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How to start writing a movie script
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to start writing a movie script

As I’m just about to start writing on a new feature script I thought that I should share my current idea about how to start writing a movie script.

The first thing I do when I have an idea is to write the idea down, fast and simple and informal. This may sound trivial, but ideas tend to escape easily, so catch them on paper while you have the chance.

Then I start working on a mind map. (Here is my template for this.) I used to work with a big beat sheet on paper, but it became unpractical. I found an easy to use mind mapping program which made things easier. This of course presumes that I have access to a computer when I want to brainstorm.

There are several advantages with using a digital mind map. One is that it is very easy to work on structure and character on the same time. I have one branch for characters and one for structure, and it is just to move around in the same space. Another advantage is that it is easy to move ideas for scenes around, add and delete without making a mess, as it will be on paper. One disadvantage is that a lengthy note becomes a very long line instead of a post-it-note-like thing on the mind map. Sometimes I wish for a little more freedom in that department.

I really work a lot with structure and characters before I start writing. For me, it is much easier to write my movie script if I have done my homework and planned the story properly. There is however no ultimate truth about how to do things when it comes to writing, so if other ways work better for you, you should do it so.

When I plan the structure of the movie I think very much in contrasts. First scene versus the last scene; highest peak of the movie where the main character is happy versus the lowest where the same character is at the very bottom; main character versus secondary characters. Emotions and treats and conflicts are enhanced by the right surroundings. It also helps me find the span where the characters will operate and develop.

Historically I’ve not been thinking much about how a character talks but that is something I’ve added to my process nowadays. It is very devastating to finally sit down to write the actual movie script and get stuck on the first line of dialog because I have now idea how the character sounds.

Then, at last, I’m ready to start Celtx and begin to write.

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