Screenwriting : Advice about how to get started by Tony Jones

Tony Jones

Advice about how to get started

I want to work on a script about an historical event. How can I get started? I'm very new here.

Kevin Ryan

Hi Tony, Welcome to S32 Well have you researched the historical event? And do you know where you're story is starting and ending? It'll also sound like a lazy answer but to get started have "FADE IN:" at the top of your script and get writing. You could look at scripts to check the formatting like on this site. And you can use Celtx or Writers Duet which are free scriptwriting software I quite like.

Christopher Chance

Nip down to the bookstore and buy "SAVE THE CAT," by Blake Snyder. That'll do for starters.

Trey Wickwire

Start with the characters. List them all and write a paragraph about each one. Then separate the main from the supporting characters and go more in depth on the main characters. Once you feel you know the characters well you are ready to start. As for books I would add The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier to the list. If you don't have Final Draft and can't afford to get it now then download the free version of Celtx.

Dave McCrea

Okay this will get you started:
1. make sure there's never been a movie about the event already. IF there has been one done, it's not necessarily a deal breaker, but you should focus on a side that has not been explored.
2. ask yourself why would this event make a good movie? it should involve conflict - such as a battle between two sides or at least a personal struggle such as a person overcoming a personal obstacle like The King's Speech
3. also what were the repercussions of this event? What was the world like prior to the event? If things weren't significantly changed by the event, probably not a big enough idea for a movie
4. Research the event if you haven't done so already. Read the entire Wikipedia entry at least.
5. Think about who the main character would be in this telling of the event or narrow it down to a few choices - note that it might be an ordinary person rather than one of the key figures... There might be several "main" characters but one should be the most important. A key to finding the most important would be to find the person who is most changed by this event. For example let's say you're doing a movie about the death of Lady Diana, the main character could be the Queen, Prince Charles, Dodi Fayed, the paparazzi on the motorcycle who was following her, or the cop who investigates it. Out of these, I'd like to see the paparazzi's story
6. Make a list of potentially very good scenes that might happen in your vision of the movie.
7. Now figure out the structure. Probably the event will happen in the 3rd act or maybe right in the middle.

Tony Jones

I want to write a screenplay about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his famous Antarctic voyage, or the sinking of the whale ship the Essex, the real story, not the Moby Dick story.

Trey Wickwire

Ron Howard is already doing the story of the Essex. Sorry.

Mary Winborn

There is such a thing as 2 movies made about same subject....would be hard/almost impossible to compete with Ron Howard. In this case, would Ron ever be open to someone else with a fresh set of eyes, viewpoint on same subject ? It is possible for one writer to miss an important nuance on a subject.

Tony Jones

I was going to say the same thing Lisa. Maybe if I called him Opie, he'd be open to my opinion. Next idea: Sir Ernest Shackleton and the incredible story of the Endurance, or maybe the 1926 St. Louis Cardinals.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

@ Dan -- very astute you are (all the time)!!!

Richard Toscan

What Dan Guardino says. Get started by writing a number of scripts based on your own stories. Then once you've sold one of those original screenplays, hustle your historical piece on the producer who bought it, though best to wait until that script gets made and does well at the box office.

Mary Winborn

My extended question is : does anyone know Ron Howard, or anyone who does know him, and can we just assume for him how he is going to behave when approached?

Dave McCrea

You can't copyright a historical event, what do you mean Dan?

William Martell

I've had some meetings with Imagine on some of my scripts in the past, you can easily get to them. But they want what they don't already have. There are a couple of Shackleton scripts bouncing around... my friend John Hill sold one about a decade ago. There have been a couple made (also about a decade ago). The trick is to find the event that hasn't been made yet.

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