How's a script

How do I write a script / print version

A script is not as easily written as many imagine. Having an idea and then “writing straight away” is usually not a success. Before you start writing a script, there are a few things you need to be clear about. Here some examples:

  • Where does the story take place?
  • Who is playing?
  • In which places should the event take place?
  • How does the story begin?
  • How does the story end?
  • Where are the plot points (the dramatic turning points)
  • What qualities should the characters have?
  • Is the script realizable?
  • Build-up of tension?
  • Internationalization - Is my film understood all over the world? (Different cultures)

Formulate the core of the story / idea

As a rule, the basic idea for the script should initially not be expanded, but rather reduced. In a first step, it should be summarized in two to five sentences and its topic (see below) should be precisely defined. This does not mean moving backwards and mutilating the fruit of inspiration. Rather, it serves to get to the heart of the idea.

A story that cannot be summed up in three sentences or has more than one main topic is likely to be too complicated and would go beyond the scope of a full-length feature film if it is worked out correctly. An average fictional film is between 90 and 120 minutes long. In rare cases up to 180 minutes.

The purpose of the summary is to keep referring to it as you write. If this is not recorded in writing and posted at the top of the pin board, it can easily happen that new thoughts or interpretations creep in through the intensive occupation with the material that are not anchored in the story and can dilute the message of the film.

Central conflict or problem of the story

The linchpin of many films is a fundamental conflict or problem that needs to be resolved. The search for a solution as well as the solution to the conflict or the problem both provide the red thread for the action and, as it were, drive it forward. Therefore, based on the conflict or problem, the dramatic structure or the dramatic structure of the film plot is developed. So that a fictional film does not become too predictable and also fills the entire evening, the hero should always be faced with new (possibly unpredictable) obstacles and resistances.

Choice of genre [edit]

A decision about the film genre should also be made right at the beginning, since according to Robert McKee (story) Each genre has certain conventions that must be taken into account when developing the plot and the dramatic structure for the respective film plot, if the story is to be coherent in itself. A horror film follows different conventions than a love story. You have to be aware of that. The genre should also be established with the first shot in order to get the viewer in the mood for a certain narrative style and story. You cannot start a film as a tragedy if it is actually a comedy (the advanced can mix different genres).

Subject [edit]

The subject of the story should also be noted. Most films deal with a few big topics: Freedom, love, vengeance, justice, pride, ...

These big issues can also express themselves in small facts and everyday situations, but they also refer to the larger context there. A topic gives rise to an infinite number of possible stories, the message of which can be understood by everyone, regardless of their origin or culture, because it is about a basic feeling that everyone has an idea of ​​and that everyone in some way of playing has experienced.

If there is no assignment to a topic in the story, it should be asked again whether this idea deserves to be implemented in a film; whether there is an important statement that should be brought close to the viewer, or just a funny anecdote to be told.

If you want to write a script, but you still don't have a brilliant idea for a story, it usually helps to look for a topic that interests you yourself. It may be enough to describe a strange feeling you sometimes have, or an encounter with a stranger, a relationship or something similar that struck you as extraordinary and that made a deep impression.

Story [edit]

The film plot shouldn't be straightforward. For example, the portrayal of a hero benefits from obstacles that prevent him from achieving his goal. He has to grow beyond himself and break new ground. He has to leave his old beaten track and enter new, unfamiliar territory if he is to achieve his goal. If this is missing, the plot appears predictable, banal, boring and irrelevant.

Fish in the country

Action is what the characters do or don't do. The trick is to get the plot hooked that no one would have expected, or that the characters themselves would not have expected, even though these options are inherent in their history or character. This is an important dramatic resource to be considered in story development: the fish on land principle. A character is torn out of their normal life or conventions by a conflict or a problem and suddenly has to deal with a completely new situation, new requirements, conventions or conditions. The old patterns of action and the previous way of life no longer apply here. The character has to change, has to do things new or differently in order to be able to solve the conflict or the problem that has arisen. Since this is new territory for the character, she is confronted with many unexpected problems or obstacles, for the solution of which she can hardly fall back on her previous experience. Here companions, allies or mentors can help the figure find their way or prevent them from reaching their goal. He / she should also Interesting be and not to see through quickly. So something 'mysterious'.

