How to write a movie script

How to write a movie script

Don’t start that script until you can answer question from beat to beat, scene to scene, act one to act three…  But how do you get from nothing to beat to beat? A loose outline that blueprints the story from beginning to end, even if its three sentences long, is better than an idea without a story!

I’ve had people come to me about the great story they have. They tell me about the idea but then I ask a crucial question: “And then what happens?” their story comes to a dead end. An ‘idea’ is far from a story.  If nothing really happens to propel the story forward in order to answer another “And then what happens?” so what right?

Ask this question three times and if you can answer it three times from the beginning of the story to the end, start working on building the story and your movie script!

Example: “Thelma and Louise”

What is your story about?

It’s about Thelma, an abused wife, and Louise, a waitress in a dead end job, who, take up an offer to use a friend’s cabin over the weekend in the mountains.

1. And then what happens?

Louise kills a guy who is trying to rape Thelma!

2. And then what happens?

Thelma and Louise have to escape from Arkansas to Mexico.

 

3. And then what happens?

A hitchhiker steals all their money and the FBI are closing in on them finally catching up to them with no escape.

Are there things that happen during the movie other than this? Of course! But from start to finish, this through line tells it all doesn’t it? If Louise never kills the guy who tried to rape Thelma, so what right?

Example: “Star Wars”

What is the story about?

It’s about a Luke Skywalker, a country boy living with his aunt and uncle, who wants desperately to be a pilot for the Rebel Alliance.

1. And then what happens?

He comes across and old Jedi Master, Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi, that knew his father.

2. And then what happens?

After his aunt, uncle and home are destroyed by the Imperial Army the old Jedi Master takes him under his wing to mentor him and teach him the secrets of ‘the Force’.

3. And then what happens?

He becomes a pilot and leads an attack against the Imperial Army in a do or die intergalactic mission relying on the secrets of ‘the Force’ to lead the final assault.

Isn’t that basically what happens? Do you realize that this through line represents the hero’s ultimate want (or ‘super want’) and by getting it avenges his family’s death?

What if his uncle and aunt weren’t killed? Then, so what right? The hero carried the weight on his shoulders as he led the attack.

This is how to write a movie script. Have your answers first, then, work to build an outline, beat sheet and the script from it. Your movie script and all movies you watch all have answers to: “And then what happens”, from beginning to end! If you start there, you will have a great start on writing your script!

About Glenn Magas