Screenwriters Friend
How to write a Movie Script

This page is new and currently under construction, please return another day! :)

This page is part of A Rough Guide for Screenwriters, so if you have jumped onto this page from Google, you may want to check out my Rough Guide to Screenwriting first (which will lead you back here at the appropriate point). The Guide goes into all the technical aspects and considerations needed when writing a screenplay and what to do when it's completed. This page is focused on the actual writing and getting your idea developed and written down.


This section is more for the total beginner. There are plenty of great screenwriting books and other websites providing advice, so this is just a brief summary of useful hints and suggestions. It is always best to get a rounded picture and my method of writing may not suit you, so it is always good to read several books or sites to find what method suits you best, but don't go overboard - at some point you just have to get stuck in and start your screenplay. You will learn more from watching movies and studying their scripts, than you can learn in books. Sites like Trigger Street and Zoetrope give you the opportunity to read and evaluate other people's scripts - this is invaluable experience. Drew's Script-o-rama is great for existing movie scripts of your favourite films. Jim Vines offers some great advice on his The Working Screenwriter site. A must read page is Fatal Flaws. Read that before you start.

You can also look at the HOLLYWOOD READERS' CHECKLIST to see what is required of your screenplay by the professional Reader in Hollywood.

If you have a brilliant idea but cant seem to get it onto paper they way you want it there are several things to help you:

• Write about what you know, the golden rule.

• Do your research, your audience will appreciate that.

• Take special care on your beginning and end.

• Watch your favourite films again. Jot down notes, write down exactly what you see and hear. Spielberg and Hitchcock are great to study as they are expert storytellers who know how to really play an audience.

• Read/buy the screenplays to some of your favourite films and study them, what is it you like so much in the style of writing. How is a story is built up? what causes tension, emotions, atmospheres & moods?

• Don't overdo the swearing, use only when necessary, it will just be cut and restrict your audience capacity. The largest audience share is certificate 15 not 18.

• You have got to get your audience involved make them feel for your characters. There has to be characters you love and hate. Define them well, get to know them. These people are telling your story!

• Don't write to a budget. Write what you want - unless you are making it yourself! As this restricts creativity

• Don't be too wordy. Less is more in film. Also don't concentrate too much on either dialogue or visuals - it's a film - you use both.

• Don't make dialogue last too long. If you have a lot of dialogue over 5 lines or more, be careful is it absolutely necessary they talk for so long? Occasionally it's okay.

• Buy a good book on the art of screen writing. I list the top ones in my Amazon Store.

• Take a course on either script writing or writing. This is especially useful if you are a bit rusty and/or your English and Grammar are not very good. It will also give you a lot more confidence and group support.

• Also feedback from a Experienced, professional writer, filmmaker, or Reader is the best thing to help you. Don't approach these people though until you have your script as good as you can get it. Trigger Street and Zoetrope is a good first point of call, then followed by a professional Reader

• Reactions from friends and family are also very good - especially the film buff friends and wannabe film critics, they're even better because they wont be afraid to tell you what they think! But do listen to the advice, even if it wasn't what you wanted to hear, it could be useful to adapt it to suit your own needs. But if its something you truly believe in stick to your guns.
PLEASE remember to register a synopsis, treatment or script BEFORE you show it or talk to anyone!!

Decide how you see your idea completed. Is it a full length feature film? A feature film script should be about 90-100 pages in length and definitely no more than 120. A big script will make a reader think that it will either need a lot of work to cut it down, the writer doesn't know the business enough to know how long a screenplay should be, or how much those extra pages with add to the budget. Each page represents approximately 1 minute of screen time, i.e. 90 pages is about 90 minutes (One of the reasons why correct formatting is needed). If it is less it will probably be considered a television movie / special by the people who receive it or that it will need padding out.

Good Luck!