How to Make Your First Movie - Phase 1: Writing

The screenwriter Gene Fowler once said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Here’s how to make the process a little less painful.

You will need

  • A formatting and pagination guide
  • A realistic sense of limitations
  • Source material
  • Script formatting software

Step 1 Decide on source material Decide if you want to write a script from scratch, or adapt some other work, like a novel.

Step 2 Learn script formatting Learn how to format a script. This is very important—many studios won’t even look at a script if it doesn’t follow industry standard rules for spacing and style.

Step 3 Brainstorm Come up with some ideas for a script. Everyone has his or her own creative process, but most people find that sitting down at a computer without some ideas just leads to writer’s block.

Step 4 Be realistic Be realistic. Don’t limit your imagination too much, but if you’re planning to film your own movie, remember that a sprawling war epic with battle scenes and period costumes is going to be difficult on a $50,000 budget.

Step 5 Develop your characters Think about your characters before you start. Develop them deeply and then imagine them coming into conflict in interesting ways. Once writing, a good trick is to avoid having them say exactly what they’re thinking—how often does that happen in real life?

Step 6 Write a first draft Once you’ve got some ideas, sit down and write a first draft. Don’t obsess over the details or try to edit at this point; just get the framework of the story in place.

Step 7 Critique By yourself, or with the help of your director or others whose opinions you admire and trust, critique the draft. Only accept the unvarnished truth; you want a good script, not insincere compliments.

Step 8 Write a second draft Write a second draft of the script, based on the feedback you’ve received and your own assessment of the first product.

Step 9 Critique it again Critique the second draft. Ideally, you or your partners will be more satisfied with this one, but if you’re not, don’t get discouraged; many scripts go through dozens of drafts.

Step 10 Write a final draft When you’re happy with the most recent critiques and you think you’re close, make a final draft of the script. It’ll probably still change, but calling it ‘final’ will give you a sense of accomplishment.