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How To Judge A Screenplay

Adam Scott

You will learn what are common flaws and what you should look for when reading a screenplay. For the first time, you will see the most important factors a screenwriter should take into consideration before shooting.

This will help you focus on the main story goals and hopefully create a better screenplay.

Starting points

When you want to review a screenplay, the first thing you need to do is what I call '’the headshot'’. Before you start reading a screenplay, you have to view it through the eyes of the director.

The first way to do this is to choose your genre.

According to Kelly Marcel, Justified and Luke Cage screenwriter"

A screenplay is a storyboard. Every story is a conflict. Every conflict is an opportunity. Every opportunity is an obstacle. Every obstacle is a problem. Every problem is an opportunity for change. Every change is an opportunity for something else.

Even though you will want to consider the parts that you want to direct, you will also want to include background and influences that might relate to your own life experience. When you do this, you will gain insight into the characters and their motivation.

The second thing to do is look at the structure of the script. This will give you insight into the specific parts you want to direct.

A complete screenplay will include scenes, dialogue, and sub-sections. This is what I like to call the ‘good stuff’.

The majority of the script is the ‘bad stuff’ or the ‘dreaded middle’. It contains everything you hate about films like Cloverfield.

It can be chaotic, confusing and just plain boring.

Usually, the ‘middle’ of a script is where you begin to find some depth and interest in the story. It’s here where you begin to see some interesting relationships forming, character development and emotional appeal.

It’s also here where you begin to learn the unique rhythms of a screenplay. So, when you are reading a screenplay, take time to pay attention to the parts that seem disjointed and un-sensical.

These are usually the parts that contain lots of dialogue and little action. Your job is to remove the dialogue to expose the action and vice versa.

Quick summaryPeople notes meeting team

If you want to understand how to judge a screenplay, you need to understand the ‘meat’ or the ‘real meat’ of the story. As the storyteller, you will want to include more dialogue, have fewer scenes and use less action and structure.

If you want to avoid over-complicating your scripts, you will want to avoid the ‘meat’ and ‘potato’ parts of a script. You will want to try and stick to the ‘meat’ if you want a solid screenplay.

How to

The backbone of a script is the story. If the story is weak, your screenplay will fall apart.

A good story should begin and end with characters. As you learn more about the characters, their motivations and their needs, you will begin to find a rhythm and the interesting subplots.

Once you have a strong, interesting central story, you will want to know where the subplots go. When you know the characters, you can figure out what their flaws are and how they deal with them. This will provide a lot of dramatic potential and emotional conflict.

It is also important to remember that good dialogue always looks great on the page. It can make or break a script.

The dialogue needs to have a rhythm and style that will draw the audience in. Don’t be afraid to write in dialogue or use complex speech patterns if they are strong and realistic.

Just don’t let the dialogue get in the way of the story.

When you find yourself writing your script, go back and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I trying to show and what am I trying to say?
  • How am I going to show it?
  • How am I going to make it clear?
  • If I am telling a story, how am I going to keep the reader’s attention?
  • How am I going to make the character unique and unique from other characters in the story?
  • What is the main theme?
  • What is the main conflict and what happens at the end?
  • Why is this character acting in this way?
  • How am I going to get the audience to care about these characters?
  • How can I make this character interesting and unique from the other characters?
  • What does the audience need to see or feel or hear from this character?
  • Is the audience thinking or feeling what this character is feeling?
  • What is the main theme of the story?
  • How will I resolve this plotline?
  • How do I make this part of the plot deeper and more complicated?

These are the questions to ask when you’re developing a script and figuring out how to make it stronger.

Writing techniquesPhoto of woman taking notes

When you see a poorly written screenplay, you will notice that there are recurring writing techniques which you would not expect in a film. For example, in some screenplays you will see superfluous passages which seem to add nothing to the writing. Examples of this kind of text are details that seem unnecessary to add: a character saying to a co-worker, “Please phone Phil in” (probably in the middle of a huge argument with a work colleague) is not necessary to the story but is a writing technique which can be very distracting.

Other writing techniques are used to impress and intimidate: lengthy dialogue that is out of character for the characters. Another technique you should be wary of is a seemingly random change of tense. This can be distracting because you can be unclear about the point of the change and the fact that it is not related to the story. You should remember that the writing style should reflect the material as a whole.

Actors and directors

Most people don't work in a vacuum, so they get a lot of their knowledge about acting and directing from other people. The more you work with the people you hire, the better you can work together to achieve the best results.

While reading a screenplay for the first time, try to be selective in your thinking about the characters and the choices that the writer has made.

In addition, take the time to listen to actors' opinions about the writing. Consider the choices that actors make in their work and note the choices that they make about what they say and how they say it.

Look at how other directors have interpreted the material and try to identify similar choices that you can take advantage of when you are writing your own screenplay.

What is an actor's vocabulary? In writing a screenplay, you are using words and phrases on a daily basis.

When you are listening to actors, take note of the words that they use. Do they speak in the standard spoken language?

Or are they limited to specialized vernacular? Also note the manner in which they use these words.

Are they used to complete a sentence? Are they created simply to convey emphasis?

If you're not already familiar with actors' unique style of speech, the first thing you should do is research the habits of other actors in the area in which you are writing. If you are reading a screenplay to cast a film, look for actors who are similar in characteristics to your characters.

Some actors need to work on accents. This is a good thing if the characters in the film do not have any British accents.

If the character has a regional accent, you might want to do a thorough research on the language of the region in which the film is set.

PracticePerson writing on a notebook beside macbook

Practice is an essential element of any screenplay. A lot of the time you will write entire scenes in the course of a single day.

In a year of writing, you might write a scene twenty times. Your goal should be to gradually increase this speed.

You can practice with real actors. The best way to learn to write is to watch good film scripts and then write your own.

It is best to be writing with your own actors, because the actual words they say don't matter so much as how you use their words to convey emotion.

When practicing with your actors, it is important to also watch the work of experienced screenwriters. You can find lists of good screenwriting books online.

Many of these are written by very successful writers and will give you tips that will help you create your own dialogue.

How do you get a good idea for a screenplay?

Screenplay ideas can come from almost anywhere. Maybe you are reading a book and an idea pops into your mind.

Maybe you get a film clip that you find particularly compelling. Maybe a story that you heard makes you think that it would make a great screenplay.

If you get the idea from an advertisement, please remember that the director has been paid to produce an advertisement for a specific purpose. You can't take ideas from advertising and turn them into your own stories.

Take the ideas and feelings from an advertisement and try to develop them into something more substantial.

You can also look for elements in your own life that you can use as inspiration. Maybe you know a good story about a person that can be adapted into a screenplay.

Maybe you know a story about a particular incident that you can use as inspiration. Even if you don't know a great story, you can start by thinking about something that happened to you.

Screenplay outlines

If you have ever read a screenwriting book, you will have seen a section in which the writer has drawn up the outline for a screenplay. The outlines give an outline of the story, what the main characters will do, and what important events they will have to encounter.

Most of the time the outline will go through the major events in the film. The outline will generally explain which scenes will be in the first draft and which scenes will be in the second draft.

If you are writing a screenplay, it's usually best to just try to write the

Good luck and good writing!

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