A diverse and exciting industry full of opportunity awaits those who know how to write a script. With hard work and dedication, you’ll start to get your work noticed, and could gain employment as a sub-contractor or even start your own production business!
In this course, you’ll learn how to develop a storyline, develop a script and understand how characterisation, dialogue, music, sound effects and visual elements can combine to create a compelling piece of work. You’ll gain an understanding of the business of scriptwriting, from legal and ethical considerations to the commercial opportunities available.
The breadth of your professional writing skills will also mean you could be writing scripts for a variety of mediums and audiences, from marketing and advertising services to mainstream and fringe media. This includes writing scripts for TV, radio and film, to working on niche projects like producing podcasts and training videos.
With a Certificate of Script Writing, the sky really is the limit!
Outcomes achieved by learning how to write a script include:
- Studying the scope and nature of script writing
- Exploring what scripts are and how they are used
- Learning about writing scripts including uncovering the story you want to tell
- Gaining an understanding of the one page, one-minute rule
- Understanding visual, behaviour and aural storytelling
- Discovering the ‘show and don’t tell’ concept
- Examining abbreviations, how to handle your time and how to format scripts
- Gaining insights into how to plot a screenplay
- Learning about different types of stories including their specifications
- Exploring the duration of performance
- Studying how to develop the storyline
- Understanding the Story Pyramid
- Gaining insights into creating a storyboard
- Learning the techniques for plotting a story
- Exploring fiction and creative non-fiction
- Studying non-fiction scriptwriting in terms of education, corporate and presentation writing
- Gaining an understanding of scriptwriting formatting
- Learning how to write the outline and the script
- Exploring cliff hangers in a script
- Studying how to format outlines
- Understanding characterisation and how to build, plan and write good characters
- Examining sound effects in script writing
- Gaining insights into dialogue in script writing
- Exploring examples of dialogue
- Learning how to write dialogue and dialogue tags
- Studying how to write scripts for TV, film and the internet
- Gaining an understanding of fiction and non-fiction script writing
- Examining pace, time frame and visuals
- Learning how to write scripts for radio in terms of voice, music and sound effects
- Studying how to write scripts for training and instructional videos
- Gaining an understanding of one, two and multiple-person scripts
- Learning how to use visuals in training presentations
- Exploring scriptwriting for children
- Studying fiction and non-fiction hybrids when writing for children
- Understanding children’s cognitive development
- Examining the implications for the writer
- Gaining insights into socialisation, gender, roles and stereotyping
- Learning about writing for advertising
- Exploring the purpose of advertising
- Studying how to write and analyse ads
- Understanding summary skills including tips for summarising
- Gaining insights into writing for infomercials
- Learning about scriptwriting commercial opportunities
- Studying how to start your own production business
- Gaining an understanding of the law and ethical and legal considerations.
Freytag’s Plot Pyramid
One of the earliest dramatic plot structures was devised in the 1800s by German novelist and critic, Gustav Freytag, in his analysis of ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama. He conceptualised five plot elements and his ‘pyramid’ continues to help writers organise their ideas and thoughts. So if you’re after some tips on how to write a script with a simple yet dramatic structure, read on!
Freytag’s derived his plot pyramid from the conflict of man against man, specifically the hero and his adversary. The action of the drama and the grouping of characters is in two parts – the hero’s own deeds and those of his antagonist – which Freytag describes as ‘play and counter-play’. These two parts must be united by a climax, to which the action rises and falls away. Freytag is indifferent as to which of the two parties justice favours. In both groups, power and weakness and good and evil are mingled. The drama is then divided into five acts (sometimes referred to as a ‘dramatic arc’) – Exposition, Rising action, Climax, Falling action and finally, Catastrophe.
Once the setting is fixed in a particular time and place, the mood is set and characters are introduced. Exposition can then be conveyed through flashbacks, dialogues, background details or the narrator telling a back-story.
