With films from Marvel, Star Wars, and other big franchises dominating the box office these days, a lot of screenwriters are left wanting to write big budget films. You have to spend money to make money, right?
Well actually, a lot of the time it’s the budget that will stop a script getting produced. Making a film is a risk that requires an investment; the smaller the risk, the more likely it is that your script will get made.
If you can get the budget down to $5 million or less, you’ll have a lot more success selling your work. But how do you get a budget that low? A lot of the time it comes from the inherent design of the story.
Here are our tips…
- Limit yourself to one location – preferably a simple, interior one. Transport costs between locations are no longer a factor, and filming should take less time without the need to repeatedly set up equipment. If it sounds like a challenge to write a single location movie, just remember that limiting yourself can really make you get creative. 12 ANGRY MEN, Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE, and LOCKE are just a few examples!
- Have a small cast. Fewer actors means fewer people to pay and cater for; you can still tell a great story with only two or three characters as long as you’ve got a clever enough concept driving the drama. Get clever enough and you can even go smaller! Locke features only one character on screen for the entire film as he deals with a number of difficult phone calls.
- Let dialogue drive the story. Action is an inherently expensive thing to shoot and there’s a lot of risk involved – but tension isn’t fuelled by things blowing up, a fact which is proved by all of the films mentioned above. Instead, it’s the conflict between the characters that provides the drama. Get that concept right and you can make a thriller without needing to shoot anyone!
- Don’t show everything. If action is important to your script and can’t be completely cut, think about whether the audience actually needs to see it to understand the story. A great example of this is RESERVOIR DOGS, a film about a diamond heist gone wrong where we never see the heist itself, just the buildup and the aftermath!
- Focus on the human drama. Big fans of science-fiction and fantasy may feel that the above suggestions leave them hamstrung, but by concentrating on the characters at the centre of the story, you can keep the scale small despite an intergalactic setting. MOON does this extremely effectively; it might be set on a lunar base, but it’s the main character’s personal crisis that matters most.
So if you’re looking for your big break in screenwriting, don’t forget to take all of these factors into consideration. Here at WriteMovies, we think about this kind of stuff when judging our screenwriting contests – and producers think about it a lot, too!
If you think you’ve got a good shot at winning one of our contests, the Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest is currently open – as is our inaugural Horror Award 2019, which gives you free entry to the Fall Contest when you submit. Don’t forget to submit before the closing dates of October 13th and September 29th respectively!
A terminally ill detective’s partner is brutally murdered and police brass rule against her working the case… With less than two months to live, there’s only LENA’S RULES.
Script Pipeline’s report of July 2019 script sales shows that horror and thriller films are proving popular at the moment, demonstrating a big interest in the genre from the industry right now! Here’s our pick of the report…
To say that book adaptations are popular would be an understatement. Stephen King received no fewer than four in 2017 alone, and has the same set for this year (although only PET SEMATARY has so far seen a release). But what’s the best way to write an adaptation?
There are a few key things if you want to write an adaptation. The first is the big difference in length between a book and a screenplay! The average novel is approximately 90,000 words (with something like WAR AND PEACE getting up over 580,000!), but the average screenplay is only about 15,000.
That means a lot of words need to get cut! A lot of things won’t make it from the book into your screenplay, so don’t try to include everything. But how do you know what to leave in and what to take out?
Here are our tips…
- Identify the central drama and themes, and use them as a signpost. If there’s a scene, subplot, or character that doesn’t add to the central drama, you don’t need it!
- Think about the roles that the different characters serve: what their purpose is in the story. Can any of those characters be combined into one? A screenplay can easily feel cluttered with characters who aren’t needed, so try rolling them into one.
- Look for the key points in the story, like the inciting incident and the turning points between the acts. These moments are absolutely vital; you should look to map them directly into your script and work from there.
- Don’t try to copy and paste the dialogue – it (probably) won’t work! The dialogue in a novel is meant to be read in our heads, but the dialogue in a screenplay is designed to be spoken out loud. That means it will usually need to be rewritten.
- Film is a visual medium – use that to your advantage! Where a novel may need many pages of description or inner monologues to convey a concept or thought, a script can do the same thing with a quick visual clue. Your audience should be able to see what is happening, so they don’t need it explained to them!
There are plenty of other things to think about if you want to write an adaptation, but we’d suggest this is where you start. Novels and screenplays are very different mediums – and that is a fact that shouldn’t be forgotten!
One other thing before you start writing: make sure you pick your project carefully. Some novels rely very heavily on interior thought and description to tell their stories, and won’t translate well to film which (as mentioned above!) is primarily visual.
