the structured writer. First, let's take a look at the emotional writer. Have you ever experienced one of those moments where you're so inspired to write, you sit down at the keyboard and you think it's just going to be a little while and then hours go by, the sun's rising and you suddenly realize you've been at it all night. Well, that is called free writing. Free writing is when you write, just to write. I'm reminded of the Gus Van Sant film, Finding Forrester, starring Sean Connery as an elusive writer who isolates himself. When a team breaks into his apartment and the two end up hitting it off because of their shared passion for writing, Connery notices that this young author is too nervous to start typing. He says, no thinking, that comes latter. You must write your first draft with your heart, you'll rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write not to think. Free writing is a great way to get a lot of raw material onto the page. Be mindful not to go too far down into that rabbit hole and end up wasting a lot of time. However, don't discredit that method entirely. If you don't allow yourself the freedom to play because you're constantly trying to fit your ideas into this tight little screenplay package, then you might miss some little bits of treasure that you would find down one of those rabbit holes. Now, let's look at the structured writer. Passionate moments of free writing can make you feel like you have writers' blood deep inside of your veins, but not all successful writers write this way. The Author Roald Dahl would give himself a limited amount of time to write each day. Regardless of his inspiration, he would put down his pen as soon as the clock told him that his time was up. Likewise, he never waited for inspiration to come. The clock ticked 8:00 AM, it was time to write. Dahl wasn't alone. Many successful writers swear by structure. Imagine you're a sculptor. This method is akin to sketching 75 drafts of your sculpture from all angles before you hit the chisel with your hammer. The benefit is that in doing this method, you can avoid going down the wrong road, avoid false starts, and save time. Writers who have enough self-control to stick to structure usually cross the finish line first. Why? Because they have a unique set of tools that help keep them on track. There are quite a few exercises that you can do that'll help you structure your work, outlines, character development, etc. Next up, I'm going to share with you two of the structured writer's greatest tools. First up, character development. 5. Character Development: Some stories are driven by their characters and others are driven by their plots. While plot films can sometimes get away with a lack of character development, the truly great plot-based films never forget that audiences want to connect to the people being presented within the plot. Creating a good character is all dependent on your understanding of people and human psychology. [ MUSIC ] Even if the plot of a film comes to me first, I always start off a writing project, thinking about who it is that I'm writing about rather than what they're doing. You want to get a clear picture in your head, so your characters are believable and act like themselves rather than facets of your own personality. Let's get to know your character. I'm going to walk you through my character development worksheet, the same tool I use for my own writing. I recommend that you answer each and every question when developing your character, so you get a good concept of who this person is, that you'll be spending so much time with. Some of these questions will be obvious depending on the story that you're writing. If you're writing jaws, then you already know that your characters probably live by the beach. But I encourage you to go all the way through this worksheet and answer every question, even the ones that you think will not be relevant. Creating a character. Who is my character? Which character's name? Marty McFly, Captain Jack Sparrow, Hannibal Lecter, Cruella de Vil, don't underestimate a good name. When was the character born? Where was the character born? Where does the character live now? Historical background. Race. Stereotypes are rapidly changing and this is a good thing. Some cultures are tired of being portrayed in a negative light. For example, Mexican drug dealers, Indian cab drivers, etc. I would strongly advise you to avoid stereotypes such as these. However, it's important to keep these stereotypes in mind. Maybe your character is a high-powered career woman from Latin America who was frustrated by the way her culture is portrayed. People of different races are going to have different life experiences that you'll need to keep in mind in order to write honest characters, family, parents, siblings, orphans. What is the quality of the relationships your character has? Are they close to their family? Are they estranged? Are they the only survivor of a terrible shark attack? What feelings does your character have about their childhood? Country of origin. Is your character the first person in their family to live in the country that your story is set? Are they second-generation or third-generation children of immigrants? Are they Native American, native Indian, or has their family always lived in Australia? Dig deep into the family history and you can unlock answers about nuance. Occupation. How does your character support themselves economically? What principal activity do they engage in? Hobbies. Current hobbies versus childhood hobbies that we're given up. Skills. Successes. Failures. Vices. Sexuality. Physicality. Imagine if Dustin Hoffman didn't have a limp and Midnight Cowboy. Yes, quite a bit of this as left up for interpretation by the actor. Still, as a screenwriter, you can give clues as to how you want talent to interpret your character. Posture, walk, gestures, and mannerism. Does the character have a unique laugh? Are they nasal? Catchphrases. Accents. Values and beliefs. Morality. Politics. Do they swear? One of the sheer signs have bad character development is when all the characters in a certain piece all swear in the same way. Find a unique voice for your character by allowing them each to have their own unique expletives. Social status. Wealth, old money, new money, no money, barely enough money. Money has the ability to add a lot of stress to life and it will affect your character's ability to function. If you're writing about a struggling artist who can't afford rent in New York City but your story is about this artist going on a road trip, then you're going to want to answer the question, how did this artist get their money? Audiences often find plot holes like this quicker than you thin. Once they find one, they love to hold onto them for the remainder of the film, searching for the answer. Personality. In