Developing the script is quite important as it holds the root to a good end product. But before we move into script, let us clear a doubt. Many people often mix up script and screenplay together, or which is a done first.  Make this absolutely clear that script is a very old concept, and even wider in use if compared with screenplay.  A script is a simple text formatted in dialogues, whereas the screenplay is a mix of formatted dialogues that also includes the visual descriptions. Like when & where a scene will take place, what are the props that are to be used in the scene etc.  A script can be written for a play, radio broadcast, film, etc. Whereas screenplay are mainly written where visual art is concerned. And there is no such mandatory rule that script comes before the screenplay or vice versa.

As far as I believe in case of film making a screenplay is more important than a script. The main reason behind this is the fact that a film is a visual form of art; it’s not a story or novel. Secondly a screenplay also holds a script within it. So what’s the use of doing a work twice?  Remember, time is money in film making, wasting time is simple wasting money, and in a big budget film the producer will never ever allow that. Hence start developing the habit of minimizing the wastage of time as much as possible from the early stages of your learning.

Another important part in screenplay writing is its format. Film making is a team work, bigger the film bigger the team. Many people get involved in different stages of its making, and it is very important that all those people clearly understands every scratch of the screenplay.  Right at this point a good narration/ read-through can prove very effective and helpful too.

Let us consider a very small portion of a screenplay.

The following portion of the screenplay is from the film ‘The Sixth Sense’ by M.N Shyamalan.

INT. BASEMENT – EVENING

A NAKED LIGHTBULB SPARKS TO LIFE. It dangles from the ceiling of a basement.

LIGHT, QUICK FOOTSTEPS AS ANNA CROWE moves down the stairs.

Anna is the rare combination of beauty and innocence. She stands in the chilly basement in an elegant summer dress that outlines her slender body. Her gentle eyes move across the empty room and come to rest on a rack of wine bottles covering on the entire wall.

She walks to the bottles. Her finger tips slides over the labels. She stops when she finds just the right one. A tiny smile as she slides it out.

Anna turns to leave. Stops. She stares at the shadowy basement. It’s an unsettling place. She stands very still and watches her breath form a TINY CLOUD IN THE COLD AIR. She’s visibly uncomfortable.

Anna Crowe moves for the staircase in a hurry. Each step faster than the next. She climbs out of the basement in another burst of LIGHT, QUICK FOOTSTEPS.

WE HEAR HER HIT THE LIGHT SWITCH.

THE LIGHT BULB DIES. DRIPPING BLACK DEVOURS THE ROOM.

CUT TO:

Carefully note the following points –

  • Scene Heading (It must describe the place & timing for the occurrence of the scene, must be in capital)
  • Action (It sets the scene, describes the surrounding, also introduce the character(s) of the scene)
  • Character Name (Note that the character name has been formatted in capital letters. That’s the way of introduction a speaker must get before the scene starts)
  • Dialogues (Although there is no dialogues in the above extract, but dialogues are mainly placed in the centre of the screenplay, with the name of the speaker at first/on top of the dialogue)
  • Parenthetical (It is the mood/style of the actor in that particular dialogue. It’s written in brackets just under the character name before the dialogues)
  • Extensions (These are the technical notes that are added into the screenplay, so as to clarify the actor’s voice or may be an off scene voice. It is placed directly to the right of the character’s name)
  • Transition (It denotes how the following scene will move on to the other/next scene. It is written on the extreme right side as a scene ends)

All the above seven points are very important white drafting a screenplay. Each point has its own significance and role to play in making the film an effective one.

Written by Sourav Dutta

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