Whenever I look for any kind of product online, and digital products in particular, I always look for a full refund Guarantee.
It just makes so much sense to hedge your bet, knowing that you’ll get re-imbursed if it doesn’t work out for you. An online script writing course is not exception, and of course e-learning platforms like Udemy offer such a refund for all courses, although it has to be said that not all courses are of the highest quality.
When I came across an advertisement for a course entitled ‘Movie In A Month’ presented by James Lamberg, I had to go back and read the sales copy again. Did it really guarantee that I would sell my movie script after taking the course? Well, yes it did!
This is the best guarantee I’ve ever seen. Basically, James teaches how to write a screenplay including all the elements that producers are crying out for, with guidelines for submission – but that’s not all. He also provides a current contact list for agents and buyers looking for scripts that are ready to go.
Here’s the guarantee:
“If you don’t sell your movie script within 12 months of purchasing the course, simply return the DVD and I will refund the purchase price 100% without questions.”
It’s well-known within the film industry that over 99 percent of spec script submissions are rejected before they pass through the first reader. This person is often an intern learning the trade, and they have a simple set of guidelines to follow before they let a submission through.
It’s very rare for a script itself to be submitted – those days are long-gone. The procedure for movie script submission involves writing a pitch or query letter, crafted to present the important feature of the movie.
The creation of this letter is quite a job in itself. Writer’s often find this the most difficult part, much harder than writing the script. Of course, this is covered in Lamberg’s course. Unless the letter describes the movie in the right way and in the right tone, your script will never be read.
Scripts that simply aren’t ready are a big turn-off for producers at all levels. This is one of the biggest failings of new screenwriters – scripts are submitted too early. The first draft, even though you might love it, is never as good as it good be.
Honing the script to perfection takes three or four re-writes. Hollywood producers can afford to wait for professional script in the right format that are almost production ready. Most film makers on a low budget simply cannot afford to have your script re-written. It’s your job to make sure it’s the best it can be
In this lesson I’m going to introduce you to the topic of story structure.
Now, when I say story structure, the first objection that inevitably gets raised is, somebody cries ‘formulaic’. They say ‘No, I am NOT going to use the story structuring techniques. I am going to be original and write something that has never been done before.’
Well chances are you can’t actually write something that’s never been done before because as the adage goes there’s nothing new Under the Sun. Story structure is not designed to be formulaic. It is not as though you sit down with the story structure template and crank out identical screenplays.
In fact story structure is a template for you to use to enhance your creativity and come up with something that is even more original than you might have if you just sat down and began typing.
So what does story structure do for you? Well, one that is perhaps the most important is that it keeps your writing on track and it makes sure you know where you’re going. It is very disheartening to get bogged down in the middle of act 2 and have absolutely no idea what comes next.
This frequently happens right around the 30 minute mark. Actually writers will come up with a brilliant idea, they’ll have all of his inspiration and they’ll sit down and begin writing act 1 and they will construct a beautiful, wonderful, emotionally satisfying act 1, get to the first turning point and have absolutely no idea what comes next.
At that point, instead of sitting down and trying to figure it out, those 30 pages end up languishing in a drawer someplace. By beginning with structure, you avoid that problem because then as you start writing you know exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
Structure also makes sure that the story you’re telling connects emotionally with your viewers, which is the most important thing, arguably that a good storyteller can do. But wait – what about movies like Pulp Fiction, Run Lola Run, or Magnolia? Those don’t seem like they follow traditional story structuring techniques at all.
Pulp Fiction, in fact, is told sort of almost in concentric circles but I will say that if you begin to look at where traditional story structuring moments should fall, chances are that at the appropriate time in the movie there are corresponding emotional highs and lows as well as plot twists and turns, even though the story is being told chronologically out of order.
Run Lola Run is a very interesting German film. It’s an 80 minute piece that is broken up into three chunks in which the character Lola performs essentially the same action three times.
Once when she’s early, once when she’s late and once when she is right on time and the ending plays out quite differently in each case depending on her timing. Now that certainly does not seem like that fits traditional story structuring at all. However, each individual segment is a miniature structure complete – beginning, middle and end.
In fact, towards the end of the movie, where the climax of a traditional structure would go, those are when the events are the most intense and so it actually even fits sort of a larger structure if you take a sort of step back and look at it in terms of rising tension.
