Screenwriting 101: How to Write a Short Film | Haylee Hickman | Skillshare

Screenwriting 101: How to Write a Short Film

Haylee Hickman, do what you love.

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5 Lessons (33m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Story is Everything

    • 3. Characters: The Good and The Bad

    • 4. Common Mistakes and Failures

    • 5. Stylization


About This Class

Have you had an interest in film but have no clue where to start? I can help with that!

This class covers the fundamentals of screenwriting starting with applications in short film. Through guided lessons, you'll be shown the basics of writing your very own screenplay! We will review everything from what font size you should use to how to write your character's first line. Projects include an analysis of a movie trailer and brief written or digital execution of your own short film! 


1. Introduction: Hey, guys, joining Saley and welcome to my skill shark class. This class screenwriting one on one is something that I have created to help other people start their love of film. I've written for her campus a place as a finalist in campus movie fest. I worked as a video reporter for an independent new circuit and created award winning multimedia and digital media projects accepted by schools like Marymount Manhattan in Point Park University. I realized I loved film through videos like these, where people were analyzing film and expecting it on YouTube. So I hope that this course will help you realize that you love don't. So the content of this class is really simple. It's the most basic principles of screen writing. By analyzing popular film and television will be able to understand screenplays. We will get understanding off story as well as working to write our own screenplays and learn things like font size, spacing and write something that's up to the industry standard. We'll talk about mistakes to avoid, how to create your own style of screenplay, how to write to catch producers, attention and even camera angles. There will be two class projects it's your choice you could do, book them or other one, but the 1st 1 is to analyze a movie trailer and dissect it by story, show how it introduces its characters and then make your own movie trailer about your own movie. And the second choice will have will be to write your own scripted scene in which I will could take everything and let you know what I like about it and give you tips on how to do better or connect you with what I think could help you. Obviously, that's for the end of the class, but in between that, we'll be talking about characters. Story formatting will be looking at examples of popular films at grasping and understanding a film as an art form. By the end of this class, you able to write more creatively, create your own stories, understand film as an art, find personalized race to keep yourself writing and keep yourself create as well as ways to understand film in a new light that you haven't imagined before. The community of this class is a loving space about encouragement and learning from your mistakes and admitting when you're wrong and learning from that and learning how to keep dedicated about it. It can be really staring to jump into something like this if you've never had any practice before. So I'm hoping that I could help give you the confidence to at least start out with something like a short film. I hope to help you harness your craft and to find your voice. And I hope that you join me in the next. Listen, when we talk about story, um, yeah, Thanks for watching. And I hope to see you there. 2. Story is Everything: Hi, everybody. And welcome to the first official class of my school shirt class. I am super excited. You decided to stick around and that you want to learn more. I'm very involved Lesson today I have multiple cameras set up on none of odd for me. So let's get into it, by the way, thank you. We're going back to the next stop. I really appreciate that. You don't know how good that is and how excited I am and how you're helping. Today we're gonna talk about story. Story arguably is the most important thing to have a grasp on stories are what make shows and movies watchable. A story is technically defined, adds a account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. And depending on the genre, we watch or the moon make. This story can be vastly different as well as its structure, but is always an integral part of telling a story without a good story. We don't have a film. That's where we come in. The screenwriters, superheroes There are so many different steps to figuring out what your story is gonna be. You gotta figure out what kind of story you want to write? First of all, that's pretty important. Do you want to write a horse story? Do you want to write a love story? Do you want to write a man versus nature story? So many options, Obviously, genre convention is being broken all the time, so you don't necessarily have to pick something that is so cookie cutter. You can kind of make it your own now, which is amazing. Understanding the role of the screenwriter is really important to figuring out what kind of film you want. Todo. So as John Truby acclaimed screenwriter says, the story world