BLOG: Writing for the Silver Screen

May 29, 2014 - 15:49
Author Name: 
UNLV Ed Outreach

Beginning. Middle. End.

It’s that simple.

Now go write.

But it isn’t that simple. How do you get your hero from point A to point B? Where do you add romance, danger, intrigue, action to make the story interesting? What is a MacGuffin?

Whether you know it or not, screenplays are very formulaic. There is always the basic question-- what does our main character want, and why can’t he or she get it? When breaking down scripts you’ll find that just about every one of them starts the hero on his or her journey between pages fifteen and twenty. There will be a midpoint where the hero finds an escalation of commitment. A launch into the third act marks a point where our hero cannot turn back. And of course a resolution followed by a denouement. Again, simple, right? Not really.

As an example, take the classic film Jaws. What does Chief Brody want and why can’t he get it? Answer: he wants to protect the beach, but there is a shark threatening the safety of anyone who enters the water. We are launched into the commitment phase with the death of Alex Kitner, the little boy on the raft. In reaction, Brody raises the stakes and offers a reward for the capture of the shark. Sadly, the wrong shark is caught and killed. The next shark attack involves his son. The chief develops a new plan, and hires a boat to go out and hunt the shark. The shark attacks, kills the captain and disables the boat. Brody is all alone with little hope of success. There is literally no turning back. In desperation, he shoots a rifle at a scuba tank inside the shark's mouth. Voila! Resolution as the beast is killed and the beach is now safe. Denouement is Brody swimming back to shore in safe waters. Fortunately as you watch the film, you never think of these necessary plot points that move the story forward. That's the goal of great screenwriting: entertain the viewer in a world you create for them.

But even if you write the world’s greatest story, how do you get anyone to read it? Do you hide out in a bathroom stall in Hollywood hoping to slip it under when a big wig uses the restroom? Do you blindly mail hundreds of copies of your script to film producers? Or do you self produce your script and become the next Kevin Smith?

Award-winning writer John Hill offers a class that answers many of these questions and more. Specifically, he’ll cover format, dialogue, characters, and theme with special training on how to plot. Most importantly, he’ll cover both the independent film world as well as the Hollywood studio system. Click the link for more details -

If screenwriting isn’t necessarily your thing, but you still want to tell your story, check out our other writing classes