There is no such thing as a Script Bible. There is a show bible, but that’s not what I am talking about. I mean, there is not just one way of writing a screenplay. However, if we speak the same language, we will understand each other better as writers, and filmmakers. Plumbers understand plumbing terminology and are understood by other plumbers all over the world. If you’re going to write a script you must learn the language. Check Angela Terga’s Author Profile
The way a screenplay is written, each line, and line by line, accounts for each second in the screenplay. Each page is a minute long and when you shoot and come back to the editing house you can then cut it according to the script as a minute of the movie in order to stay within the minutes the movie is written for (90-120 pages is standard). All the other abbreviations and terms in a script are part of the uniform language that helps writers and filmmakers speak the same language all over the world. This is the way I write a script. I start with notes. These notes can be very useful, and organised in a logical way may prove to be the best way to achieve clarity in what you are going to write. You can categorise your notes according to the need of the organic story’s genre. If it is a biography you may want to make a page of notes for each period. That way when you research, you will place those notes under the right heading. If you are writing fiction and you have elements of mental health, fire rescue, or types of diseases, to mention a few, you can place your notes under these headings.
When researched for Isabel III, I did extensive reading on the Seminole wars, the Spanish sale of Florida, Ft. Mose, St. Augustine, Black Indians, the Lighthouse, bipolar disorder, Hollywood gossip, and more. For Hybrid, I researched genetics, the Amazon, nuclear blasts, you get it. Under each heading, I place the notes that will help me understand the topic and manipulate it. So I ask Google specific questions about the matter, read books, watch youtube videos, you name it. That’s research. You can never do too much of it. You become a demi expert on each of the subjects you have researched about. But the knowledge may not stay in your memory if you don’t keep on interacting with it. That’s just the way we use our memory to learn. Practice means you must keep talking about it, reading about it, staying on top of it. And that’s just too much information if you have another screenplay on the front burner and are now interested in learning other things.
Now the trick is to make the flow of the screenplay seem effortless. Where do you go first, second, third and last? That’s all you need to know to write a screenplay. First, the world of the protagonist, the setup, then inciting incident that launches the quest. Imagine a hero that doesn’t accept the challenge and goes away! Could we make a funny movie about that? You bet! Will fate find this unwilling, uncooperative hero so we can have STORY? You tell me. We could write a story in which the hero is not a hero and that makes him or her more likeable, more human. Hybrid, the spiderwoman from the Amazon, her name is Taharai, meaning detached, is a non-hero hero who just wants to observe humanity at first and learn how to be more humanlike and less detached. But then she ends up being a hero for the underdog when she finally becomes humanised and sees the world with compassion or non-judgement.
I think everyone that ever graduated from high school, or even just has a 5th grade education or less, knows that every story has a beginning, middle and end. Acts, 1,2,3. The second act is where we can get lost in a quagmire swamp of events, and what leads one to another. Where we cut and who we decide to start each scene with determines the arc of the characters as well as the events. Not just the protagonist has an arc. So the most important thing is to create a timeline of events or an outline to follow. So I create the timeline and from there the Treatment and from there the script is written. If I change something in one document I change it in the others and go on. But what about the characters? Characters are described and have a profile so that we can show what their POV is by the way they react. That’s very important. You want to show everyone’s side of the argument and argue intelligently, desperately, passionately or how ever you decide in favour or against something. Some people may have more than 3 acts. If you divide the second act into two you would have 4, you can have 6 or 7 acts. Each act is its own story within the story that connects to the overall story and moves the action along. We want things to move towards the climatic moment after all hell’s loose and either win or lose or both, or none. So that we can have closure.
Some movies seem not to have closure and we wonder what happened next, that’s okay, too. Anything and everything is possible. Nowadays we see a lot of non-linearity in movies. Stories are not told from beginning to end but as bursts of memory, parallel universes, in flashbacks, going back and forth in time. I thought it was just me that couldn’t do the beginning to end thing but as I learned from my workshop with Linda Aronson, there are lots more storytellers that think non-linearily than what I imagined.
My next screenplay, the one I am writing now is a big challenge for me. I am a ghost writer and it is sometimes difficult to make myself understood. I may talk screenplay jargon not realising that the other person or main writer (the owner of the story) hasn’t learned that language and should not be required to either. Instead, I must adapt to speaking in lay terms and not be overly excited about the little artistic nuances encountered in order to make the ebb and low as organic and exciting as possible. I just see the story in screenplay writing terms and I must also see it as an engineer or a scientist might. Well, challenges only have one way to go, you must face them. and here I am.
Also, one more thing I want to mention is that Hollywood did not invent screenplay writing or storytelling. That’s just as old as mankind. What Hollywood does have a handle on is how the average person understands the story. But this knowledge comes from psychologists like Karl Jung and mythologists like Joseph Cambell whose books on the subject have been studied by dramaturgs to see that indeed, storytelling follows a natural flow, beginning, middle, end. Now how we want to start is up to us, where we want to go from there, too. The audience will put it all together if we do a good enough job of making the events flow in a synergistic way with whatever our imagination creates.
Happy writing everyone! It’s Write of Die for me too as a woman in film taking flight.