Figures [edit]

For each important figure, important characteristics, weaknesses and strengths should be determined. In addition, you should write your own biography for each of these characters, which reveals the background of the character even better: How old is the character? How was the parental home? Did she have a lot of friends or was she an outsider? Good at school or a high school dropout? Has he always lived in Miami or did he only move here five years ago and therefore sometimes speaks with a slight Boston accent? Does he like to drink cold milk or a dry martini with olive? etc. etc. So you can give depth to the characters and thus also to the story.

It makes a difference whether the protagonist is just a cop who does his job according to plan, and whether he is a cop who has been transferred to a punishment, a lonely man in his fifties who is three times divorced and disaffected. He doesn't care about conventions, he's unshaven, a loner who only sometimes goes bowling with colleagues in the evenings. He lives on a houseboat and yet he takes care of the chances-free children living there in his neighborhood, a social hotspot, in social projects ...

Dramaturgy

The backbone of every story is its basic dramatic structure. Aristotle's considerations have been so valid since ancient times until today. However, they have been adjusted slightly for storytelling for the film.

The dramaturgy can either be developed directly by the scriptwriter or the editor. Full-time script designers for a production company sometimes also help scriptwriters with the subtleties and details of the script. The dramaturge analyzes the script to find errors or inconsistencies. He also gives constructive suggestions for possible improvements.

The synopsis [edit]

In order to check whether these criteria have all been met, it is advisable to summarize the story in an "synopsis". The plot of the film is outlined in the synopsis. There is no need for dialogues between the people involved, which have not yet been conceived at this early stage. The circumference should be between one and four pages.

The synopsis is useful for the scriptwriter to roughly outline the plot and later to serve as a framework for the script. Production companies also decide on the basis of the synopsis whether to finance the script development.

How to write a script

When the above has been thought through and carried out, you can start writing the script. There are a few general things to consider:

A script is not a story that should be told as excitingly as possible. The story of a script is always told in a clear, straightforward and memorable way.

Here are a few simple rules

  • Short, clear sentences
  • Present tense (history is written in the present)
  • Few stage directions
  • No unimportant details
  • No "invisible" actions (if they are not made audible)
  • Few monologues - or none at all

If you keep these points in mind, nothing should go wrong. A detailed description of the procedure can be found in the section The Execution.

The layout of a script [edit]

There is no mandatory ISO standard for scripts. It has become more common for scriptwriters to adhere to some “guidelines”.

  • Format, orientation: A4, portrait format
  • Font: Courier New or similar non-proportional font
  • Font size: 12pt
  • Line spacing: simple
  • Edges: 3.0 cm each
  • Tab stop 1 at 3.0 cm: scene headings (in capital letters), description of the plot; z. B. or
  • Tab stop 2 at 4.5 cm: description of the dialogue (in brackets); z. B.
  • Tab stop 3 at 5.5 cm: Name of the speaking role or source of the voice in capital letters; z. B.
  • Tab stop 4 at 16.0 cm: scene transitions in capital letters; z. B.

The page number is in the top right corner of each page.

The cover sheet of the script should read:

  • title
  • version
  • Author (s)
  • address

If you do not want to make your own Word / OpenOffice template from these guidelines, you can alternatively fall back on various software.

There are both commercial products and open source solutions.

Among the commercial products there has been a reference product for years: Final Draft. It is the most famous and best-selling representative of professional screenwriting software.

With open source solutions you inevitably come across Celtx. Celtx is a free and open source program for creating scripts. Celtx can also be used to carry out the entire pre-production of a film. Registered users can also put their works online on the CeltxServer.

Alternatively, there are numerous Word templates on the Internet that implement the above conventions.

Web links [edit]

Instructions [edit]

There are also direct instructions and information on how a script should be structured.

Scene heading [edit]

INSIDE - KITCHEN - DAY

A scene begins with these lines. The above example means that the scene takes place in a closed room (kitchen) during the day. In front it always says or or and. Then comes the place where the scene takes place. After the location, there is the time of day at which the scene takes place (or, more rarely, or). The scene headings are always capitalized.

