FF – Planning the Story

FF - Planning

Just keep working at it. It’ll turn out right if you put your mind to it.


The Idea: Coming Up With The Story Concept

Recently on Thursdays, I’ve been skipping the “Quote of the Day” for something I feel would be a bit more beneficial at the moment. I’ve been writing pieces on how to write a good story. The last two were about gaining a familiarity for screenplays through reading scripts and doing script coverage.

If you’re having trouble writing your screenplay, I think it’s likely you’re getting lost somewhere in the process. I found a great 10-part series on “Go Into The Story,” and I’m going to be sharing them week by week. I think this will help, because you may be skipping steps or getting lost somewhere in the process. I’ll also be giving some of my input. If you’re having trouble writing scripts, stay tuned. Or if you can’t wait to read the incredibly helpful series in it’s entirety, you can find it here – The 10 Steps: How I Write A Script

We’re going to start with the idea, because you can’t really do anything else with that: How I Write A Script, Part 1: Story Concept. In this article, Scott Myers gives some solid advice. I’d like to add a bit of my own to help out.

Scott goes over some great ways to create a marketable story. He wants to help you sell a story, and defends his position well. I think if you want to sell your script your story does have to be marketable. People that you want to sell it to have to easily understand it, and of course they have to like it and see its potential. The number one thing in my mind that he doesn’t discuss is that it should excite you. For instance, don’t write a story about something because it’s wildly popular. Write about it, because you feel a fire in your chest when you read about it and you want to share that feeling. Other than that, if you’re looking for a way to find your next big idea, Part 1 of his series has you covered.

Academy Award Nominees 2018

It looks like it’s that time of the year again. The 90th Annual Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday, so mark your calendars! I’ll be going over the nominees week by week so we can take a closer look at their writing process, and what went into these scripts specifically. I haven’t finished with the Golden Globe nominees yet, but luckily there’s a little overlap. I’ll make sure to add any of those that didn’t make it to the Oscars as well.

It feels like the Oscars are changing. I feel like a few years ago, some of these movies would never have made it on to this list. It’s a refreshing change, and something I hope to see continue.

Adapted Screenplay:

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Original Screenplay:

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

This list is courtesy of Variety.

If you want to see a full list of nominees, look no further: Variety – Oscar Nominations 2018: The Complete List

Script Coverage

Last week I spoke a little bit about how it’s probably a good idea to read a stack of scripts. This advice was for those of you that haven’t written a script, or are having trouble writing them. I hope you’ve picked up at least one script to read since then, but if you haven’t now is a great time to start! Find the script of your favorite movie and give it a read.

Now for the next step. If you haven’t heard of it, script coverage is the analysis and grading of screenplays, often within the “script development” department of a production company. Remember when you used to do book reports in school? Think along the lines of those. They can be more complex, involving what the targeted audience is and how much the movie could be projected to make, but for now let’s stick to the book report part.

When I started my first internship in the film industry, they had me do script coverage daily. Sometimes more formal, and sometimes less. I did it at a production company and two talent management companies, and I believe it made me a far better writer. The idea is you write a one-page synopsis of the screenplay, and one page of your thoughts and comments on what makes the film good or bad. This can help you understand story structure, and really make you think more critically about your own stories. My boss, Jennifer, would always say, “you can learn something from every movie, good or bad.” This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to understand what makes a good script. It might help you if you’re having trouble writing screenplays. Pick a few scripts out and give it a shot, both good and bad. This way you learn what to do, and what NOT to do.

Here’s the book that helped me learn it all: Screenplay Story Analysis


Writing a Good Story You Can Call Your Own

Avengers // INFINITY WAR by themadbutcher

Today, while going through the news, I spotted an article written by one of our cool members here at theOffice, Nicole LaPorte. It’s about why Marvel has been so successful, and I think it’s worth a read. Here’s the article: Fast Company: The Marvel Studios Mind-Set For Making Hit After Hit.

“So we do say, We want to make a space movie. We want to do a high school movie. We want to do a heist movie. We want to do a thriller. That his how we think about all our different films. What kind of films do we want to make?” – Kevin Feige

This quote is about how Marvel approaches each of their films. These protagonists are all superheroes, but it would be pretty boring if they approached each film the same way. For instance, “Iron Man” is really the Marvel movie that started this universe. If every superhero movie tried to recreate it’s success by imitating it that would be boring and honestly it wouldn’t give us anything new to look forward to. It would also probably feel forced.

This links to exactly what I want to talk about. As a writer you have to be true to your story and to your characters. These are living things that you create, and that’s something you’ll understand as you write more and more. It’s a good idea to learn from others successes, but it’s not the best idea to copy them. Whether your story is an original or an adaptation you may want to let it become what it needs to be. Forcing it to be a certain way can be detrimental to it, and in all honesty it’s no fun. To write is to create. I believe it’s something to enjoy and have pride in. I also believe that’s the mindset you have to be in for success to come your way.


Reading Is Writing

Okay class, today’s lesson is a simple one. If you’re having trouble writing scripts, it may simply be that you haven’t read many or any at all. Reading books, and watching movies and TV shows can definitely help with story structure, but until you’ve read your fair share of scripts you won’t likely have an understanding of how to write one properly. One of the great things about reading scripts is you can read them much faster than any book. One page translates to about one minute in screen time, so you can read just about as fast as if you were watching yourself.

Writing a script is simple. Writing a good script is not. My suggestion is to pick some of your favorite movies and TV pilots and read the scripts for them. Also watch them so you can see how the page translates onto the screen. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by the differences. Read whatever draft you can find online. Almost anything you can think of is available. Read a good handful of them. You can be the judge of when you feel you understand how they’re written, but 10 might be a good number to start with.

This exercise can be really fun, because it’ll help you get into the mind of the writer that created the screenplay and what they were thinking the movie or show would be before it was filmed. I’ll go into another great tip building off of this one next week. I’ve got an awesome link with all the resources you should need right here: