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Spark 2018

FAQ For First-Time Screenwriters

What makes Screenwriting so different from other forms of writing?

Screenwriting is the art of describing in words the unfolding plot of a film before it is made. Even though script publications have become more popular in our pop culture, they originally don't stand on their own, but rather are one (arguably of the most important) step in the process of making a film. It must describe the actions which lead from one scene to another, including dialogues, ambience and settings. In order to fulfil this specific mission screenplay have a writing style and format that are very recognisable from other forms of writing. As a rule of thumb, one script page should amount to one minute of screen time. 

Why is it so important to follow formatting rules?

Formatting rules have been widely established as an industry standard, so filmmakers and other key holders can refer to the same system, and understand scripts as a specific language to which they've become fluent in.

Despites this format specificity, is it possible to get started with no training?

Of course! Those rules aren't hard to wrap your head around, although they do have to be applied. Simply follow the layout provided here as an example, or look for script writing softwares. There is no shortage of resources online whether it be about layouts, narrative structure, character development, pitching, etc.

What are the most common mistakes that an inexperienced screenwriter makes?

Overdescribing: You do not want to direct the film on paper. Your writing must be thorough enough to describe all of the events which form the story of the film, but must leave room for the director to make their artistic choices. Remember the one-minute per page rule of thumb if you're unsure.

Getting too attached to your script: Unless you are planning to direct your script (which is totally a possibility), you have to be willing to let it go. Whoever is going to produce and direct the film will need to have complete creative ownership of the story to make the best possible film out of it. You may negotiate some degree of involvement in the script development process, but keep in mind that once you give someone the right to produce the script, they can make pretty much any changes.

Not respecting Industry formatting standard: No one will go further than page 1 if you don't make this effort. It can be done easily using free script writing software such as CeltX or WriterDuet.

What qualities producers and investors really look for in a script?

Aside from the obvious (a good story), producers and investors will look for a script which is both marketable and financially feasible. In a business point of view, they will try to minimise risks. This being said, what will push your script of top of the pile definitely IS how great your story is!

I'm not a film-maker. How do I get my script produced?

There is no way around doing some networking here. In Darwin, the NT Filmmakers Network is a great place to start. You will get better chances if you start practising your pitching skills too. Come along to our first Spark workshop to learn more about the development phase, meet filmmakers, and pitch your script!