WRITE THE GREAT SCRIPT (Part I): 6-Weeks, 10 Steps… Step #7 Most Important
by Dov S-S Simens on July 27, 2020
SCREENPLAY: FROM IDEA to TREATMENT (2-Weeks & Save $34,589)
Everyone has a great idea or two… But taking your idea and writing it into not only a screenplay but a great screenplay is quite daunting, if not overwhelming, when you don’t approach it, one step at a time, in a logical process…
However, when approaching it logically via a simple 12 Step process will you, a first-timer, to have a good shot at owning a great Screenplay in less than 2 months…
Let me show you how.
Plus, just following Steps 1-6 (below), in only 2-weeks, you will have protecting your idea with a quite good, if not great, Treatment, for your Feature Film, without paying a writer the $34,589 that the Writers Guild of America (aka: union) demands, as a minimum for a Treatment, and allow you to start pitching comfortably in a very short time.
STEP 1: THE IDEA & TITLE (1-3 Words, 2-Days)
Give yourself a weekend to bounce around thoughts, titles and ideas. Go to imdb. Read loglines. Skim a newspaper. Play with “What ifs” and “How abouts”… something will stick…
Now get the title(s)… Keep it to 1-3 words. Shorter the better. “The Mall”, “Kill Shelter”, “Momma Massacre”, “I Did What”, “Date From Hell”… Have fun… something will stick.
But, bottom-line, at the end of the weekend you must have 5 Ideas with 5 Titles written down…
There is just so much thinking that one can do… eventually you have to start writing… so let’s start with 5 Ideas and 5 Titles.
(Over 1-week watch tv, with a writing pad, thinking ideas and within 3 days you’ll have 5 Ideas with 5 Titles)
STEP 2: SPIT-BALL & EVOLVE THE IDEA (2-Days)
With your 5 Ideas & Titles… Tell them to 3-4 friends and acquaintances. Watch their reactions. Listen to their responses… Don’t argue. Agree with whatever they say… You are now practicing “pitching”
In the old days when “pitching” you would hope the exec you’re pitching to responds and responds with something like “How about if….” or “Could that person be…” or “What if…”…
You are now “spit-balling-your-idea”; having it evolve in your head, thanks to others; hearing how it sounds; focusing more on the story and possibly sub-plots; getting a good feedback; and realizing which of the 5 ideas and 5 titles excites you the most.
Your seed ideas are planted and they are now evolving as you zero in on sub-plots and back-stories… Your idea is evolving
STEP 3: THE FEELING/EMOTION (5-7 words, 1-2 Days)
Next is forget about the plot and story; focus on feelings; and think about what would you like people, when leaving the theater, to think or feel?
Now write those thoughts or feelings on a pad in no more than 5-7 words… Again, remember the 5-7 words is a “feeling”; it is not a plot point; it is not a twist; it is not the ending or resolution… it is a feeling…
Once you have those 5-7 words, when writing your script, and you’re stumped on what to have a character say… you merely look at those 5-7 words and have him/her state that feeling… or if you’re approaching a new scene and you don’t know what to have it about… look at those 5-7 words… and create your scene around them.
(Excellent stories leave you feeling something… For your script type that feeling into 5-7 words)
These 5-7 words are going to be a common thread throughout the story… A common thread, a feeling, an emotion… that stays with you long after you’ve seen the movie and have left the cinema.
But, again, it’s not a plot-point or twist or action… it’s just a feeling.
STEP 4: LOG-LINE/PITCH (15-25 words, 1-2 Days)
Now let’s take your Title (1-3 words) with your Theme (5-7 words) and evolve it into a Pitch (15-25 words), which is oral, but when written is called a Log-Line (15-25 words), and practice presenting (aka: “Pitching”) it.
With the 15-25 words you must state (A) The Good Guy, (B) The Bad Guy, (C) The Setting, (D) The Situation and (E) The Conflict.
The key being when you say (E) The Conflict… with 6-8 words that state something like “And Conflicts Arise When….”. Then when you say the conflict you better see the person you are pitching to have his eyes and mouth make a visual “Oh…Woo…Interesting” look.
You have to grab the person you are pitching to “It’s a contemporary Romeo & Juliette but they discover they have the same mother”… They’re Brother & Sister… and she’s pregnant”.
Now you have the attention of the person you are pitching too and he/she will ask “Do you have the Script or Treatment?”… You better be ready to say “Yes”… so next allow me to show you how to write a Treatment and save $34,589.
STEP 5: THE $34,589 TREATMENT (3-5 Pages, 2-Days)
Now take your 15-25 word Logline, your pitch, which states the Good Guy (protagonist), Bad Guy (antagonist), the Setting, the Situation and the Conflict and expand it into a 3-5 page Treatment.
