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About Screenwriting

Screenwriting is a creative process, yes? Well, actually no, not particularly. The story you worked out in your treatment is creative, that's true. But, in order for the story to become a film, you need to write it using the technical language a film crew understands. And that's what a screenplay is; it is your story written in what I call Crew Speak, a set of production notes telling the crew how to proceed.

Once the story is completed and the plot line is worked out in your treatment, it's time to translate that story into Crew Speak, or script notes--otherwise known as a screenplay!--intended for people with the talent and equipment to put it up on the screen. Producers and others in Development make quite a fuss about writers who don't know their "craft." And, as we've seen, it IS a craft.

For example, if you want to convey something to Set Decorators, they should be able to find that bit of information exactly where it is expected to be on a script page. And, they should find it written in jargon they understand. A professional screenwriter knows this. A professional also understands that just writing a good story isn't really screenwriting. Rather, screenwriting is translating a story to a film crew, as I've described. That's why I call it Crew Speak.

The good news is that learning Crew Speak is like learning to ride a bike or drive a car--it only has to happen once, and you've got it forever. The technical skills stay with you and let your creativity flow freely.

TEST ANSWERS

TEST A: (1) Camera (2) Decorator (3) Dash (4) O.S. (5) TRAVEL (6) Log (7) One (8) Right (9) MOS (10) CAP it.

TEST B: (1) False. It goes in the lower left corner of your inside cover sheet. (2) True. (3) False. If it's OUTSIDE looking INSIDE, it will be indicated in your Slug Line as: EXT/INT. (4) False. The Transportation Coordinator and the Transportation Captain are the ones who need to know about cars. (5) True (6) False. Use camera angles as sparingly as possible; avoid them altogether if possible. (7) False. If the audience sees something from a character's point-of-view, it is as though they have just become that character's eyes. So how could they look out of the character's eyes and still see the character at the same time? Impossible. (8) True.

You Write It

1. INT. SARA'S HOME - LIVING ROOM - DAY

Any time a Slug Line begins with INT. or EXT. it must end in Day or Night.

2. EXT. HARMON HOUSE - NURSERY - DAY

3. As Tom and Liz near the theater, George's old Chevy rounds the corner. Tom waves at him despite the fact Liz shoots him a dirty look. (Note: Your opening narrative will read somewhat differently than mine, but the gist should be the same).

Links

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by Esther Luttrell
Tools of the ScreenWriting Trade
Textbook by Esther Luttrell
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