How to Generate an Idea for a Movie Screenplay?
Getting an idea for a movie screenplay is the first step in making a million dollar movie. Though, a movie may worth many millions, it is the idea that makes it worth. Getting an idea is not an easy task. It is the difficult question that lingers over the minds of producers. Even the producers who have made billion dollars in movie business, still face this problem of good idea when they dream of new project. So what is this a movie idea about? How it is different from other ideas, such as ideas for novels, stories etc,? Let us learn it.
Sources of an idea
You can get your idea from real life of other people, from your own or it can be find in mythology. You may create a fiction, or add fiction to real idea. But while doing all this, it is important to notice, that this idea should have relevancy for the people or the audience for whom you are choosing this idea. Many Hollywood movies are made of universally appealing ideas like monstrous creatures (Jurassic Park, Anaconda), or universally apprehended problems (Speed, Titanic etc,) to appeal to a universal audience. However there may be idea which is specific to a region or people, still appreciated by universal audience (Schindler's List).
Another important thing to remember is that a movie idea must have some interest for the people, an idea must have some real problem, If it is fictional like Harry Porter, still it has some human value, like Harry's problem as an orphanage. Unless an idea has something for the people, it is hard to engage people in a movie. Many people try to write screenplays on hit movies. But this is a bad practice. There are plenty of real human problems seeking answers and movies are there to show or answer those problems. You may not solve problems of human beings by movies, but at least you can provide some solution , a resolution, or at least explore that problem.
An idea must have problem of present time. Problems of refugees, environment, epidemics, economic recessions are such examples which are good for movies. Problems of relationships are working for decades and still find their audience across the world.
So now start thinking about your new idea and read more about writing a movie story.
How to Develop a Movie Story?
How a movie story is different from story of a novel, short story, news story, or any other story? This is the one aspect that distinguishes a writer from a just story writer from a movie screenplay writer. A movie story is absolutely different from other stories. It is part of the development of cinema. It uses many techniques of cinema. So let us understand that how to write a story for a movie screenplay.
A story can be one liner, a single page story or in hundred pages. But stories written for different formats are different in nature. A story for a novel is different from that of a school book and so of a movie from a TV serial. A movie story generally begins with a character, a group or a situation. Sometimes character finds himself or herself in a situation from which he or she cannot escape. Sometimes situation is such that not only main character but everyone cannot escape. Like sinking of the Titanic ship, cyclones in Twister are cases where situations pull everyone in the story. However, Rambo, Back to the Future are stories where characters find themselves in the situations from which they cannot escape.
A movie story can be better understood if one can understand the three act structure of a screenplay. So let us learn that what is the three act structure. Once you read about the three act structure, ask yourself that have you understand that how you can develop your idea into a movie story. I am sure that you will get your answer in positive. So read next section on the three act structure.
Author (Nikhil Sablania) teaching to students
How to Develop the Three Act Structure
Three Act Structure is part of almost all movies made around the world. It was base for writing for eminent play writers and it is the legacy of the literary history that remained in movie making. Though movie making has seen various technical changes, still, three act structure is something which remained there for ages. So let us understand that what this three act structure is all about.
A movie story is divided into three parts or Acts.
The First Act.
The Second Act.
And The Third Act.
Now let us learn in more details about these Acts.
The First Act: The First Act consists of the first thirty minutes of a movie story. It is written over first thirty pages in a standard screenplay format. One page represents one minute. During first ten pages you introduce your main characters and their environment. Some writers prefer to give hint of the problem in this part. In next ten pages you show regular life of those characters and main dream or main need of your main character. And in the next ten pages you put your character in the situation from which he or she cannot escape.
The Second Act: This consists of next sixty pages of your screenplay after you have written your first act. It begins with the main character evaluating the problem. The problem must not look much greater at first and the main character must decide to fight or solve this problem but then realizing that it is out of his or her reach, he or she tries to escape from the problem. But some other trivial problem and situation must be there which the main character finds it hard to escape and he or she decides to move further to solve the problem.
The Third Act: This is the last part of a screenplay and it consists of the last thirty pages. Here the main character, the protagonist or the hero decides to fight back, to solve the problem, sees problem as a matter of life and death. He or she moves further and slowly-slowly solves the problem. While doing so he or she may face a roller-costar journey. More the difficulties, more the drama, which will make the audiences satisfied, But these difficulties must have some hint in the past Acts, the first or second Acts.
Thus a movie screenplay is nothing but a journey of a character or a group of characters to solve some problem, Problem is the main idea of a movie, which is explained earlier. That is why it is called The Hero's Journey.
Author teaching to students
|Author is a teacher of screenplay writing and direction|
How to Develop Protagonist and Antagonist?
Protagonist is the main character or the main hero (may be male or female) in a movie screenplay. Whereas the antagonist is the villain or the negative character in a screenplay. Sometimes a single character may be both protagonist and antagonist. So let us learn that how to develop these two characters differently or in a single character.
Protagonist may be a normal person, a person below normal capabilities or may be someone with higher capabilities. Sometimes these higher capabilities may be gained accidentally like in Spider-man. Sometimes a charter does various things to gain special capabilities. It is better if the main character is weaker. It is easy to develop a story for a weaker character so that there will be more amazing situations in the story that how a weaker person overcomes his or her weaknesses and fights against the antagonist or solves the problems.