the past few years, I've started to think about the Myers-Briggs personality test when developing characters. If you're not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, it's an introspective self-questionnaire with the purpose of indicating one of 16 different psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions. All people have a personality type. Since creating a character is essentially creating a person, the deeper you develop their character, the better, even if the characters don't sit around talking about their personality type. Another way to look at this, is the hierarchy of Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. One of the most common mistakes I see screenwriters make is that all of their characters have the same personality type which is very often, their own personality types. Auditory people love to talk. They're often very open about their feelings, and at times, DMI. If you write a script where all the characters talk freely about their emotions, it can often feel unnatural because that's not how many people in the real world act. People often say the opposite of what they feel. They hide their emotions because they are uncomfortable with them. Write an array of characters, some who are auditory and talk to much, others who are visual, and others kinesthetic. This leads me to the levels of consciousness. Is your character self-aware or going through the motions? Have they attended a Tony Robbins conference, or do they go to the bar every night and watch football? How aware is your character about their own actions and how those affect their life and the lives of those around them? Your character's attitude about other characters, about their occupation, about their social status. Are they fun to be around or are they lovable misanthrope? Purpose. Why does your character keep getting up every morning? Next, let's move into logistics. Where is the character? What is the character doing here? Have they always lived where they've lived? Is there a shroud of mystery around their past? That's fine for the audience, but as a writer, you better know everything there is to know about this person. Present life situation. How well does the character at the time of our story, and what experiences have made them who they are today? I have this worksheet available on a public Google Drive. Here's the link. Feel free to access it and use it to develop compelling characters. Once you've developed those characters, feel free to share your work with the class so you can get feedback. 6. Outlining Your Screenplay: Outlining can save you a lot of re-write time because it allows you the opportunity to iron out the kinks of your plot before investing a lot of time in creating a scene. It can be tempting to skip structuring and outlining, especially if you have a pretty clear vision in your head of how you want your finished film to look. Outlining your screenplay is really as simple as it sounds. I'll help you throw a practical demonstration. Start by writing a brief description of each scene. For example, scene one, Robert meets Evelyn inside a grocery store. You know what? This is going to be a lot easier if we do some dream casting. So let's start over. Scene one, Johnny Depp meets Margot Robbie inside a store, scene two, Margot Robbie packs her groceries in her VW bus. Scene three, Johnny Depp pays for his groceries at the checkout. Scene four, Leaving the parking lot of the grocery store, Johnny Depp accidentally backs into Margot Robbie, VW bus. Great, we're on our way to telling our story, but now let's dig into the scenes a little bit deeper. What are we trying to say in each scene? What is the point? Do we need all these scenes to even tell our story? Well, scene one is important because Johnny and Margot need to meet. Scene two is important because we need to establish that Margot was a hippy and by showing her car, we can easily do that. But wait, could we show this bit of character development to the audience in the first scene by her choice of clothing? Loading groceries doesn't sound like a very interesting scene to watch. Maybe we can delete this scene and save ourselves from having to shoot it. All right, moving on to scene three, which has now scene two. Johnny pays for groceries. Oftentimes I noticed writers add scenes that don't need to be shown in the film simply because the scene would take place in reality. Yes. If Johnny were to leave the store without paying for his groceries, it would completely change the plot of our film. However, if Johnny is shown outside the grocery store, unless you've given the audience a reason to believe he's a clip dou, the audience is most likely going to assume that he paid for his groceries. Feel free to cut out the boring stuff and jump to the interesting stuff, so you can spend time making those scenes great. Great. That scene cut, gone. Now we'll look at scene four, which again is now seen two. This scene is important because we need to establish Johnny as a bad driver, which is a major character trait. But wait, is there a way to achieve all this character development and plot points at the same time? What if Johnny and Margot meet because Johnny accidentally backs into her VW bus? This scene would allow for all the elements of character development. It would push the plot forward and you have to admit, it sounds like a much more entertaining opening for a film rather than the previously mentioned forcing setup that made you want to snooze. 7. The Balanced Writer & Three Act Structure: Previously I introduced you to two types of writers, the emotional writer and the structured writer. But now I'd like to introduce you to a third, the balanced writer. As with most things in life, balance is key. I'd recommend finding a balance between free writing and structuring that works for you. My favorite place to start is with character development. First, I discover everything there is to know about this person that I'm writing about. Then, I jump into a bit of free writing so I can get my character on their feet so I can see how they act in the real world and discover their voice. I keep writing until I can't write anymore, then I move on to analyze what it is that I have. After free writing, I use outlining to pace my screenplay so I don't get bogged down in the first act. Most films, even shorts, fit into a three-act structure; the setup, confrontation, and resolution. The first act, the setup, establishes the main characters, the relationships they have, and the world they live in. Near the end of the first act, an inciting incident is used as a turning point to get us into the second act. This incident ensures that life will never be the same for our characters and raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax of the film. The second act, the confrontation, is where our characters try to resolve a problem established near the end of the first act but oftentimes experience setbacks. The pace of the second act slowly builds until the third act, where we see the climax, resolution, and our happily ever after or not so happily ever after, depending on what type of film you're making. After watching a lot of films, many of us learn the three-act structure through osmosis. You might not be consciously trying to follow the three-act structure, but when you take a step back you'll notice that certain plot points occur at similar times to some of your favorite films. 