Thursday, May 29, 2008

What is a ScreenPlay

Imagine your life. Everything is going on fine, and you are happy about it. You are enjoying your life. Suddenly, something happens which twists your life exactly the opposite and you are in a very serious crisis. You don’t know what to do to come out of that problem. Every time you try to come out, you are getting more and deeper in to it. Finally, some incidents start happening and then you come out safely or you lose something and perish.

Now, imagine this is running on a screen in front of you. This makes a good movie. The situation I gave in the first paragraph is what an ideal screenplay must be like.

What is a Screenplay? How should a screenplay be?

This question has haunted many filmmakers in the past. We know that a good film must have a good story, and the story should be believable by the viewers. If the story becomes unbelievable and if the focus is lost, then the film becomes a flop. But, how can we determine a story will be logical and whether it will be taken by the people or not? The concept of the screenplay comes exactly in to the picture at this juncture.

A screenplay is a story told in pictures. It is something which presents the story such that the viewers are able to blend with the story. A lot of research went in this field, and what is now considered to be the screenplay format, has been developed from those studies.

Syd Field, an authority in screenplays, suggests that a screenplay must have three definite parts; what he calls as the three act structure: The beginning (setup), the middle (confrontation) and the end (resolution).

The first part, the beginning, introduces all the characters in a story, shows their relationships. The second part focuses about the confrontations between these characters and finally the third part offers the resolution.

In the first part, while it ends, an incident happens which spins the story towards the second part, the confrontation. This incident is called Plot point 1. For example, imagine an incident happening in your calm life which makes you to panic, towards how to resolve it. The start of the incident or the sequence which takes you to this incident is called the plot point. It leads the story directly in to the second part, the confrontation. Like wise, near the end of the second part, some incident happens which turns the story directly to the third part, the resolution. This is called the plot point 2.

A screenplay must have the beginning, the plot point 1, the middle, the plot point 2 and the end. Before ever opening the pen (or rather, before typing in a single character), these five elements must be known, in order to write the screenplay.

Once these are known, then the scene building process takes place. One after the another, the scenes are written, towards how the story begins, how the plot point 1 occurs, how it takes the story towards the confrontation state, the plot point 2 and then how it ends. If this process is followed, then a successful screenplay is written.

Also, the first part must be within 30 pages. The second part, 60 and the third part is 30 pages long. The entire screenplay must be contained within 120 pages. Usually, a page in a screenplay takes a minute in the screen. So it accounts for 120 minutes of the film. That’s about 2 hours.

This is the art of screenplay. These things must be taken into account to write a gripping screenplay. Like painting, like cycling, like music, it’s an art by itself, and which must be practiced well, to attain perfection.

Some of the well known experts in screenplays: Robert Towne (Chinatown, MI 1&2), James Cameron (Aliens, Terminator 1 & 2), David Koepp (Jurassic Park) , Michael Mann (Heat), Quentin Tarentino (Pulp Fiction), Ted Tally (Silence of the Lambs).

Click on the film names here, to see and download the screenplays.

See their movies, read these screenplays and feel their genius!


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