How to Write Your First Screenplay


Sample Screenplay Page

Got an idea for a blockbuster movie rattling around in your head? Ever told yourself you’d sit down, write that screenplay and send it off to Hollywood? Although it’s not as simple as it sounds, it’s for sure they don’t give out any Oscars for “good intentions!” Here are some tips to help you get started writing your first screenplay.

Step 1:

Unless you’re writing for a very avant-garde audience, all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Since movies generally last about two hours, you should think in terms of your beginning (introduction) lasting about 30 minutes, your middle (development) lasting about 60 minutes, and your end (conclusion) lasting about 30 minutes.

Step 2:

As a rule of thumb, one written page of script is equal to about one minute of action on the screen. Your finished screenplay should be more than 90 pages and less than 120 pages in length.

Step 3:

Screenplays must follow an industry standard format. Fortunately, formatting software is available. Some of it is even free. The beauty of this software is, when you edit or rewrite, it will automatically re-format for you. Check out the Internet for more information on screenplay software.

Step 4:

One method for getting started is with note cards. As you visualize each scene, jot down as much information as you need to remember it. You can arrange and re-arrange the order of scenes in this way.

Step 5:

The moment you create something you have an automatic copyright which is called the statutory copyright. You shouldn’t worry too much about someone stealing your ideas. However, once you have completed your first draft you should register your screenplay at the very least. Check out the Internet for more information on screenplay copyright and registration.

Step 6:

It’s called a movie for a reason. Fill your screenplay with action words and only as much explanation as needed to paint a scene in the director’s mind. Less is more.

Step 7:

Listen to the way people talk. Often, a conversation does not follow a straight path. Try to mimic this in your dialogue while still getting the story told. Again, less is more.

Tips and warnings:
You can read examples of famous and not-so-famous scripts on the Internet for free. Check out free movie scripts.

Once your masterpiece is completed you may want to let family and friends read it. Unless you’re related to a famous Hollywood executive, take what they say with a dose of salt. And if you do know a famous Hollywood exec, why are you reading this?

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