One stumbling block for beginning writers is formatting. Yes, you can write in Word, Google Docs, even a yellow legal pad, but if you want it to LOOK like a screenplay, you’ll need some software to help with that.
While many professionals use Final Draft (the most expensive), the popularity of that program has been waning. There are many cheaper alternatives that make PDF files just as well.
If you’re on Windows, I recommend the free app TRELBY. For Mac users, there are many low cost programs such as HIGHLAND, SLUGLINE, and CELTX. Web apps can be appealing, but paying their subscription rates probably isn’t worth it if you’re not a professional writer.
Writer/Director Greta Gerwig is best known for her Oscar nominated film Lady Bird. This year, her adaptation of Little Women comes to theaters. She approached this adaptation differently than film versions have done in the past, however. Instead of telling the story chronologically, she focuses on the adult characters and has occasional flashbacks to them as girls.
If you’ve ever seen The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, you know the work of Aline Brosh McKenna. Take a listen to this Gimlet interview with the writer, who shares her ups and downs trying to write scripts that break away from Hollywood tropes.
Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) took to Twitter recently and posted some tough love about making it as a filmmaker. Here’s how it begins…
From the Bluecat blog: writing notecards and outlines comes from ” a different part of your heart and mind” than writing scenes. So, perhaps there’s something to be said for writing without a plan? Certainly it makes the rewrite more important — that’s where you shape your ideas into a cohesive whole.
The topic also came up on the Write Along podcast. C. Robert Cargill refers to the non-planners as pantsers (as in writing by the seat of their pants). Ultimately, he says, both kinds of writers spend the same amount of time on the work. Without outlining, the burden on pantsers is they must exert more effort to fix what they write.
Meanwhile, over on the Scriptnotes podcast, last week’s episode touched on this, too. Craig and John have a different sense of when to stop planning and when to jump in. Craig plans it all out, John leaves more space for improvisation.
The “Go Into the Story” blog is doing a series on writing characters, including advice from numerous Black List writers. There’s plenty of good ideas to be mined here.
For example, from Brian Duffield: “I find that by starting with theme, you instantly gravitate towards a character who is almost at an opposite place to deal with that theme, and then throw them into the movie and see what happens. Just by doing that, you have an interesting character who has a big obstacle to overcome, and it becomes really fun fleshing them out and figuring out the nuts and bolts of why they’d be the way they are. Lately I’ve been really drawn towards pushing character as far as it can go, to the point where they’re barely recognizable as human, and figuring out how to relate and understand that character. I think I’m just hungrier as a writer to see what I can do, especially with character.”
If you have HBO and haven’t watched Chernobyl yet, what are you waiting for? It’s astoundingly good.
Meanwhile, if you have seen it, and want to delve into the making of the show, Peter Sagal of NPR hosts a five episode podcast with writer/producer Craig Mazin. Yes, I’ve been listening to Mazin for years as co-host of Scriptnotes, so it’s rewarding to see him have creative and critical success with Chernobyl.
The podcast is available in a variety of places. Here’s an article about how it came to be and where to find it: