I took a screenwriting class last month and really enjoyed it. I learned a lot of new things in term of filmmaking which gave me different perspective that would help me to make my documentary. One of these things was that a documentary was not just a spontaneous process. Like any other type of movie, a documentary needed a script. In this screenwriting class, we watched three successful movies and did analyses on their scripts. We learned that every movie that had high audience ratings followed a certain narrative order called a “beat sheet.” You can click on this link for more information on beat sheet.
In this screenwriting class, we used a script writing program called Adobe Story. The program automatically formatted everything that we wrote into script format. So, we only needed to focus on the story itself. You can download the free version of the program here.
After understanding how successful movie scripts were written, we had a chance to write our own scripts. The first week, we focused on writing a three-page script which contained one scene. A scene is when the setting of an act are the occurs at a single time and place and and the scene can be shot all at the same time. The second week, we were writing a script for a short film. The length of this script varied from ten to fifteen pages. The third week we were writing a script for a three-minute movie. The length of the script was roughly three pages. Each page of the script was formatted to translate into a minute in film time.
In the last week of class, we did an adaptation of either a chapter from a book, a short story, or an article into a script. We took the chapter, short story, or article and transformed it into a script. This, in particular, was an interesting experience for me. I found myself doing better work when I was retelling the story than when I was having to write it myself. I think my main challenge had to do with word choice. In adaptation, I didn’t need to think as much about what word to use, since most of the vocabulary was already written.
There is a difference that exists in writing a script and other types of writing. That difference lies in the comparison of the ‘language’ that we used. The saying, ‘show, not tell’ had its literal meaning in script writing. We had to write the visual side of the story, which was challenging because we couldn’t write what was going on in the character’s head. We couldn’t tell the reader how to feel either –i.e. using a sentence like “the sky is gloomy” was not preferred in screenwriting. I had to imagine myself as a camera while I was writing the scripts.
I am on the process of writing a script for my documentary right now. I find that my experience taking the screenwriting class is really valuable in my writing process. After taking the class, writing a script has become a natural-flowing process for me. I am still imagining myself as a camera while I am writing the script for my documentary.