The anatomist, I consider, the most important character. Antagonist can be a person or a situation. Like, an earthquake can be an antagonist. Whether a person or a situation, it must be stronger. In fact, the most stronger. The main character and the other characters must look much weaker in front of it. However not all stories have antagonist. I was watching a movie where a group of kids shrink so minute in size that even an ant looks like a giant to them. There was no antagonist in that movie. The situation was such that it created problems for the characters. And that was an awesome movie. Remember, stronger an opponent, a situation, more the drama. And to find an antagonist means finding an idea. For a more appealing movie use universal problems as antagonist.
Also, there can be situations where the protagonist and antagonist can be the same person. Watch more movies to explore this concept.
How to Create Drama?
Drama is conflict. Without conflict there can be no drama. Drama is the core of every screenplay. Whether a movie be a horror or romantic, an action or supernatural, drama is part of every movie screenplay, and best movies are those which succeeds in creating a stronger drama. So let us learn that how to create strong drama in a movie screenplay.
Have you seen Jurassic Park 1? You must have watched it. I can watch it as many times as I can. Not only because I liked the movie. But also, because as a screenplay writer, I can see superb work of the screenplay writer behind the movie. Though there are lot of techniques in this movie, and I am not criticizing techniques, they are important for making interesting movies, but what I like most, is the screenplay of this movies. The screenplay of Jurassic Park has the power to create an impact of oral story telling, when you tell a story to a child. The emotions a child goes through tells the story teller that how impactful is the story. The innocent child believes in the story and goes through the various emotions and fantasies.
So what is special in the screenplay of Jurassic Park and how we can learn creating drama with this movie? I want to give you an exercise. This is the easiest and most enjoyable way of learning to create drama in a movie screenplay. In fact, this will help you learn best of the work. Watch Jurassic Park. Enjoy it. Or you may have already seen it. But watch it again and enjoy it.Then think of the scenes where you got thrilled. Watch it again, and observe your own emotions that where you find conflict in your thoughts. You will find that this movie has lot of conflict (or dramatic) situations. Thus, it has lot of drama. The way story moves from shot to shot is your screenplay. See how story moves in this movie. And you will learn that how strong is the drama or the conflict in a movie screenplay.
It is the craft of conflict that keeps your audience engaged in the movie. If you have no conflict in your screenplay, then there is no drama and you will loose your audience.
Conflict is a paradox situation. A man preparing to become a pianist looses his hands in an accident is a conflict. He uses robotic arms, and after years of practice he faces nervous breakdown due to electric shock by the same robotic arms is a conflict. This example I have given is to just show you that what is a conflict. When you watch Jurassic Park, you will find that every subsequent situation has a reason for conflict due to preceding events. So watch it and learn more about movie conflict. And also learn shot-to-to taking of this movie so that you can also learn the grammar of filmmaking, which will help you in writing your screenplay.
How to add additional characters in a screenplay?
Additional characters are soul of the movie. While the main character and antagonist are source of the main theme of a movie, it is the additional or supporting characters that drives the story. They help in telling story.They provide another dimension to storytelling. So let us learn that how to develop good supporting or additional characters.
Buddy character: A protagonist can have a buddy or a friend. This may be his friend or his girlfriend. The main reason of buddy character is to tell a part of the story which cannot be told by main character.
Love: Protagonist may or may not have love in his or her life. But it is better to keep such character. Romantic movies have two characters as main characters. Human evolution cannot take place without opposite genders and the love among them. So it is better to keep such character.
Teacher or Shaasta: In Buddhist literature the Buddha is called as Shaasta, which means a teacher. Can life exist without so many people in our lives who teach us so many things? Our grand parents, parents, teachers and even friends and spouse teach us numerous things. So many people help us in achieving our goals, Thus it is better to have such guide for the protagonist.
You can have a comic character,child character and many more. But keep lesser characters. Introduce these characters in the first act of the screenplay. For example, introducing the teacher or path guider in the third act will create no impact. Better if they are introduced in first ten to fifteen minutes.
How to Promote a Screenplay to Producers?
Writing a screenplay is not enough. Unless a screenplay is not made into a movie it remains on paper. It is the most important aspect of screenplay writing. Making relations with producers, director and actors is one step that can help in promoting screenplay. So let us learn that how a screenplay can be promoted.
Things no to do:
I am telling you things not to do first so that it can save your precious time, resources and emotions. Keep these Don'ts in your mind.
Don't send screenplay by emails. Because people ask for screenplays and they don't have time to read. On the other hand, the writer expecting a positive call from the producer, after getting nothing in return. he or she may looses his or her enthusiasm to work.
Don't show to production crews. People in production have no capacity to make screenplays into movies. However they may have good relations which you can use in other ways, like getting contacts of relevant people.
Don't tell to casual friends. Tell about your screenplay to only such friends who really care for your passion and who are very close to you.
Don't approach as a screenplay writer. Better you have some other talent like acting, direction or camera etc. Because it will help you in developing a good reputation with important people, who will trust your work.
Make good relations with actors, directors and producers.
Approach independent film directors.
Give your screenplay for free initially. Don't expect money.
Spend more time in developing relations than pitching screenplays.
Don't make it your profession until you get good bank balance through it.
Keep your feet in more than one professions.