A captivating film is always based on a fantastic screenplay. But screenwriting has to be learned, so that an idea becomes a really good film in the end. We show you the most important basics and tips for a successful script.
Screenwriting: An art in itself
Not all writing is the same, and with a novel you proceed quite differently than with a screenplay. While with the former you write directly for your readership, with a screenplay you write for the eye. You write instructions, which the filmmakers implement. Already during the writing process it becomes apparent that you approach things differently.
1. Find your story
No film without a plot, so it is important that you first find a story to tell. Often you have a lot of ideas at once, but when writing a script you need a clear goal. The thread of your plot should lead to that goal at the end and be strong enough to carry for 90 minutes.
Maybe you have heard about the heroic story before. The term borrows from the stories of Greek mythology, most notably Homer’s Odyssey, and follows the same pattern: Your main character is the hero you send on a journey to get his elixir, that is, to reach his goal.
Almost every film you see in the cinema or on television is based on this principle of the heroic story. There is always at least one protagonist and one goal he wants to achieve in the course of the movie. On the way to this goal it encounters obstacles. These can be antagonists, puzzles, or unfavorable circumstances that he or she has to get out of the way. must solve.
So, once you have a movie idea, you should think about the goal of your main character and how she can achieve it. Often you can already tell if your idea has the potential to become a full-length movie.
2. Don’t just create characters, create film characters
No movie without hero, antagonist and supporting actor. Therefore, when you develop your story, you should think about your characters. Their appearance is just as important as their character: What are their strengths and weaknesses?? Which intention do they pursue? And what is the relationship between the characters?
Your film characters are at the center of your narrative and there are two ways you can tell it: character-driven or plot-driven. In character-based storytelling, you approach your characters from the inside. So the focus is on her inner life, her feelings. In action-driven storytelling, on the other hand, you approach them from the outside. Here the focus is more on the events and one incident follows the next.
In the best case, try to weave both approaches together. So you have to find a balance. If you focus too much on the inner life of the characters, your story loses its outer tension. You should always see your main character as the key to the dramaturgy of your story: She should be interesting and strong enough to make the audience want to follow her. The plot is the space in which all your characters have to find their way.
3. Dramaturgy: Follow the 3 act rule
To make your plot make sense and create tension, you need a dramaturgy. Your story has to follow a causality to be comprehensible.
Maybe you still remember the 3 act structure from German class. This is exactly what you should follow when developing the dramaturgy: So you need an introduction, a main part and an ending.
In the introduction you introduce the audience to your story: the most important characters, first and foremost your hero, are introduced, as well as the location of the action and when your story is set. This is followed by a turning point in your story that introduces the main section. Most of the time it is about a problem or a conflict. With the turning point, your story should keep building up until it reaches its climax. This is followed by the conclusion – usually the happy ending, although not every movie has to end well.
When developing your dramaturgy, you should always keep one thing in mind, whether you are writing a comedy or a drama: You have to trigger emotions in your audience. They have to be able to sympathize with your story, they have to be gripped and carried away into the world of your film. Only then can your film be a success.
4. Writing a scene: How do you actually?
Each story consists of different scenes and they should be able to stand on their own: they need a beginning, a main part and an end. They are also determined by the goals and needs of the characters that appear in them. So every scene has its own main character – and this character doesn’t have to be the hero of the movie.
It can also be the antagonist of your hero or one of the secondary characters. Again, it’s important to think about what the goal is in the scene. May manipulate your character others to get closer to their personal goal? Or discover something that fuels your motivation? Your scene should make sense in itself and contribute to the big picture.
5. Writing dialogues that work
With the dialogues stands and falls a film and the writing of good dialogues requires a lot of intuition. Only in combination with a good plot and well thought-out characters does film dialogue work. The best examples are the films of Quentin Tarantino: He understands the art of film dialogue and the successful exchange of blows between the individual characters to advance his plot.
Make sure that your dialogues reflect the motives of the characters. They must exist on a functional level so that the audience knows what you are getting at. Nothing is worse than banal or flat dialogue where the intention of the speaker is not clear.
So when you write, you should always ask yourself what the purpose of your dialogue is for the scene. Because even the best actors can’t make bad dialogue better.
In the end, writing a script requires a lot of expertise and know-how. Look closely at your favorite movies and read the scripts to get a feel for them. We also recommend the online course by our master Til Schweiger, in which he explains to you what makes a good script for a blockbuster.