isn't a coffee of life as it is, it is life as human beings. Imagine it could be It's human life, condense and tighten so that the audience can gain a better understanding of how life itself works. So obviously, that is a huge concept to digest. As filmmakers, we have to kind of take the most confusing and painful or joyful parts of life, condensed them into an hour and 1/2 and have a very, very vast understanding of how those moments work in our lives and how we're gonna portray them. And that is a lot to think about. If you aren't very skilled with writing, this is a super huge task. Even if you are Skillet writing, this is a super huge task. So to make things simple or we're gonna break down story so we can understand what this is talking about. So at its most basic and most stripped down definition ever a story is about someone trying to get something. If you that's the most simple by definition, I can give to make it as easy as I can. Or look at it this way. Person, a once X person a fell over but person A has obstacles in the way of X. How are they going to get X to translate this even further? It's ironic that I picked up a Captain America character. We're gonna talk about Captain America. Civil War. Now think you're in a land of classes. Most of my analogies are from superhero movies, because I love them, but Tony Stark or Iron Man Iron Man, I want to get all of his friends to sign this bill or the Avengers. That's what they're called to sign a bill that will let the government control the Avengers actions they because they believe that they're going to keep society safer. OK, so Steve Rogers or Captain America doesn't want to sign this because he wants to govern himself. He doesn't wanna have someone. How about kind of control over him? So in this situation, Iron Man Iron Man is person. He wants the rest of the team to sign this bill. And this this is X Man once, Rex, The obstacle in the way is Captain America. By following this structure, you're showing the audience the resiliency of your character as well as your character's traits. So, for example, your film can end with person a getting X, and you can show their journey of how they got eggs and what it took of them to get X. Or you can show it like this. Filmed it where person A didn't get X because the obstacle was just too much or some other twists happened because of the twists and the revelations that Iron Man discovered throughout the movie. He didn't get X, And that's important because you just told a story about a man so desperately trying to get something. He wants that and he doesn't in the end, and that is a tragic thing, obviously. But that's a story that is a story as well as him getting exactly what he wanted. Obviously, this is a very simplified version of a plot, but I'm trying to make it as basic as I can so we could get a good understanding. Another layout of story, another story structure minus Person A and X and Obstacles. This one is a more involved story structure, but most films use it nowadays, so this is called the three act Structure is what it looks like. It starts low and build up and makes kind of an arc almost the high and low points of your story. Visually, obviously, this is just an example so that you can understand. You don't have to make one of these unless it helps you do whatever the first act of the story. Let's talk about that build up or your introduction into everything has a beginning. And as you can see, the plot, the climax, the problems are all rising until they get to the highest point, and then they all kind of resolve themselves in some way or another. Now this is like I said, the most commonly used storage picture in Hollywood right now. So that's what we're gonna focus on. I like I love this structure. I think it's really cool. The example movie I'm gonna use for this is Harry Potter, because it's kind of the only one I could really define into three categories simply enough to get the point across. The first act is able to set up the whole rest of your story. This is where we meet your characters. This is where your plot starts, and this is very important, obviously, to your story. All of the stories, the whole is important, but the beginning is you can really mess it up in the beginning. I think that that is something we should think about but not be scared by. But just think about that. As you can see here, the first heart of Act one is beginning. Movie is Harry Potter in the Philosopher's Stone, like I said, and in the first act, we get a really strongly in. The story, opens up and introduces our characters like we said, and it sets up an important plot point as well. Harry Potter is an orphan. And that's very important to his story because he will later learn about his heritages past his parents. And that is integral to the story right up about. We see Harry get placed on a doorstep as a baby because this is setting a perfect he's an orphan. So in terms of the first act, then we have our beginning sets up. Harry is a character in our pop point. The second part of a three act structure in the first act is in the inciting incident. It helps our plot start to rise. Now the inside an incident Harry Potter occurs at a zoo when Harry realizes he can talk to snakes, and that is