An exciting force or event begins immediately after the exposition, building the rising action in one or a number of stages towards the point of greatest interest. These events are generally the most important parts of the story because the entire plot depends on them to set up the climax and the satisfactory resolution of the story itself.
The climax is the turning point and changes the protagonist’s fate. If things were going well for them, the plot will turn against them, often revealing their hidden weaknesses. If the story is a comedy, the opposite will often happen, with things going from bad to good for the protagonist, often requiring them to draw on hidden inner strengths.
During this act, the hostility of the counter-party targets the hero. Freytag lays out two rules here – the number of characters should be limited and the number of scenes where the hero ‘falls’ should be fewer than in the rising movement. The falling action may contain a moment of final suspense, often where the final outcome may be in doubt.
The catastrophe is where the hero meets his destruction and where conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters, and the release of anxiety and tension for the reader or viewer. A tragedy ends with the protagonist being worse off than at the beginning of the narrative. Comedies often end the opposite way!
Five Famous Screenwriters Who Hated Their Own Movies
In exploring how to write a script, we often turn to famous screenwriters. However, even the most successful of these don’t always like the movie that results!
#1 – Kelly Marcel – Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Universal Pictures acquired the film rights to E.L. James’s bestselling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey in early 2013. The studio then hired Saving Mr Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel to adapt the book. However, although the studio promised Marcel creative freedom, the author was unhappy with her work.
E.L James wanted to remove a lot of the dialogue as she believed ‘it could be a really sexy film if there wasn’t so much talking in it’. Subsequently, Marcel wasn’t commissioned to write the film’s sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, and couldn’t even watch the original as her ‘heart was really broken by the process’.
#2 – Lana and Lilly Wachowski – Assassins (1995)
During the mid-1990s, the Wachowski sisters sold their screenplay to producer Joel Silver for $1 million. Richard Donner was signed on to direct with Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas in the lead roles. However, although it was one of the hottest unproduced screenplays at the time, Donner didn’t like the darker tone, so he hired another screenwriter to rewrite it to make it into a standard action thriller.
The Wachowskis weren’t happy with the decision to tone down their screenplay, so asked that their names be removed from the project. The American Writer’s Guild denied their request. However, their negative experience led to the sisters wanting more control over their work, so they became directors instead!
#3 – Bret Easton Ellis – The Informers (2008)
Although Ellis co-wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of the movie from his own novel, the final cut was not exactly what he was after. He was predominantly upset that the tone of the story went from dark humour to something more melodramatic, and blamed Australian director Gregor Jordan.
In Ellis’ opinion, he wrote scenes in the script that were funny – with an Altman-esque sense of humour. However, they were directed in a way that resulted in the scenes not being funny at all and what he believed played out like an Aussie soap opera!
#4 – Quentin Tarantino – Natural Born Killers (1994)
Renowned as someone who knows how to write a script, Tarantino sold his screenplay for Natural Born Killers to director Oliver Stone in the early 90’s. Two years later, Stone released the film with Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson in starring roles. And while it was a box office hit, Tarantino despised the production because of the alterations made to much of his original content.
Years after its release, the producers of the movie sued Tarantino when he tried to publish the original screenplay. However, although producers believed Tarantino forfeited his rights when he sold it to them, a judge ruled in Tarantino’s favour.
#5 – J.D. Shapiro – Battlefield Earth – 2000
Actor John Travolta commissioned screenwriter J.D. Shapiro to adapt Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s novel Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 for the big screen in 1997. However, Shapiro ended up writing a darker version of the novel and was fired from the project when he refused to change its tone.
Regardless, much of what he wrote ended up in the final movie and he received a writer’s credit, much to his dismay. Released in 2000, Battlefield Earth ended up being known as the worst movie of the decade. However, Shapiro remained a good sport about its failure, accepting a Golden Raspberry Award in 2001 for the year’s Worst Screenplay!