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Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts

Basic screenplay writing excerpted from HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL)

Part III

For Better or for Worse

Communicating effectively requires learning and applying the basic principles of language, grammar, rhetoric, technique, and general rules that govern each genre and medium. There are three levels of such principles: general principles (which apply to most communications), genre specific principles, and media specific principles.

There are also several steps involved in producing powerful communications, including movies and television programs. Here is a brief outline of the most important foundational steps in preparing your communication. Each genre and medium will modify this outline by adding or subtracting steps or substeps. However, this outline is your basic guide to the steps required to communicate effectively.

 

12 Basic Foundational Steps to Communicating Effectively:

  1. In light of who you are, why you want to communicate and well thought out research and ascertainment, make a brief note of what you want to say, your idea, conviction, or your key thought. This idea, thought, or statement must be something that you believe and want to communicate through a movie or television program.
  2. Ask and answer the appropriate ascertainment questions to target your audience, determine your genre and medium, and plan the execution of your communication.
  3. Rephrase your idea or key thought into an active premise that you can prove in your communication, taking into consideration your answers to the pertinent ascertainment questions.
  4. Identify the elements needed to prove your premise, most of which are inherent within your premise. In drama, these elements are your characters, conflict, climax, and resolution.
  5. Structure these elements taking into consideration your audience, genre, medium of choice and your answers to the ascertainment questions which are appropriate for your communication.
  6. Write out, plan, or script your communication, punctuating it with technical, dramatic, or literary effects to capture and retain audience interest.
  7. Prepare, storyboard, and/or rehearse your communication.
  8. Produce, polish, or otherwise finish your communication.
  9. Edit, review and revise your communication.
  10. Deliver, distribute or broadcast your communication.
  11. Survey your audience to find out how effective your communication was and how it can be improved.
  12. Review and revise your communication to improve it if possible.

Half of this process is preparation. Many people fail to prepare or dash off a script and believe that they will perfect it when the right person buys it. However, you never have a second chance to make a first impression, so you need to perfect your script right from the beginning, even if you need to change it later.

Remember that the average movie takes nine years from start to finish. The Passion of the Christ took ten years. Evita took twenty–three years. Batman took seventeen years.

There are several reasons why it takes so long. First, there are 300,000 scripts submitted every year to the Writers Guild of America and many more are written that are never submitted, aside from the flood of novels every year, but less than three hundred movies open in theaters every year. Thus, most scripts never make it into production. Second, Hollywood movies cost over $104 million to produce and distribute in 2010, and it takes a long, long time to get all the elements together so that some distributor or investor will want to put up this kind of money. Third, most people take years to get the script right. The Los Angeles Times interviewed a woman who was trying for twenty years to sell her script. She said that in all those years she had not had the time to take a scriptwriting course or read a book on scriptwriting. The Los Angeles Times and all of us should be perplexed: What was she doing all that time that she could not take a moment to learn her chosen craft?

To be continued…

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About Ted Baehr

Ted Baehr is the Chairman of The Christian Film & Television Commission™ and Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE(r) (www.movieguide.org), a family guide to entertainment. An award-winning media authority, he is used by God to redeem the mass media and teach families to be media-wise. His books include How To Succeed In Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul) and The Culture-Wise Family, among many others.

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