Action instruction [edit]

DAVID is walking down the street. He is holding a bouquet of flowers in his hand.

This is where the actual plot is told. When a person first appears, they are capitalized.

Dialog [edit]

(Almost) every film lives from dialogue! Again, there are a few rules that you need to follow.

HAN SOLO (is angry) You can't even shit in front of the empire.


First is the name of the person speaking the dialogue. This is always written in capital letters. Below that, if it is important for understanding, comes either the direction in which the person is speaking or something similarly explanatory (e.g.,). Remarks of this kind should only be used if the speech / emotion is not clearly evident from the dialogue, e.g. B. The dialogue follows below.

Character names [edit]

When a character first appears, the character's name is capitalized in the scene description, e.g. B. (). It is then continued “normally” (). Smaller supporting roles can either be numbered (,) or describe the characters in more detail (,).

Camera instruction [edit]

Generally should be in a script Nothing Technical things to be written. This mainly relates to the camera instructions. The art of screenwriting is to get a certain setting or size of setting through the style you choose implyso that the director and cameraman see the scene in front of them in a certain way while reading. But because reality often forces changes, as an author you can save yourself thinking about the camera or the resolution.

However, there are a few "commands" for the camera that can be put into a script. These are abbreviated as follows. Save with too many details here too. Let the cameraman do this work.

  • - Close-up
  • - Close
  • - Half-close
  • - 2 people in one picture
  • - Over the shoulder
  • - Point of view

In very In rare cases in scripts it is important to specify certain camera movements. This is done around z. B. to create an important mood or to give certain information. Such instructions should, however, be used rarely or not at all, as it is one of the tasks of a cameraman to break down the script into individual shots.

  • - The camera pans left / right or up / down.
  • - The camera moves in the vertical axis while the horizontal axis remains constant
  • - The camera zooms in on or away from an object
  • , - The camera moves away from or towards the object

Scene transitions [edit]

Scene transitions are mostly found between the end of one scene and the beginning of a new one. However, similar to the camera instructions, it is better to leave out these technical descriptions.

  • or - The most common transition. Here it is simply cut "hard" to another scene. In most cases this instruction can be omitted.
  • or - The end of one scene is cross-faded with the beginning of another. This is mostly used to symbolize a jump in time.
  • / or / - This is mostly used at the beginning / end of a film. The mostly black screen is faded in or out.

Sample page [edit]

1 INNEN - STUBE - DAY GERDA is sitting on the sofa reading a magazine. Your husband HEINRICH storms in. HEINRICH (furious) Didn't you get the letter? Heinrich steps up to Gerda and angrily stares down at her from above. GERDA Yes. Your resignation. What did you do (screams) What did you do? Heinrich's face turns pale. NARRATOR (V.O.) Gerda knew nothing about Heinrich's accident. Nobody knew anything. OUTSIDE - PARKING - DAY Heinrich drives his car out of his parking space. He overlooks the limo behind him and BUMPS it. The driver gets out. DRIVER (screams) Müller? Are you insane? HEINRICH boss? I'm so sorry.

The execution [edit]

Now that you have some basic information about scriptwriting, you're good to go. But please check whether you have prepared yourself carefully enough (see chapter Preparatory work).

The characters

Now that you are sure what kind of story you want to write, the following are of particular importance: The characters in your film!

First, the question of protagonist and antagonist arises. Every story needs one (or more) heroes, the protagonist, whom the viewer follows and who experiences the story. The protagonist doesn't have to be a hero. He can also embody an antihero. The difference between the two is that the hero has a goal that he wants to achieve and that he is actively committed to. The antihero actually doesn't want to appear in any story, he wants to lead his usual existence, but is forced to act by a person or an event.For him (at least in the beginning) it is not about achieving a goal, but about finally having his peace of mind again.

In addition, you need an antagonist who opposes the protagonist. It doesn't necessarily have to be a character such as B. "Dr. No", "Agent Smith", "Cruella deVille" or some other villain. It can also be the hero's shyness, his perhaps fatal illness or his dependence on his mother.

