GLOBAL – As you’re getting more experienced at shooting videos, you’ll get to a point where your work can start benefitting from having a proper script. Where would you even start? Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated. Read on to get a better understanding of the basics.
If you go to film school, you’ll be told time and time again that movie scripts have to fulfil a very tight standard. You’d be forgiven for thinking that there was capital punishment in force if you didn’t get your scripts perfectly formatted. That’s all good and well, but we’re not in film school – we just want to make our videos a little bit better, so don’t worry about screenwriting software, templates, or all the abbreviations they use in scripts. We’re going to create some scripts that are actually useable, whether you’re using your camera phone to create a feature-length film or a fun little 2-minute short.
Even in Hollywood, there’s a lot of variety between how detailed the scripts are. Some movies – like movies by the Coen brothers – are extremely carefully scripted, and the directors will have a very tight control over everything that happens on screen. Others – like most of the famous insults from the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket – are made up on the spot. In other words: script the parts you need to tell the story, and give your actors and fate a little bit of opportunity to add some magic to the proceedings.
A top tip about scripting what the actors have to say: Read all dialogue out loud before you write it down, the way you envision your characters acting their lines. If that means you’re sat in a coffee shop mumbling to yourself, so be it: people might think you’re nuts, but your actors will sound far more natural as a result.
Remember that you’re not just scripting dialogue – make a note of any props you might need, what the scene looks like, and who needs to be present in any scene – it helps planning your shot later. If you have a particular vision for a scene, don’t hesitate to add camera angles and ideas about the shots, too. “Extreme close-up, I want to see the tears of joy welling up in her eyes” would never get past a Hollywood script review, but who cares, it’s your movie, and anything you add to the script that’ll help you and your crew
Finally, remember that no script survives contact with the actual filming. It’s meant to be a living document, so if somebody on set comes up with a brilliant suggestion, don’t be shy about changing the script to fit the action.