And above all else, make sure you love the book you’re turning into a script! There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a project before starting to regret it.
Already finished your script, adaptation or otherwise? Think you’ve got what it takes to impress us? The WriteMovies Fall 2019 Screenwriting Competition is now open for submissions – click here to find out more and enter today!
When we announced our Quarter-Finalists, we said at the time that the bar had never been higher. The same is certainly true for our Semi-Finalists; what an amazing bunch of scripts! Congratulations to everyone who has made it through to this stage of the competition!
The standard here was so good, we had an incredibly tough time choosing which scripts were going to make it through to the next round. With so many fantastic stories to pick from, you’ve never made our jobs so difficult – or so enjoyable!
When judging scripts, we keep a lot of different things in mind. The uniqueness of the concept, the quality of the writing, the structure and execution of the story. But we’re also looking at potential; with a year of free script development as a prize for our top three, we’re looking for scripts that can go even further and be taken to another level.
If your script didn’t make it through this time, it’s hard not to feel disappointed – but you should remember just how tough the competition has been . Even making the Quarter-Finals of our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest was an achievement, so well done!
As ever, if you’re not certain why we haven’t put your script through to the Semi-Finals, we’d recommend that you buy one of our Script Report services. That way you can get professional standard feedback on your work – and get free entry to our next competition, the Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest which is now open for submissions!
And so, here we announce a group of scripts that we couldn’t be more proud of. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the WriteMovies Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest Semi-Finalists!
|BISCAYNE, Adam Hersh
||THE ENCHANTED OPAL, Alan Smith
||CARAVAGGIO, Alasdair McMullan
|TORONTO THE GOOD, Andrew Moodie
||GLEIS DER VERGELTUNG, Astrid Korten
||LADY IN RED, Astrid Korten
|DIE TRANE, Astrid Korten
||MADE IN AMERICA, Rikki Rivera
||STARRING… JOHN DILLINGER, Bill Walker & Brian Anthony
|RACE MUSIC, Eric Weber & Hasan Oracius
||ITER APOCALYPSE, Jean-Francois Oviode
||A CHANGE OF PLANS, Jeffrey Ward
|UN CRIME PLUS QUE PARFAIT, Joel Prost
||KID SOLDIER, Kelly Karam
||LENA’S RULES, Ken Comer
|PLANET SPARTA, Link Miller
||THE TIME-TRAP, Mark Flood
||THE REVOLT OF THE WHALES, Michael Rhodes
|VOYAGE DANS L’HISTOIRE, Nanny Silvestre
||CINQUIEME ETAGE, Natacha Astuto
||THE SAX, Pascal Kulcsar
|SHIRO, Pascal Kulcsar
||SURGEON HONG, Paul Gross
||OUTCAST, Sarah Bellwood
|FRESH START, INC., Scott Taylor
||THE CHEESE DANCE FILM FESTIVAL, Steven Bednar
||A TASTE OF PRIVILEGE, Steven Bednar
|APOCALYPSE, Tyler True
||LOVE IS EVERYTHING, Tyler True
||DER LETZTE BUS, Urs Aebersold
Finalists and Winners are due to be announced on August 16th – watch this space!
With just a few days until we announce the Quarter-Finalists for our Spring competition, we’re excited to be opening up submissions for the next one! Ladies and gentlemen, the WriteMovies Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest is now open!
There are several interesting things to note from the May 2019 Script Sales as reported by Script Pipeline, but what struck us the most was that there are several horror projects here.
This shows that no matter what, there’s always a core audience for this genre, making it a good target for screenwriters looking to get a production credit under their belt. The production costs are also often low for these kind of projects – always seen as a big positive by producers!
- DON’T GO IN THE WATER sounds like an interesting idea. Horror has produced plenty of iconic monsters and villains over the years, and it looks like they might be aiming for another one here as an alcoholic does battle with a tentacled monster in the lake. Yes, the idea of being trapped in an isolated cabin is a tired cliche – but the monster sounds like it might enliven things.
- Another year, another remake. This time it’s the classic HELLRAISER getting the treatment, set to be written by David S. Goyer. After ten films in the franchise already, you’d think that people might be getting tired of it; this is one that could either crash badly or breathe new life into the series.
- Speaking of remakes, how about a spinoff? Another series that seems to go on forever, SAW gets another instalment – which might not sound so surprising until you realize that the story concept is by Chris Rock. However this turns out, it should certainly be interesting!
On the other end of things, there are also several comedies being sold and set to star various stars including Chris Hemsworth – a welcome bit of news, given how well he plays comedic roles.
If you’d like to see more of Script Pipeline’s report on script sales in May 2019, you can click here to do that now!