8. Screenplay Formatting: A sure sign of an amateur screenwriter, is that their script is not formatted to the industry standard. Sure, your script might be gold, but even gold can end up being rejected by talented collaborators simply because you come off like an amateur. There is software that you can purchase that will format your screenplay for you. I've used both Final Draft and Celtx, both are great tools if you have a budget and every time I teach a class of students are quick to bloat out other options as well. There is a sea of screenwriting software and all have their merit, but a brief understanding of formatting will help you format properly in any text editor and save money so you can use your budget where it counts most, in production. Now, here's the basics of screenplay formatting. Title page. Keep it simple no marketing tagline, no pictures, no branded fonts. I like to use Courier New in writing a screenplay, but a similar typewriter style font will do. Use 11 or 12 point font. Start with your title, then underneath your title, write your name. At the bottom of the page, add your contact info. Some people add physical address, telephone, but at the very least I'd recommend your email. There's a bit of debate about whether you should also include information about the copyright status of your material or WGA registration. Some consider that an amateur move, while others consider it a normal way to inform people that you take your creative rights seriously. If you're simply making a micro budgets script yourself and not canvassing a feature screenplay around Hollywood, it doesn't really matter much. You rarely need to worry about your friend Mike, who agreed to hold the microphone for free. Still, it's a good habit to get into. Scene Heading. This should be in all caps.You start by telling the reader whether the scene is set inside or outside with the following abbreviations. EXT for exterior or INT for interior. Then you tell us where we are, for example, movie theater, abandoned mine, Scottish castle. Finally, you tell us what time of day the scene is set, dawn, dusk, day, night, morning, afternoon. Paint the picture by adding a little narrative lighting in the reader's mind. If one scene flows into the next, use continuous and if your next scene takes place across town at a new location, use same time. Action. Now describe what's going on, screenplays are different than novels. It's less about proper sentence structure and more about painting an impactful image. Let me illustrate. Here's the same scene written in two different ways. The sunrises across the ocean as we're introduced to Emilia standing on a beach and flip flops as she watches the man in a white shirt, which is flowing in the wind, as he runs away from her. An orange glow. A half crescent rises across the pacific waters. Emilia stands frozen, despite the obvious warmth. She watches a figure in a white flowy shirt runaway from her. Both describe the same scene and are roughly the same length, but let me point out the differences. Example 1 is one long sentence that explains the entirety of the picture. It's accurate, but doesn't convey emotion or color. Will it work? Definitely. Especially if you're just writing a micro budget script for yourself and you just want to get a blueprint down. But if you notice example 2, captivates attention, each sentence is a single strong idea, an orange glow, you see that orange glow in your head, don't you? Did you see that same orange glow when I describe the action as the sun rises? Maybe you did, but a sunrise can be interpreted quite differently depending on where you're from. After spending some time in England, I doubt that most of the UK population would think of the color orange when they hear about the sunrise. Also avoid too many unnecessary details in your action descriptions. If Emilia's flip flops are an integral part of the story, then obviously add them. Otherwise, leave that up to the costume designer, although on a micro budget, that will likely be yourself or the actor you hire, but let's leave those details for when we get into pre-production. Lastly, when introducing characters for the first time, type their name in all caps. This is so their name stands out and actors attention is drawn to the action that relates to their character. Dialog. Start with the character's name in all caps and center, under that, tab over a bit and write the dialog in lowercase. If necessary, use brackets which are slightly more indented than the dialog to help describe the dialog. For example, angry. However, in most cases, the dialog itself should be clear enough so the actors and readers understand your intent. Transitions. Justified right, is the area to communicate with the editor. Not every edit made in the film needs a cut explained. For example, when cutting between two characters, each line of dialog does not need a transition to explain it. Let the editor do that job. Examples are Cut to : Black, Fade in, etc. For more information and details on formatting, check out this link. 9. Go Forth & Write Your Screenplay: You have your vision, you now know why your project must be made and why you're the person to do it. You now have the tools, you know the right formatting, you've developed some interesting characters, down to know their voices through free writing and have structured out the plot to keep your pacing on point. Now comes the moment you've been waiting for, creating the canvas that your film will be made upon, "The screenplay." I'm now going to send you off to do your class project. Our class project is writing your own short screenplay up to ten pages, I've put the ten-page cap on our project because a short film is a great place to start. They say one page of script equals approximately one minute of finished film, and most film festivals like to show short films that are ten minutes or less. Start your project and start to get some feedback from classmates or myself, be more than happy to provide you with some feedback and advice and direction all along the way. Also, don't forget to start a discussion and update us on your journey. Thanks for watching my class and I look forward to getting to know you when seeing what brilliant ideas you come up with.