Here’s how… And if you hire a writer, who is a member of the Writers Guild, and paid him/her writers guild minimum to write a Treatment for you, if the movie is Low-Budget the cost is $34,589 and if the movie is high-budget (anything over $5M) it is $57,279 for a treatment.
You’re first film will definitely have a budget less than $5M so let’s save the $34,589 (low-budget) and write it yourself.
First, question asked is always “how long is a treatment? How many pages?” And the answer is no one knows. There is no set number of pages. It could be 3 pages, 10 pages, 20 pages, etc… So you should focus on common sense.
And with common sense let’s start from the bottom… Could a Treatment be 1-page? I imagine so but it just doesn’t feel right.
Could a Treatment be 2-pages? Well that’s better than 1-page but it still doesn’t feel adequate.
Could a Treatment be 3-pages? Yes. Maybe. Yes. Think so. Sounds good.
3-pages is starting to feel adequate. So let’s start by writing a 3-page Treatment but while writing if it becomes 4-pages or 5-pages or 10-pages that is fine… but be sure to never bore anyone with simply adding pages to bulk it up.
(My Streaming Film School has 1-hour dedicated solely to writing a great 3-5 Page Treatment… https://www.webfilmschool.com/streaming-film-school/ )
Writing a 3-page Treatment:
Everyone in Hollywood states a great story has a Beginning, Middle and an End or some state this as simply Act I, II & III.
OK… 3-Pages… Thus, take 3 pieces of 8×11 white paper and assume the first page is the Beginning or Act I), the second page is the Middle or Act II and the third page is the Ending or Act III.
However, the 3 Acts aren’t equal in length or time.
Act I is short so only use top-half of page-1 and write the Beginning that states the 5Ws & H (Who, What, Where, When, Why & How)… Next Act III is even shorter than Act I so use the bottom-half of page-3 and write the ending.
Now with Act I written (the beginning) and Act III written (the ending) you can actually plot out Act II… which in reality is actually “the story” with it’s plot points.
This is not difficult and you’re saving $34,589 by not hiring someone in the WGA (https://www.wga.org/uploadedFiles/contracts/min2017.pdf ) to write this for you.
STEP 6: CYA, REGISTER & COPYRIGHT(?) (1-Hour)
Remember this is Hollywood and you must CYA (Cover Your Ass).
When you start with Step 1, “IDEA”, always remember “no one owns an idea” and if you tell someone your idea, which you don’t own, they can do it without you.
However, now with your Treatment, you have something that is tangible and more than an idea and you need to get a date (sort a stamp) to prove when you created it.
(Hi, Dov here… Always remember, “No one owns an idea”… You must CYA with a Treatment that is WGA Registered & Copyrighted)
Thus, the importance to Register it ($20-25) with the Writers Guild of America… and you do not need to be a member to register (https://www.wgawregistry.org/) anything with the Writers Guild.
Once you register your treatment with the WGA it has an official date, which is the day your registered, that lays claim to the day that your idea, became a thing, and was created… Now, when you pitch it to someone, if he/she is a sleeze-ball, you have proof of the day you created it, which will always pre-date the day when you pitched it…
Poof… You can prove you created it first… Welcome to Hollywood.
FYI: Register and Copyright are not the same. And, for whatever reason, the Copyright office will not Copyright a Treatment for, to best of my knowledge, they consider a Treatment an unfinished product… However, the Writer’s Guild says Treatments are products and will, for $20-25, register it.
And with the registration date you can feel comfortable pitching and talking to Hollywood people for you have proof of an actual day when it was created.
PART II: BEAT SHEET, OUTLINE, 1st DRAFT, COVERAGE, RE-WRITE & POLISH
Now that you’ve fleshed out your thought and have a solid Treatment, that is registered with the WGA, we can proceed with Steps 7-12, for Part II, to get your copyrighted screenplay… which truly will only take 4-5 weeks and I will detail it in my next post…
…and, if you can’t wait, you should order my acclaimed 20 hour, 30 course, “Streaming Film School”, which has a solid 1.5 hours, void of theory, that is dedicated to Writing & Selling the Great Script.
(Learn how to Sell your script to a Development Exec from a Production Company with a Studio Deal with the upcoming Part II post)
Again, with your Treatment, which is probably 10-12 scenes, in Part II you’ll learn how to flesh it out (aka: Beat-It-Out) into 50-60 scenes that’s called a Beat Sheet… Then, with your 50-60 scenes blueprinted, you’ll discover how to write the 1st Draft, in 3-weeks typing 30-minutes/day…
LAUNCH YOUR FILM CAREER
My Streaming Film School will give you everything you need to Write, Produce or Direct your first independent feature film.
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