First Rules On Screen Writing

A training coach


Writing a screenplay can sound frightening to some. There are rules, structure, formatting, and many more elements that make film students scared to their bones. The good news is that writing a screenplay is not as hard as it sounds. In this blog, I’m going to give you tips and insights into writing a great script that will be sell. 


What does it take to become a screenwriter?

The truth is that there are no sure ways to become a screenwriter. It’s a challenging and competitive road to take. It’s not going to be hard just because of the industry. In most cases, you will have to work as a freelancer, which is not an easy life in any industry. If you think you are on an easy path to fame and fortune in Hollywood, you are going to be surprised.

Another thing I must tell you is that there are wrong reasons to become a writer. If you dream about writing because:

  • You want money
  • You want to change the words with your mind
  • You think it’s a good step in your way to becoming a novel writer

These are all terrible reasons to become a writer! You will fail if these are the only reasons you want to start writing for movies

There is another skill besides writing you will have to develop – the ability to be criticized and judged a lot. But if you’ll succeed, you’ll get to tell your story and bring your point of view of this work to your audience, and that’s the greatest gift anyone can ever ask (Especially writers). 

Read the articles in this script writing course to learn the essential craft of becoming a creative and professional screenwriter. If you want to deepen your knowledge, many paid classes are recommended. But for now, I recommend starting with the free lessons in this course.


How much do scriptwriters get paid?

Now, as I said before, you shouldn’t do this for the money. But I’ll be a fool to act as you don’t think about it at all. We all want to make a living, so we need to talk about money. The first thing you need to know is that you won’t get paid if you don’t write anything. Unlike any other job, you need to show something to get paid, which means you might need to do a little writing without getting paid at first. 

So you may have heard about Shane Black, writer of  The Last Boy Scout, who got nearly $2 million for the script or Joe Eszterhas that got $4 million for Basic Instinct. But these are the 1 percent. They are the ones that control the market and ask for whatever price they want. 

They are also the screenwriters that sometimes write hits and sometimes write flops. But they keep getting hired. They will usually get around five to six-figure checks. They’re working writers, and they are working all the time. They’re either pitching, writing for different projects at the same time, and always looking for ways to make more connections. 

There is the rest which are screenwriters that are not very known, but they get jobs. They fight for each stage, they find themselves doing more pitching than writing and the get more writing assignments than real movie or TV writings. They usually make around afive-figure deals. They mange to make the bills but they don’t have a permanent income, that can make them feel safe. What you need to remember is that even the biggest writers were broke at first. How much you’ll make is really depends on how much you are going to put out.

How to start a career in scriptwriting?

The real truth about writing is that writing a screenplay isn’t a career. It’s a way of life. You can make a  great living from writing, but you will have to keep doing it even if you won’t make a living from it. It something that defines you, so you won’t have a choice, but to keep on going. Screenwriting is not an easy career. Personaly, I would recommend you to go into a career in business or computing, but if you feel you have to become a writer, you need to go all the way through – without stopping. You don’t choose to be a screenwriter, screenwriting is choosing you. If you love writing, you need to live it, breathe it, read everything you can about it and just don’t do anything else. This is your only way to really succeed.

oh! and buy a comfortable chair.

Now, here is something you probably won’t hear in film school:

The problem with learning scriptwriting is that when you are trying to make something artistic, too many rules can back you down. The practices I will discuss here should be taken seriously only when you are working on the second or third draft of the script. The process of first draft writing should be flowing and fun. For a start, tell your story. If you overthink about the rules, when you write the first draft, you may get a script that has “correct grammar,” but boring.

I could be just a writer very easily. I am not a writer. I am a screenwriter, which is half a filmmaker. But it is not an art form because screenplays are not works of art. They are invitations to others to collaborate on a work of art.

The first steps of becoming a writer

There are two things you can start doing right now: 

  1. Write – The first scriptwriting lesson I can give you now is to write at every opportunity you get. If it’s possible to find a job that has something to do with writing, it can be excellent as well, but it will be better if you write for yourself. Like everything else in life – practice makes perfect. Write every day and you’ll notice how good you are getting at it. 
  2. Read a lot – If you want to start writing, you need to start reading and not just scripts – read books and read the hard ones too. Reading will improve your vocabulary and it will also give you ideas

The articles in this course and the other courses in the online film school blog this are going to focus on finding your unique inner voice and learning how to let it out initially.


