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The Short Screenplay: Your Short Film from Concept to Production

Book Description

With the growth of film festivals, cable networks, specialty home video, and the Internet, there are more outlets and opportunities for screening short films now than at any time in the last 100 years. But before you can screen your short film, you need to shoot it. And before you can shoot it, you need to write it. The Short Screenplay provides both beginning and experienced screenwriters with all the guidance they need to write compelling, filmable short screenplays. Explore how to develop characters that an audience can identify with. How to create a narrative structure that fits a short time frame but still engages the audience. How to write dialogue that's concise and memorable. How to develop story ideas from concept through final draft. All this and much more is covered in a unique conversational style that reads more like a novel than a "how-to" book. The book wraps up with a discussion of the role of the screenplay in the production process and with some helpful (and entertaining) sample scripts. This is the only guide you'll ever need to make your short film a reality!

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. About the Author
  4. Introduction
    1. What Is a Screenplay?
    2. What’s Important in a Screenplay?
    3. The Screenwriter’s Skill Set
  5. One. Shorts
    1. Key Concepts
    2. The Fundamentals
      1. Keep your screenplay focused
      2. Limit the time frame of the action
      3. Limit the number of characters
      4. Visualize
      5. Say more with less
      6. Make it new
    3. What to Avoid
      1. The extensive use of special or visual effects
      2. Multiple subplots
      3. Resolution through death (either murder or suicide)
      4. Weapons
      5. Serial killing
      6. Parodies and mockumentaries
      7. Dreams and fantasies
      8. Characters who are obviously walking contradictions
    4. Film and Theater
    5. The Writer’s Goals
    6. The Script
    7. Film and Television
    8. Chapter One, Take Two—Chapter Review
  6. Two. Character
    1. Key Concepts
    2. Character and Characterization
    3. Why Are Character Choices Active and External?
    4. Putting Your Characters in Charge of the Action
    5. Objective and Need
    6. Adding Depth to Your Characters
      1. Outlook is the way a character views the world
      2. Attitude is the way the world views a character
      3. Arc is the growth or the change that a character undergoes during the course of the film’s action
    7. Types of Characters
    8. Secondary Characters
    9. Chapter Two, Take Two—Chapter Review
  7. Three. Narrative
    1. Key Concepts
      1. Character vs. Character
      2. Character vs. Self
      3. Character vs. Society
      4. Character vs. Nature
      5. Character vs. Fate
    2. The Three-Part Nature of the Screenplay
      1. Setting
      2. Backdrop
      3. Tone
      4. Protagonist
      5. A hint of the conflict to come
      6. The direction of the plot
      7. The inciting incident
    3. Rising Action
    4. Some Additional Devices
      1. Condition lock
      2. Plant and payoff
      3. Red herring
    5. Climax
    6. Resolution
    7. Scenes
      1. Scene-protagonist vs. Scene-antagonist
    8. Creating the Scene
      1. What is the dramatic point of the scene?
      2. What is the major beat in the scene?
      3. Which characters do I need to make the scene work?
      4. Who is the scene-protagonist?
      5. What does the scene-protagonist want in the scene?
      6. What is the form of the conflict in the scene?
      7. What is the subtext for the scene?
      8. Where will the scene play?
      9. At what time of day will the scene play?
    9. Chapter Three, Take Two—Chapter Review
  8. Four. Dialogue
    1. Key Concepts
    2. The Goals of Film Dialogue
      1. Move the plot forward
      2. Reveal character
      3. Provide story information
      4. Establish tone
      5. Convey theme
      6. Add to the backdrop of the story
    3. The Characteristics of Film Dialogue
    4. Writing Effective Dialogue
      1. Write dialogue that’s dynamic and progressive
      2. Be concise
      3. Keep lines simple
      4. Keep speeches short
      5. Take care in the way that you represent a dialect or an accent on the page
      6. Don’t turn every beat through the dialogue
      7. Don’t write “on the nose.”
      8. Avoid filler phrases
      9. Avoid stammering or stuttering except when the dramatic situation absolutely demands it
      10. Don’t be inflexible (unless you enjoy extreme frustration)
    5. Making Every Word Count
    6. Keeping Dialogue Concise: A Case in Point
    7. Chapter Four, Take Two—Chapter Review
  9. Five. Development
    1. Key Concepts
    2. Where Do Film Ideas Come From?
      1. Character
      2. Plot
      3. Setting
      4. Theme
    3. Development
    4. The Stages of Development
      1. Premise
      2. Concept
      3. Title
      4. Character Interview
      5. Synopsis
      6. Step Outline
      7. Scene Outline
      8. Sequence Outline
      9. Treatment
      10. First Draft
      11. Revisions
      12. Common problems in the setup
      13. Common problems in the rising action
      14. Common problems in the resolution
      15. Principles of Rewriting
    5. Chapter Five, Take Two—Chapter Review
  10. Six. Production
    1. Key Concepts
    2. Pitfalls and Money Pits
      1. Too Many Roles
      2. Critters
      3. Kids
      4. Stunts
      5. Nudity
      6. “Scenery Chewing”
      7. Locations (too many)
      8. Locations (too public)
      9. Vehicles
      10. Weapons
      11. Weather
      12. Clearances
    3. Working with Others
      1. Locking the Pages of a Script
      2. A Brief Word about Rehearsal
    4. Chapter Six, Take Two—Chapter Review
  11. Seven. Format
    1. Key Concepts
    2. Scene Headings
      1. Scene Directions
      2. Character Cues
      3. Dialogue
      4. Parenthetical Directions
      5. Transitions
    3. The Standard Industry Format (Traditional)
    4. The Standard Industry Format (Updated)
    5. The Title Page
    6. Special Situations
    7. Some Simple but Essential Rules of Punctuation
    8. Chapter Seven, Take Two—Chapter Review
  12. Wrap
  13. A. Genres
  14. B. Glossary
  15. C. Sample Screenplay: Early Draft
  16. D. Sample Screenplay: Shooting Script
  17. E. A Filmmaker’s Dozen: Thirteen Short Films Every Filmmaker Should See
    1. “The Red Balloon” (“Le Ballon rouge”)
    2. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (“La Rivière du hibou”)
    3. “La Jetée”
    4. “Life Lessons”
    5. “Black Rider” (“Schwarzfahrer”)
    6. “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life”
    7. “Kom”
    8. “A Guy Walks into a Bar”
    9. “Tunnel of Love”
    10. “true.”
    11. “Dog” (“Inja”)
    12. “I’ll Wait for the Next One” (“J’attendrai le suivant”)
    13. “Gridlock” (“Fait d’hiver”)