A Screenplay May Not Be What the Writer Thinks!

You may wonder why the world isn’t jumping to buy your screenplay. You’ve been told by friends that it’s wonderful, a sure thing, would make a great movie, etc. You’ve followed all the “rules” about 3-act structure, plot points, character arcs, and the like. But still, no offers.

The problem may be that there is a mis-conception regarding who your audience is. The highest-paid screenwriter (for 30 years) in the business, William Goldman, has a cold but accurate definition of a screenplay: it’s the vehicle to raise the money to make a movie.

Thus, a screenplay is, more than a creation, a marketing tool. Therefore, the important point is to follow the laws of marketing, NOT the “laws” of writing. For instance, “less is more.”

Of the 25,000 screenplays I’ve read, ALL of them by first-timers are WAY over-written. They leave no room for me to fill in any missing pieces; thus, no room for reader contribution.

Another common error: dialogue repeats what I’ve already read in the “action” description. I call this “show and tell” writing. Yet another: dialogue gives the EXACT emotion, “I’m so mad.” No character “voice” (i.e., distinctive talking style) whatsoever. I call this “on the money” writing.

And finally: many shots are described. This is NOT the function of the writer; but, rather, the director. So, the writer’s job is not only to create the story, characters and dialogue, but to put it in an enticing, “leave them wanting more,” viewpoint. When I consult with writers, we analyze their script according to these standards and more. It can be enlightening!

All best, Eric Sherman

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