different and he accidentally traps his cousin in a cage with the snake. So then we move on to the third part of our first act, called Second Thoughts. Now it's not always second thought. This is always your character thinking, Oh, that was weird. It can be many different things, but basically it's kind of a turning point to represent that your character realizes something's about to change or something actually physically changes in your story. Like I said, that's up to you, but it's more or less a realization point or a change in character or some environmental thing that happens that the character couldn't control. That then starts to make the plot move onward. Harry Potter. Me Second Thoughts. The idea of second thoughts has brought in when Harry is told about his powers, meets his mentor, Hagrid, and decides to go to Hogwarts. His second thoughts here are how he realizes that he's different. The money is not, uh, a normal person. Like people he lives with, he realizes he is different, and then that leads him into in the next act. Act to know. Act two is kind of called the Confrontation Act, so ah, lot of your big fights or big battles. Big character moments occur in the second act, so the second act consists normally consists of two obstacles and ends with some sort of a rebel revelation or twist. And again doesn't. Your story doesn't have to do that. Your film doesn't have to do that. That's just what happens very frequently in our line graph. This is where the story starts to ascend. It's building up to a high point of action or the most intense part of the story in the second act of Harry Potter and Obstacle Harry faces is he needs his enemy, Draco, and the second obstacle or conflict comes when he realizes that he that one of its teachers is trying to use the philosopher's stone free. So those right there are two obstacles. As I said after two normally ends with a big climax or what we can think of it, a crisis almost is the word to use, but it doesn't always have to be chaos necessarily. Most generally it is discovery or confrontation. So Harry learns that his teacher was trying to protect him all along, and after he has a stone in his possession are confrontation begins with Harry and the professor that had evil intentions. And then finally we get to the third act, or the Resolution Act, which has is coming right off the climax of the second act. But things were starting to slow down. But if you notice the highest climax is either the end of Act two Index three, they're normally like in line or in the third act, you have your biggest climax. This is kind of the all loose ends, get tied up, sort of a thing with the denouncement, or wrap up whatever you want to say. In this case, the development is that Harry discovers that he has a protection spell over him and that Harry learns that all of his friends are safe. The philosopher's stone It's safe, and then the action to send in the story ends. Now. These story structures aren't necessary. These specific ones, per se but a somewhat discernible structure for your story is necessary because if not, you don't have a cohesive line that we can follow. And storytelling is different for everyone. But for the purpose of those class, we're trying to keep it really basic. So the best thing to focus on right now is and establishing part of conflict and a resolution and just a very basic three part structure doesn't have to be the three act structure, necessarily. But beginning in an end in the middle, that's all you need, really at that at the root that is all that unions. In a good story, there are plenty of films that create their own structure. They use flashbacks and flash forwards, and they mix up together and they have where they have different timelines that collide at some point. It depends if there's no rule about what you're supposed to do. Necessarily, there are things that all up to you. The trick to that is, though, is that you have to be good at whatever you're trying to pull off. So if you want to write a good story, you need points. They're gonna grip people, and you need to make sure your story can be followed by your audience. That is the main point that your audience can follow it, that it's interesting. Very soon we're gonna talk about characters. That's actually the next lesson. If you want to watch it, characters, how they pull your story as well. Um, everything from how camera angles can help aid your story. It's all process. You're not gonna necessarily a lot of the time. What's gonna happen, Adam experience. This is how I feel. You're going to write something and you're gonna hate it, and that's what I want to try to teach right now. Is this whole lesson of writing start as basic as you can start with a story about a girl that goes from the store gets bread and goes home. If you don't have to write anything, major, you don't have to make this giant convoluted story with all these deep, intricate plot twists to make a good story. In fact, that is a lot of that's kind of, um, steak. But a lot of people make, which is another class will be talking about later. But just remember to keep practicing and to have faith and confidence in yourself in your store writing ability, because it will only get better through time. Let me