From Good to Grand
Now that you know about the different kinds of films to choose from, you must take all the steps you can to ensure that your representation of your chosen genre is a good as it can possibly be. The difference between a good movie and a great movie can be a razor's edge, given that films as an entity are highly subjective. A film could suffer from poor special effects or miscast roles. It could also run too long or be difficult to hear. More often than not, however, films that have a bad script suffer more than others.
The Importance of a Great Script
Screenplays are a dime a dozen in the Hollywood realm. Everyone has written, is writing, or wants to write a script. That said, finding the one silver dollar in a bottomless pit of dimes is like winning the lottery. A poor script featuring blasé characters who accomplish nothing in a nondescript environment with no action potential will never hold an audience's attention. Scripts tell a story from beginning to middle to end, with a resolution that is satisfying to the intended audience. A great script will feature deep, well-constructed characters who thrive amid a story's plot and imagery.
It's not uncommon for filmmakers to change the ending of a film after it has been test screened for a select audience. If a small group of filmgoers dislikes a conclusion, you can bet a larger audience will be equally dismayed.
No Pain, No Gain
Writing a screenplay requires an enormous amount of work, patience, and decision-making ability, as well as an endless supply of coffee. Bringing your vision to life takes planning. No one just plunks down in front of the keyboard and cranks out a feature film; if you do come up with a script that way, it's certain to be rewritten a dozen times before it ever sees the light of day.
Before you even begin writing or hiring someone to write, you need to establish several key elements. You first need to secure a concept in your mind and ask the inevitable “what if” questions. What if a genetically altered eggplant starts running amok in Topeka, Kansas? What if a serial killer starts killing the forensic scientists tracking him down? All possible questions and concepts have to be clear in your mind before you can write, much less pitch, your script.
Settling on a concept also goes hand in hand with selecting a genre for your film (see Chapter 2). Is it a western or a mystery or a western mystery? Is it a comedy, a romance, or a romantic comedy? As the filmmaking industry grows, so do the possible combinations of genres. It's important that you select a genre you feel comfortable with, one that you can really sell and realistically produce within the confines of your budget. Once you have that down, you can move on to developing your characters, plot, and the rest of your story.
Back in ancient times, screenplays were typed on a typewriter. With the onset of computer technology, scripts were keyed into a word processing program. Fortunately, anyone can now write a screenplay with the help of screenwriting software that does the formatting for you. The danger of script-formatting software is that even a first draft looks like something that is clean and ready to submit. In fact, it will need several more drafts before it is fit to be sent out to studio prospective buyers, so don't be lulled into a false sense of security.
There are many different programs from which to choose, and they vary in price depending on whether they're a simplified version or a full package. Hollywood Screenwriter, Movie Magic Screenwriter, Scriptwerx, Final Draft, ScriptBuddy, and Screenwriter 2000 are just a few of the programs on the market. As with any software program, your choice will be based on features, price, and other factors — e.g., whether you are simply writing or need a full package that offers additional capabilities such as budgeting and scheduling programs (see Chapter 8).