The first thing I am going to tell you is that if you want to be a screenwriter is that you must write; uhm, screenplays. Going to screenwriting expos, seminars, pitchfests, listening to Charles Martell, Syd Field, or Robert McKee pontificate on character or structure are not writing screenplays. Doing all those things is a great way to spend time and money, but those things are not writing. And, that includes reading this column.
Okay, first let me tell you what screenwriting is not. It is not an artistic venture. You are not creating art. Ultimately, there may be “art” in the finished film but that is not your job. Screenwriting is not a movie. While a produced movie is the outcome of a screenplay, your job is to write a script that can be filmed. The false dichotomy of the previous statement is that if it is not on the page, it will not be on the finished product. Deal with it.
The writing of screenwriting is not an end in itself. The end is a viable, saleable product, known as a screenplay, that can be effectively pitched and sold. If the product cannot be sold, then it should be of a quality to be able to be used as a writing sample whereby you can sell something else. If you think you are creating something for the ages, read the previous paragraph.
Then, what is screenwriting you ask? Shush. I will tell you. Screenwriting is a process. Wait. Let me write that again. Screenwriting are processes. As I wrote above, there are several different ways to “skin this cat.” As we walk along this path, I am going to mention the most prominent of the “processors;” Robert McKee, Michael Hauge, Pilar Allesandra, Syd Field, and Heather Hale. Note that this is just a handful of folks that write about, lecture about, and talk endlessly about the processes of screenwriting.
My intent is to cover screenwriting basics followed by discussions of the more esoteric problems. Initially, we will cover the scene, the three act structure, character arc, the hero’s journey, idea development and so forth. As this discussion continues, I hope to be able to cover re-writing, raising the stakes, mastery of new situations, and on and on.
Why are you reading this? Go write!
John still practices screenwriting in King County, WA along with a small rat dog, a mortgage, and a great view of the valley.