In my previous post, I wrote about the creative process of brainstorming a short story. Today, I’m moving on to show you my next step in making a video short: writing the script.
REASONS FOR A SCRIPT
“Do I really need a script?” I remember grumbling to my mom after hearing my older sister bugging me to create a script for the umpteenth time. The truth was that yes, we really did need one. My little sister Josie and I didn’t write a script for our first two movies; we simply improvised while filming. Though it was fun, the result was dragging dialogue and an excessive running time.
When we went to produce our third movie, I finally took my sister’s advice. The result was concise dialogue, organized scenes, and a shorter running time. Now we use a script for every film we make. We still goof off and improvise, but we do it in front of the computer, not in front of the camera!
LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR A STURDY SCRIPT
I use Word and save all my notes and outlines for each movie in one document. The rule of thumb is that one page of script typed in Courier-font size 12 will equal one minute of screen time. I set up my computer using this formula to help me gauge how long the finished movie will be. My videos average 3 minutes of screen time and my scripts are usually 3 pages long. This predictability leads to consistent running time, which is extremely important when writing a series of shorts. I should listen to my big sister more often!
To begin each script, I write a bullet-point outline of the beginning, middle, and ending, along with notes on possible scenes. This allows me to visualize what I intend to accomplish and exposes scenes that clog up the flow of the story. Since I want to keep the finished movie short, I make sure that my outline is concise and to the point. I find it much easier to identify and change unnecessary scenes in the outlining stage than to cut them out of the completely written script. Scene ideas that are too long or don’t flow are merged, deleted, or revised until I’m assured that they will support the story.
FLESHING OUT THE SCRIPT
I begin every movie with “A Go-Figure Production”, so that is the first thing I write on each script. I include every word or picture that I want to show in the finished movie; this way I keep track of the running time and get a mental image for how the polished film will look.
Here comes the fun part! Josie and I follow the outline and begin fleshing out the scenes with dialogue. As we write the dialogue, we take care to give each character their own voice, mannerisms and way of talking. This lends the characters more color and helps distinguish them from each other. Whether it be incorrect grammar or an overused word, everyquirk (when applied consistently), deepens each character’s unique personality. When scripting the dialogue, I also note any physical motions the characters will do, like walking or tossing something. This will give us an idea for how to position the characters when we film and helps determine running time.
POLISHING THE FINISHED SCRIPT
Editing the script is not my favorite task, but it is worth the trouble. I read through the script several times, condensing sentences, correcting grammar, deleting redundant words and keeping an eye on my estimated running time. I find it helpful to have other people read and critique the script. They often catch mistakes I overlook. Some of their suggestions are a matter of differing opinions, and while I don’t always take their advice, their input is helpful.
At some point, I quit tinkering and decide that the script is good enough. My audience won’t be reading my script, they’ll be watching my finished movie. If I never stop tweaking, I’ll never start filming! When I finally hit the “print” button, I am always flooded with a feeling of relief and anticipation. I am halfway to my finished movie, and I am all the way in!
Click here to view the completed video!
Next up: Lights, camera, Action! We’re ready to film!
Hadassah Murdock is a seventeen-year-old home school teen who lives and works on her family’s farm in South Carolina. She loves playing with her four siblings and making movies for her YouTube channel, which you can check out here. When she’s not helping with the animals or working in the fields, she enjoys talking to friends, brainstorming new stories, and baking muffins. She credits attending Write2Ignite conferences for learning aspects of storytelling and characterization. She hopes to expand her knowledge of screenwriting and film producing.