know if you have any questions about anything we talked about, and I look forward to meeting you back here next time when we talk about characters, CIA. 3. Characters: The Good and The Bad: Hey, guys, Welcome, Dr Class. I'm Haley, if you don't know. And this is Screenwriter one No. One. So this class building off of what we learned last time is about characters. And now that we have a better understanding of story, get to talk about what I think is the fun part characters are. I think it's I think it's so basically. Let me start by saying to be Frank, if your story has these flat, one dimensional characters, your audience isn't gonna enjoy it. You aren't gonna get them invested or intrigue like you want, and they'll see right through your attempt to do so. Basically, in terms of story, your characters can make or break plot. Of course, your story is about your characters, but if you don't integrate them into the plot like a like a tool to enhance your plot, you wind up with something that feels kind of forced. So the best example I can think of that involves characters that really drive its plot, which is another superhero movie is the Dark Knight. I think Batman and Joker work in conjunction in this movie to bring out certain things in each other and to make the story what it ISS. So that man, I don't have a Batman. That man represents justice and fairness and order. While the Joker represents chaos and disrespect of authority in immorality, everything that Batman is against these characters work in tandem to create a conflict. Batmen was to keep Gotham safe. Um wants to put criminals behind bars so they can learn their lesson while the Joker once to bring out fear and cynicism in the citizens of Gotham and wants to push Batman so far that he'll break his number one rule, which is to not kill anyone. So very simply put the Joker praise on Batman's weaknesses and because Batman is trying constantly to protect the people closest to him without breaking his rule that the Joker is trying to get into break. That's our story. That's our conflict right there. Obviously, every story isn't about good versus evil. There's so many movies that are wholesome and pure, and not about a battle at all that have other characters that bring out certain things and characters. So ah, breaking bad. For example, one my favorite shows ever. It's a really good example of characters who can bring out good and bad in each other. They accentuate each other's trades almost so, for example, Jessie's character highlights anything. Jessie's character in Walter Walter does good things in a way, but he only does them to for revenge, almost or to stand up for his pride. So, for example, after Walter Son gets teased for having cerebral palsy, Walter goes in and he kicks the bullies legs so they can't walk for a minute. And they have pain in their legs so they can feel what he would his son is feeling. But Walter only does this because he wants to have his pride and because a revenge for his family, while Jessie's character highlights how good he is compared to Walter. So Jesse, for example, um, he wants to hurt these other drug dealers that are forcing a kid to be in their gang because it is wrong, not because of his pride, like Walter or because of, um, any sort of revenge. It's just because it's morally wrong. Thes characters together, they show off a change in each other. So Walter starts out as this mild mannered guy who wouldn't hurt anyone to this like kingpin of drugs who doesn't care about anyone anymore. He has no empathy. Now Jesse starts out as a passive drug addict who doesn't do much, and he becomes this morally complex character and he becomes strong, and he ultimately ends up standing up for himself when before, he was lazy and didn't do anything. So in terms of a good thing that characters do to each other, Though Jesse acts as Walter's weakness, he is able to show the trade and Walter of Walter's humanity because Walter is turning into a bad person. But every time he has to save Jesse or help Jesse, he's weak to Jesse and still has good in him. So by doing this, Jesse is able to show off that Walter is not completely gone. For the most part, we think about all the characters that we've just talked about. He think about Batman and the Joker and Jesse Walter. One thing that is common and everyone is that everyone has clear intentions or motivations . Their intentions makes sense. Their motivations makes sense for their character, um, and for the story, and they're not just meaningless. So to help Claire by this even more we're gonna talk about types of characters. So the first type of character we're gonna talk about the protagonist or the main character . This is Harry Potter, Homer Simpson. Luke Skywalker, Rick Grimes, Katniss. We are following the protagonist through their story. You can have more than one protagonists. If you think your story will benefit from doing so and then and then you can pull it off. The protagonist most of the time represents one virtue, and we get to see how maybe they changed toward the end. Next's are antagonised so or the bad guy. This is the Joker. This is Voldemort, Darth Vader. Santos. Your antagonists push the protagonist for the purpose of your stories. So a good antagonised