I Want To Write A Screenplay

Take your first step on The Write Journey

I WANT TO WRITE A SCREENPLAYMost people want to write a better film than the bad ones they see.

Some people want to write a film to get rich and famous.

Others want to write a film that will change the world.

Then there are those who simply want to tell a great story.

And it’s these great stories that ultimately find their way into the hearts of filmgoers worldwide.

In a world and cyberspace where there’s a traffic jam of information that congests the creative process, it’s not easy for first-time screenwriters to find their own path.

And even more frustrating for those who have completed a stack of unpublished drafts, entered copious competitions, but fail to get their screenplay accepted into the arena of film.

It is understandable why the world of screenwriting has become a war zone where everyone wants to be winner.

There are no winners on this heated battlefield, only frustrated storytellers whose inspiration and passion dwindles with each rejection or block.

What most first-time screenwriters fail to realise is that firstly: YOU ARE NOT WRITING A FILM.

You are not writing a film

If you want to write a screenplay, or a play, TV series or bestseller, you have to:

  • Understand the medium you are writing for: As a storyteller you have to not only understand the differences between each medium, but also know what medium you are capable of writing for, and what medium will showcase your story best.
  • Be passionate about the medium you are writing for: Never waste your talent or the time of others by working on a medium that you have no passion for, or are not familiar with.

As a screenwriter you are a storyteller who happens to write for the film medium.  Film is a visual medium that dramatises a basic story line. It deals in pictures, images and pieces of film.

  • If the story you are writing happens in words, you are writing a stageplay.
  • If the story you are writing happens in thoughts and abstract expressions, you are writing a novel or short story.

As a screenwriter, you are part of a broad storytelling tradition. As a screenwriter, you are half a filmmaker.

The mistake most beginning screenwriters make is to think that they are writing a ‘film’.

You are not writing a film, you are writing screenplay that becomes the blueprint for a film.

  • A screenplay is writing intended to be turned into a film: 120 pages filled with vivid images (visual narrative), words, dialogue, description, memorable characters and action.
  • A screenplay is a story told in pictures, dialogue and description, and placed within the context of dramatic structure

The craft of screenwriting is something that can be learned. How good or bad it is, that’s another story.

It is an on-going creative process that will end weeks, months, perhaps years later with some 120 pages filled with vivid images, words, dialogue, description, memorable characters and action in what is called a draft.

Secondly, what most teachings fail to enlighten is that: WRITING A STORY BEGINS WITH THE WRITER

Writing a Screenplay begins with the storyteller

 Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.

Mahatma Gandhi, as quoted in Hope in the Age of Anxiety

If you want to be storyteller, it is important to explore your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

In The Writing Studio’s The Write Journey course, the journey begins with you, the storyteller.

The Write Journey gives you an opportunity to take a closer look at who you are as writer, what it takes to be a writer, and how to fully express your ideas and transform thoughts into stories.

You are what you write.

What you write

  • reflects who you are; your culture, humanity, history, point of view, and knowledge.
  • informs and influences your writing, your story, your theme, your plot and your characters.

The act of creation is an organic process, a process that evolves from the seed of inspiration to the screening of the film, staging of your play, publication of your novel or story.

You have to

  • Know your place in the creative process. If you are the scriptwriter, you are not the producer, director, publisher or performer, unless you cross over into the arena of producing, directing or publishing.
  • Know what it takes to be scriptwriter and understand the world of the writer: As a writer you are imprisoned by your fertile imagination and will never enjoy the freedom most people who live outside the creative sphere have.

As a screenwriter you have to constantly come up with new, fresh ideas that will enable you to write.

You have to create a story:  Creative writing is self-expression, self-discovery, to gain knowledge, share knowledge or heal wounds.  No matter why you want to become a writer, unlocking your creativity can unlock your power to make the world a better place.

Writing is an organic process that needs to be nurtured and respected. Be the best writer you can be and never settle for average

If you are reading this and it’s not your first introduction to the world of screenwriting, you have to realise that your expectations come with baggage:  loads of information from other websites or other sources and courses (each with its own does and don’ts).

The Write Journey is inspired by the groundwork laid by Syd Field in the 70s with his series of manuals on screenwriting, screen guru Robert McKee’s screenwriting Bible ‘Story’, and manuals by Richard Krevolin,  and informed by writing coach and mentor Daniel Dercksen, who created the independent training initiative The Writing Studio 19 years ago:

Pic by Jans Rautenbach

Pic by Jans Rautenbach

  • Dercksen’s real-life experience of writing screenplays for feature film (now in development) and plays (directing the play The Beauty of Incomplete Things and producing it independently in two cities in South Africa)
  • Mentorship by great storytellers like veteran South African filmmaker Jans Rautenbach (Abraham), as well as international filmmakers like Alan J. Pakula (Sophie’s Choice) and composer Stephen Sondheim (Into The Woods), and master satirist  Pieter-Dirk Uys.
  • 19 years of teaching workshops in screenwriting throughout South Africa and developing original stories with screenwriters, playwrights and novelists
  • 30 years of working as a freelance film and theatre journalist

The Write Journey makes sense of the nonsense, and provides a simple and clear exploration of what it takes to write a screenplay.

If you are a complete newbie and know nothing about screenwriting, you have the advantage of starting on a blank page, where all stories are born (no matter how many stories you have crafted before).

That’s the first thing you have to realise about writing your story.

All stories start on a blank page

 You are writing something that is bigger than stomping Dinos or a group of Desperate Housewives finding love and unhappiness in a material world.

You are writing a story.

That’s all it is.

A STORY.

And yes, that story will mutate and evolve into an award-winning film or television series, or acclaimed stage play, but the heart and soul of all great films, stageplays, novels and television series (even great journalism) are found in a simple story that rules the creative universe.

The Write Journey is about writing that great story.

Storytelling is revealing story events, communicating essential information, provoking the imagination with a new sensibility and ultimately revealing something about the writer’s culture, history, experience and insight of the world and the human condition.

Storytelling should ultimately entertain, offer escapism, and allow readers and audiences to explore new territories and discover new worlds and aspects of humanity.

Worldwide millions of stories are attempted each year but only a few are quality screenplays for film or television, stageplays or novels that eventually reach its audience and readers.

The reason for this is simple: today’s aspirant storytellers’ rush to their computers without first learning their craft.

The novice plunges ahead, counting solely on experience, thinking that life experiences and knowledge of film warrants expression.

Professional storytellers learn their craft

Just as a composer must excel in the principles of musical composition, the storyteller must master the corresponding principles of story composition; It is essential for the storyteller to understand the mechanics of drama.

Note: The Write Journey is about writing a story for a visual medium (film, television or the stage), and all the fundamentals apply to writing a novel or journalism.  No matter what medium you are writing for, all stories have the same DNA and it’s only the context and conventions that make it a film or novel or stageplay.