The Screenwriter Job Description

creative work

Creativity and originality in script writing

Scriptwriting is all about being original and creative. Now I’m not talking about re-inventing the wheel here. Take Pulp Fiction or Memento. For example, They both tell a pretty simple story- Memento is an ex-insurance investigator who tries to find his wife’s murderer, and Pulp fiction is about two hitmen trying to get a stolen bag back to their boss. In both cases, the stories are not that original, but the way the stories are told- the structure of those films, the characters, and the dialogs are unique.

As a beginner screenwriter, though, it is crucial to be original and stand out. I will write about inspiration and creativity later on in the blog, but the essential thing to understand is that you have to be affected by life and not TV or the other movies you’ve seen. You can not know where inspiration will come, so you should be ready all the time. It will also help if you surround yourself with creative people, but, on the other hand, don’t be affected by them too. Allow yourself to be alone from time to time and figure out what to say to the world.

Read about finding your own voice

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?'  But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not'?"

Flexibility with the script writing

Scriptwriting is not an art that stands on its own. A massive group of people produces a film and lots of money is invested. You will be required to be flexible and compromise with your story. You don’t need to sell your soul to the devil, and you need to know how to balance with what the producers want and what you want. I recommend reading the Make low budget film article to understand what the producer looks at in the script when he plans the budget. Sometimes you will find yourself changing your first idea to a totally different one.

Commitment to your script 

The main thing to remember in script writing is – Do not give up no matter what! When You start working on your first script, it will be something like this – you sit in front of the blank page in a notebook or on a computer and stare at it. It could be an hour, two hours, or a full day. You do it every day. Never Give Up. Take a notebook everywhere you write down scenes in every spare moment you got. Some apps allow you to work on your script anytime and anywhere. 

There are different ways of writing – One is starting with just writing the scenes for the idea of the movie without thinking about the script. Other writers like to start with a general outline; others will try to limit themselves with time, for example, writing the first draft in two weeks. You need to practice different tactics and see what works best for you. The best way (again, not for everyone) is writing at the same hours- that will force you to sit and write even if you do not feel like it.

After you finish writing the first draft of the script, you will still be required to do many rewrites. Keep doing that until you have something that you, the director, and the producer are happy with.

You also need to build good writing habits that work for you. If you can’t write ten pages a day, write 4. Don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t judge yourself, especially at the beginning. The most important thing to do when you start to write a script is to write. don’t think if it’s good enough or not- at the first stage, simply write

Courage to be in the business of scriptwriting

If you believe you can make a living, only from your brain, either you crazy, or you have great courage. This scriptwriting business is a bit tough to do in the evenings after work (although that is not impossible). If you’re committed to the script, you’ll have to sit on it for days, and that means no day job. It is essential to ask yourself, are you able to do it. You will also need to be able to do these things:

  • Know how to speakIt’s sucks, but you will need to know how to sell yourself and your script. There is a thing called Pitch – the scriptwriter has something like a minute and a half to present his story to producers and to convince them that he is the person to tell this story. We will deal with this issue later on in the scriptwriting section of the blog, although I think it’s the least important thing. At least not as important as knowing to write.
  • Knowing how to look – To be good writers, you should turn off your autopilot and start to be present. Start paying attention to what is happening around you and start asking questions about what is happening. Stop hanging out with headphones in your ears and listen to the conversation around you and ask questions about what you see- what this guy story? Why does this mother yell at her children in the mall? What’s her problem? Take a small notebook and write anything interesting you see, even if at the moment it does not look like something suitable for the film.
  • Be able to deal with criticism – Perhaps the hardest part of the profession of script writing is the criticism. You worked on the scene all night. Suddenly there was a breakthrough, you ask a friend to read it, and he doesn’t understand what you wrote. The trick is to know who to listen to and how. If a friend did not like the script, you do not have to run out immediately and change everything. Try to figure out what he did not like and, most importantly, show the script to more people and see whether they think the same way. Be open-minded to new ideas when you get criticism on your writing, and don’t be stubborn, but don’t change the script just to fit others’ opinions.

And most important: Passion for writing

If you do not have a strong need for writing, you might want to give up the idea. This scriptwriting business is a complicated process, which can cost many frustrations and anger. If you do not need to do this, you should never start. Writing is something that burns inside of you, and you have to let it out. Most professional screenwriters say that, even when they are not working on a screenplay, they are writing every day. They just must. The most crucial thing in writing the screenplay for a movie is to love movies. Writing a screenplay is a process completely different from writing a novel. You have to love the field of film and to know how to express yourself adequately in this medium. Watch as many movies and read many scripts, to learn the tricks screenwriters made there. So now you see that you have everything you need, you can go in and start learning how you can write the script of your life.


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