Written By Jan Caston
Competition wins are one sure way to get your name known. For the film world, by the end of February each year, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs have already been announced. Then comes the big one; the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars.
All eyes are on the premier prizes; the ones suffixed with that tiny, but oh, so important word – BEST; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Actress in a Leading Role, followed closely by the one I want to win – Best Original Screenplay. Is this the ultimate accolade for a screenwriter? You bet it is! It’s what every screenwriter sneakily dreams of as they sit lonely hours in front of their computer screen. It’s the pinnacle of our profession.
At the London Screenwriters Festival 2011, (www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com) I chatted with Screenwriter and Crime Writer, Daniel Martin Eckhart (www.danielmartineckhhart.com) . Never heard of him? Check out his list of successes on ImdB (www.imdb.com) for his extensive credit list.
“What’s next for you?” I asked. “Oh, I’m still chasing that Oscar” he smiled. “I’m determined I’ll get it one day.” No matter how successful you are the dream never goes away. If you love film or television, writing for the screen can be one of the most exciting forms of telling a story. So, how do you do it? Is it simply a matter of finding a good story and telling it in your own way; of giving it that distinctive “voice”?
Of course not! Writing for the screen also demands a form of technical writing. Scripts for radio and the theatre can vary in the way they are laid out, but scripts for television and film must be presented in industry standard format. Your script is the blueprint which will be used by all disciplines working on the production from the director and actors all the way through to the people who transport the equipment. Everyone will need a copy of that script.
The software programme of choice for the Industry is Final Draft (www.finaldraft.com/uk) , but until you can afford that, a free download such as Celtx (www.celtx.com) will do. The BBC Writersroom (www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom) explains standard formats and has a wide library of scripts as examples.
Once you have the format sorted, everyone in the entertainment business will tell you projects sink or swim on story. Story has to be unique. Story has to be gripping. Story has to grab its audience from its opening shots. And, most importantly, a story told on the screen has to be told in visual images.
More can be told in one ten second shot on screen than in many pages in a novel. So, as I sit at the computer tackling my latest masterpiece, making sure the action and dialogue progress the story but don’t repeat; every so often, I imagine myself in a beautiful outfit holding that little gold featureless model of a man who confirms you are the best. Job done.
Aah – what it is to dream!