The character’s emotional journey, those story check points almost work out perfectly as well. Magnolia is a movie that is almost entirely subplots and in fact there are so many plots going on it’s difficult sometimes to tell what the main plot is.
Each of those subplots, even though they’re trapped up and scattered throughout the entire two-hour movie, they each have complete story structures as well. Some of the stories come together in ways and again, if you look at moments where the first turning point should be, that’s a moment where there will be a moment that is a game changer for many of the subplots.
They’re related enough – that one moment will frequently play into many of the other subplots and as an audience we may not get to see them all, but we’ll get to imagine the way that they’re tying together, and what the effect that this turning point has on the others as we pick them up in act two going into act three.
If you look at the climax, all of the events tie in to this thing that happens, this quirk of the weather that results in climaxes through many of the subplots. If you look for story structure in successful films, it is always there. It is possible it can get much more complicated as with Run Lola Run, where instead of structuring in a tight one movie with a complete story structure, there are actually three complete story structures.
Again, with the subplots you’ll have as many complete story arcs as there are characters who overcome flaws. Now not every character in Magnolia is considered a protagonist because not everyone overcomes their flaw, and not all of the subplots do include complete arcs.
But those that do are probably the ones that you remember the most and sympathize the most with those characters. So what’s coming up in the next couple of lessons is an introduction to four act structure, which gets talked about in television a lot, but also works for movies.
It’s kind of three act structure in disguise and then we’ll get into really in-depth three act structure discussions, where we’ll break down each act and talk about the checkpoints that your character goes through in each of those – I will see you there.
Tips on getting started with script writing. After you have selected the topic of your story it’s time to begin writing your script.
We believe that the script is the key component of the digital storytelling process and without a good script there will not be a good story. Without a good story there will not be a good digital story, so in this video we’ll present some tips to help you begin writing your script.
Tip 1 – keep it small and focused. Remember you are not writing a script for a cinematic movie, you are writing it for a digital story which is only going to be about three to five minutes long. Focusing on a specific problem or topic will help you create a better digital story.
Tip two – make it personal. Your digital story is unique. It is your story and your audience wants to hear it from your perspective. You may choose to include personal details in your story in order to add emotional depth, although it is completely up to you to decide which details you wish to share with your viewers.
Tip 3 – know the story arc. A typical story is composed of three parts – the beginning, the middle and the end. The beginning is where you try to draw your audience’s attention to the story. You want to tell here, you will introduce the characters at the scene and begin the plot.
The middle pqrt is where most of your story will be told. Here you will explain your topic further by providing more details of the topic or problem you’re trying to tell. In many cases this is where your story reaches the climax or a turning point.
The end is where the conflict is resolved. Well, the new invention solved the issue. Well, the couple get married. What happens after the medical treatment? The questions will be answered, the loose ends will be tied and a discovery, revelation or an insight be revealed. Since it is difficult to sustain the audience’s attention after the climax, it is better to keep this part short as you finish the story.
Tip 4 – visualize your story. What you need to do is get the pictures related to your story. Arrange and place them on a table, then write descriptions describing each of the pictures and how they relate to the story. This should help you in getting started with your draft.
Tip 5 – start drafting. Now let’s do an activity. Please pause this video and find a piece of paper a pen and a timer. If you haven’t done so yet, please pause this video and get the paper pen and timer. If you have them with you let’s begin the activity.
Set your timer to 10 minutes and start writing. Write anything that comes to mind on the front and back of the paper and do not stop until either the time or the space on the paper runs out. When you’re ready to start writing your draft, please pause this video again. Ready? Go.
Welcome back. I assume that by now you have a draft of your story. Congratulations!It may not be perfect at this point but at least you have something to start with that is why the final tip will be so useful.
Tip 6 – participate in a story circle. A story circle is a small group where you can share ideas and work through the process of making digital stories together with others, including perfecting your scripts.
In the story circle you and your colleagues can read aloud the draft versions of your scripts to each other and provide constructive criticism. You can then use these suggestions to improve your script. Most of us are not good enough writers to get the script perfect with the first draft and it may require several versions to improve it and make it stronger.
Continuing to work on your script by creating successive new versions will help you construct the foundation of a good digital story. Participating in a story circle and receiving useful feedback from others is an excellent way for you to improve your work.