mirrors something in your protagonist or another good antagonised is the polar opposite of your protagonist. Some stories don't have an antagonised sometimes, and antagonised is your main carried during away. Maybe they have a mental illness. May be they just keep sabotaging themselves. Filmmaking is fluid, and it's up to the person making it to decide what they like, what they don't. And in some stories, the antagonised is the main focus. The due Torri antagonised, the other one is not a sidekick per se. The dude or antagonised should be treated as the second most important character in Breaking Bad. It's Jesse in Macbeth, It's Lady Macbeth in Good Will Hunting. The Duda antagonist is a mentor. Lady Macbeth is a a love interest and a deterrent antagonist. The thing that's important with the dude or antagonised is that their storyline is meaningful to the protagonist, and that is a very important key element to filmmaking. If there is nothing else you take away from taking this class, the one thing that I need you to know it's not. Every element of filmmaking works together to achieve something greater than the individual parts if you can have a really great story. But if you have bad angles and bad cinematography, people aren't gonna be interested on the adverse. You can have a really bad story. But having great actors is not going to say that everything has to work together to make it to beat, to be successful. And there's no such thing, really, as breaking rules. Just because I explain something a certain way doesn't mean you have to do it that way doesn't mean anyone has to do it that way. The breast art breaks rules and steps outside of things that it's allowed. I say the more unconventional, the better. But in this class, we're talking about basics. Like I said, the fundamentals. So we're working on making great stories, good characters and how everything works together. Thank you guys, for watching this class. If you are interested, the next class will be on common mistakes. And, um, it's a bit of a shorter lesson, but it's really important want to talk about. So I think that, um, if you want to know what to avoid when you're making your film on that, I think you should watch that one. Thank you for watching this one. Thank you for watching any of the rest of the classes you have viewed if you have. And once again, if you have any questions at all, though, anything, um, feel free to get in contact with me, And I can maybe help explain it better. Um, yeah. Thank you so much for watching. And I will see you next time. I 4. Common Mistakes and Failures: Hi, guys. Welcome to screen running one A one. I'm Hailey, and I am going to talk to you, say about common mistakes and thanks to avoid so ah lot. Okay, this one's gonna be kind of a shorter lesson, because only so much about it I can talk about. However, I think it's gonna be a really important one because I have definitely learned a lot about what I shouldn't shouldn't have done when writing screen. One thing I want to say to, um a lot of this almost all of this class can be, um, applicability to writing anything. Anything that you're going to write creatively. I think so. Take that advice and I encourage you to apply that to whatever you can. The first thing I want to say is it's tough to write it. ISS writing is not easy, and you know, the challenge of writer's block and then coming up with something after the writer's block and continuing to write about it is something that not a lot of people realize goes into writing. And so once you get through that challenge, it can be a whole another challenge. When you write this thing that you are so proud of that. You feel like you clawed your way to make and then somebody tells you that they didn't like it. You're gonna fail. Sometimes for me, it took me a very long time to write something that got someone's attention. And I've been running for a long time. So that's just something to keep in mind that you may very well luck yourself out and write something great in one draft. But for most people, that doesn't happen, and that's okay, That's learning. And that's good for you. The first mistake, though, that I want to talk about in terms of screen writing is not reading screenplays. Obviously, um, that's how we all learned to read by reading books. You learn to read the kids. Um, and if you're not doing that with screenplays, you're missing out on so much, you can find them online, by the way. They're, like, totally free. Um, it's hard for you to understand all of the detail that you don't see that goes into writing the screenplay. Another thing that I'm gonna use this playoff of my personal experience. One thing is prioritizing one part over another. So most of the time we see this with dialogue or action. We prioritize a lot of people prioritize cool dialogue over good story. You know, if you have character saying is really witty one liners and your story isn't good, people aren't going to be invested because it's just kinda cheesy at that point, you know what I mean? I, for example, prioritized the post production over writing the script that I was working on. I had to do some guerrilla filmmaking, which means it was just me doing writing, makeup, set everything. And that's a fun time