Every good film lives from the characters, not from mere people (e.g. Bruce Willis in "Die Hard"). But how does a person become a special character? Characters are characterized by distinctive traits, experiences or behaviors (regardless of whether they are positive or negative). Bringing these closer to the viewer in scenes is the job of a scriptwriter. He has to try to create a real character out of an ordinary person for the entire duration of the film. Something unique.

He achieves this by coming up with scenes, dialogues or events in his story that convey his character to the viewer. The top priority for the scriptwriter should be the credibility of the character of his character. Nothing is more damaging to a movie than unbelievable characters.

But you should note that most discerning movie buffs do not like the stereotypical heroes and villains. You should always try to create special characters, each unique in their own way (like your script). Why is this important? Most people watch films in cinemas or on television because they want to be entertained, but a great many would like to identify with the characters of the film, albeit mostly subconsciously. If you can get this into a script, you're halfway there.

You should therefore avoid stereotypical heroes and villains or the like. Let your characters be special. The originality of her characters makes up a large part of the vitality of her film (there are plenty of examples in the film world (Captain Jack Sparrow - Pirates Of The Caribbean)). In addition, the protagonist has to go through a change in the course of their story, to come to an insight, etc. If they remain unaffected by all incidents, they quickly appear wooden and unrealistic.

One tool for creating an interesting and versatile figure is e.g. B. the must-need concept. A character, especially the protagonist, needs a dramatic goal, the "must". But it also has an unconscious quality, the "need", which opposes this goal. In the course of the story this weakness is targeted ("wounding") again and again. So the figure has to change in order to be able to achieve its goal in the end.

The plot [edit]

The plot is just as important as the structure of the character. Here it is particularly important that the action is LOGICALLY correct (even if everything is only cleared up at the end). Nothing pisses off a viewer more than an illogical act. He then quickly loses interest in the rest of the film and is unlikely to speak very positively about your film. Therefore, you should try to explain everything that happened in some way. Don't use this as an opportunity to tell easily predictable stories. Of course, a film also lives from events that seem illogical at first. The viewer always expects an explanation. Never owe him this! So always try to find the right level of originality, logical & unforeseen.

But how does the action progress? The answer to this question is actually quite simple. Through the characters. Through the experiences of their characters, their environment and their behavior (Thomas missed his plane because he had had too much to drink again. That's why he has to come up with how he is going to ...). This is where the so-called plot points come into play. A good script cannot do without tension. This has to be built up continuously. Tension drives the story forward. It usually rises up to the plot points. Usually the tension peaks shortly before the end of the film. All unresolved questions are cleared up and the film is usually over.

In short: at the beginning there is a problem that is built up and increases until it is finally solved.

Describing scenes [edit]

When all these points have been clarified, you can start formulating the scenes. It is important to ensure that you provide a general, brief description of the location as far as possible. (Cafe, pub, living room ...) Don't try to waste entire novels on the location. Briefly write what it looks like there. Additional descriptions only need to be included if those things are relevant to the plot.

Try to use appropriate and interesting locations for events as possible.

If you are planning to write a hobby film / low budget, you should avoid outside scenes as much as possible, as this is difficult to do well / realistically with little financial means. If the action takes place in a house, only one or two long-distance shots of the house and the surrounding area will be shot from the same camera position, perhaps day and evening. This conveys to the viewer that the people are currently in this house.

And finally [edit]

In general, two tips can be given to get closer to scriptwriting:

- Read!

Read scripts. Best of films that you find interesting! There are some screenplays of Hollywood films on the Internet that are offered there free of charge for teaching purposes in PDF form, but in English. Entering key words such as “storybook” or “script” should result in a few hits in the search engines, as there are many people in the English-speaking world who like to read scripts in order to learn from them. In the meantime, scripts of Hollywood films that have already run are available in German in bookshops.

- You write!

As an exercise, you can begin with the script for a sketch or an advertising film for a fantasy product. This should be a lot easier than working out a script for an entire feature film. Later you can try to use a good novel as a basis for the script. But if this is not just an exercise, it is advisable to discuss with the author of the novel how much the film rights would cost. Otherwise you have a great script, but you are not allowed to implement it because the film rights are too expensive.

Have multiple people in your immediate area read it. Now you can start. Good luck!