by Denise Chelini, Sacramento State Film major
A screenplay is something everyone has under their belt, even if it’s not on paper yet. Heck, I wrote one once – but it was terrible.
Not to worry, you won’t be following my lead but that of author and producer Syd Field.
In his book, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, Field goes over some of the greater key points such as setting up your narrative and the screenplay format. It’s not a cookie-cutter how-to, but more of an encouraging overview of the craft.
First thing is first: you must know how to format your screenplay.
Well, not really.
There’s software for that. Final Draft is the industry’s trusted brand, but for the starving student there’s Celtx (free!) The most basic things you need to know about formatting a screenplay is: every page equals about a minute of screen time, courier with 12-point font, exposition is full and dialogue is indented centered. To get a better idea of the format, I suggest reading a full script in order to observe layout canon. A copy of Celtx will come with a full script as a good example and reference to writing your own screenplay. Mine came with Wizard of Oz.
Syd Field follows the 3-act, full circle model of screenwriting. That means set-up, confrontation and resolution. Another more common map of narrative you may have seen is the “dramatic structure”, as follows: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Writing it linearly isn’t necessary since Field acknowledges that the best way to know how to begin your film is to know how it ends.
With the basic structure of a story in mind, you’re free to write about whatever may inspires you most. But if you need a little help with character development and so forth, you may want to check out any of Syd Field’s other books as listed in the “resources” section.