How to write a script for a movie - low budget filmmaking Ep 2

How to write a script for a movie - low budget filmmaking Ep 2

This is the second article about "how to make a movie on low budget" in the first one I talked about how to come up with a good idea for your movie and how to get inspired, you may check it out HERE
This article would be about the Story and the Script. You may watch the tutorial on the youtube video below

In the first article we talked about working backwards, meaning knowing what you have before coming up with an idea.. Now in this phase, before the story and the script, you must know who are the people that are going to be your actors, once you know who are you going to use as actors in your movie you should write their characters as close as possible to their personalities, remember, they are not professional actors, so don't give them overly charged emotional roles to play.. because they will probably not give you a great performance. Instead, focus and work on what they already have, for example if you have a funny cousin, you can give the character that they're going to play a funny side, maybe write few jokes or couple sarcastic lines, if your friend looks good in suits you can give them a "serious" role that fits and focus on their appearance.. and so on. work on what your people have before writing the story or the script.

The story is simply what happens to who?
generally your story will have 3 stages:

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • Ending

The beginning is when you introduce the characters and places and you give us general informations for example: "Tony is a nice guy living a peaceful life, he goes to work everyday, has a cat and likes to watch stports..."
Then in the middle you will tell us what the problem is, for exemple: "One day on his way to work, tony got stuck in the middle of a bank robbery.. and because of that he had to make a choice either to fight or to surrender, he chose to fight and face the bad guys..."
you continue revealing more informations about the problem and how complicated it is or it gets, and what the character or characters are doing about it
At the end of course you'll tell us what the character or characters did to solve the problem, and how everything ends

This is the general structure of the story, it doesn't mean that it will go in that exact order or in a linear timeline or that the problem will be solved and everyone lives happily ever after.

Your character must go through a major change during the story, the events that happen to them changed something about them at the end, or helped them grow.

Now that your story is ready, you should break it down into scenes, take all your time thinking about it, use drafts, it might be frustrating sometimes to get what's on your mind into words on paper. Every directer has their own way to break the story into scenes, you can invent your own and get inspired by others..

You do not have to properly format your script. Since you are just a beginner and you only have a small crew then you can write your script however you want, as long as it is understandable to your crew.. But it is better to have few key elements in your script:

  • Location: where  is this scene happening? (livingroom, kitchen, parc, street...)
  • Time: when is the scene happening? (day or night)
  • Characters names
  • Dialogue (everyones lines and actions)
A Professional script
Every properly formatted script must have 5 key elements:

1- The slug line: aka scene heading
That's kind of an introduction of the scene, it starts by where is it happening INT (interior) or EXT (exterior) followed by the location, in the case Interrogation room, police headquarter, and  finally when is it happening mostly it's either Day or Night, notice that it's always written in caps.
2- Action: 
It is usually a brief description of the scene and introduction of characters you don't have to go into details, be as brief as possible, you are just giving a general vibe of the scene, it is always in the present tense; and if you are introducing a new person who has not been in the previous scenes you write their name in caps, same things for special things you want to bring attention to or certain sound effects like explosions.
3- Character name: 
Always in the center, capitalized, add (O.S) "Stands for Off Screen" if the character if off screen while speaking but still present in the scene, or (V.O) "Stands for Voice Over" if they are not in the scene and doing a voice over.
4- The dialogue:
Simply the line that the character will say, it is usually centered, if the character is doing something while speaking you may add it in parentheticals before their lines
5- Parentheticals:
Actions that the actors are doing while saying the line. Ex: scratching head, cleaning a glass... They are placed right before the characters line.

For the margins, you don't have to worry too much about them, there are softwares that can help you in that matter like:
If you want to familiarize yourself with all these terms and rules I suggest that you read existing scripts, it will help you a lot in understanding what everything stands for and how to do everything in a proper professional way. here are some websites that have scripts you can read for free:
Final important thing is that your script or screenplay should be written in 12 point courier font, that's the standard way they do it in the film industry.
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