to do that, honestly. But I wasn't. I wasn't even done with the script, and I was already focusing on finding sets. And who's gonna play? What part in the script wasn't even done? And that is not building yourself up for success. That is trying to take a week the easy way out by thinking about the fun stuff before you get to do what's the important part? To be completely honest, because I can't go into a set with the script, half finished and say, We'll just figure it out as we go. I, um, if you don't know, I wrote a short film with one of my best friends. It was called yellow and it waas very. It was very deep and emotional. And the thing about that was is we could definitely pull that off. It was a very complex story, but with most short films, because that is what this class is about. Um, you if you're going to submit it to a certain place, you have a maximum running time, but your phone can have so for us. I believe the runtime was only five minutes long and we managed to get it under that time. But we had this huge story that we were trying to cram in all these extra things in five minutes. And like I said, we could have done it with more time. But it is something that we look back on now and we're like, really restricted did not different. That was the number one critique we had when we were judged and adjudicated later was that there were all these things that the judges missed out on because of half short the runtime waas. We tried to criminal these extra things in So, for example, we were trying. We told the story of a brother and sister who the brother was dealing with an HIV diagnosis , and we were trying to insinuate that he got it from this boyfriend that he has a phone call with. When you don't get to hear the other side of the phone call and you don't get to know the story ends with him killing himself, and you don't get to know why kills himself when we knew we were like, Oh, it's easy because he didn't want to tell his parents he was gay, But we didn't get Teoh that didn't come across, and that was a huge plot point because we tried to do too much. We could have done it differently and still kept our goal. But we way we didn't think about it. You need to be creative in that way to kind of tailor your story if things like that arise . And I think that's a good skill of good screenplay writers, good writers or good filmmakers. Uh, so, yeah, but was a discussion about failing and mistakes, and I hope that you learn something from it Once again, If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and please join me. Next time when we talk about stylization, we're gonna look at scripts from movies like Gone Girl in Lost in Translation. We're gonna look at the actual screenplays and we're gonna talk about them. Eso Yes. Thank you so much for watching this class or any of the other classes before. And I hope you have a great day. Thanks, guys. Bye. 5. Stylization: Hi, guys. My name is Haley and welcome to my skill share class. So I'm sorry I've been gone for so long. I'm hella going on, but that's the size of point. Today we're talking about stylization in screenwriting. So this is just how this is the same as how authors, musicians and other artists have different styles. Screenwriters also have different styles, depending on who's writing and what the film it's. All of these styles are unique to individual people. The best example of this comes from the film Lost in Translation, which was written by Sofia Coppola. So this is a direct line from her screenplay. We hear the sound of a plane landing over black cut to Charlotte's room, night interior, the back of a girl in pink underwear. She leans at a big window, looking over Tokyo, melodramatic swells over the girls but in pink share underwear as she lies in the bed. And that is the opening scene. Now you notice, um, she's very to the point with her descriptions of the scene. There's not a lot of action going on, necessarily, but there could be some later, but really what she does Sophia Coppola is, she tries to just explain her vision, and she leaves a lot up into the interpretation of the director, photography, the director and the producer. But she gives exactly what she wants to be in the scene and the scene. Now if we look at another screenwriter, Gillian Flynn, who wrote the movie and the book Gone Girl, her script is a little bit more verbose. This is a line directly from the screenplay exterior. North Carthage Morning. A carved faux marble entry reading forest. Glen Asher's US into a ruined housing development. Mostly vacant houses. Ah, few for the July decorations. Hang windows, a weird bucolic air swaying grasses, stray wildlife. There's there's air, two very different screenwriters. Obviously, they both have mastered their own styles and figure out what's worked for them in the films that they produced were working with so screenwriters. It's up to us to define our style and what works for us based on what we're writing or what we're good at. And the only way to do that is to practice and, um, play around and see what you can do. That was a really short lesson, but that was this week's lesson. That was this week's lesson and thank you guys for watching it next week. We're talking about camera angles, Silas, even by