Showcasing Your Screenplay: Stun them on page one

Photo by Nathan DeFiesta on Unsplash

Ensure professional grammar and formatting

It should go without saying. Unfortunately, experience has shown me that instead, it bears endless repetition: check your work for basic grammar, spelling, and formatting errors. I know, we’re all on deadlines, and we all think we have to finish our next big thing RIGHT NOW because if we don’t, all of our creative energies and talents will blow away on the wind like so many dandelion fuzzies. However, if a reader has to psyche themselves up for battle just to wade through a mess of mangled formatting and unpunctuated dialogue, I can promise that all of your talent and creativity is going unnoticed. In these admittedly more dire (but not unheard of) situations, all the reader can see is a script written entirely in the present participle, where margins have no meaning, and where one character changed names on page 50 without explanation. Yes, I have reviewed a script with all these flaws, and yes, they were harbingers of much deeper narrative issues.

Say something interesting- and say it fast

You don’t need to lay out your entire premise in a page. You do need to quickly show off something fresh, eye-catching, or peculiar about your story. Take one of your favorite elements of your script — whether it’s a character, a style of dialogue, an arresting visual image — and serve it up to the reader with a flourish that whispers keep reading for more of this.

Pacing, pacing, pacing

The best scripts pay serious consideration to pacing from the very beginning. Good pacing, of course, is somewhat subjective; rapid-fire action and character introductions might work for an action or thriller feature. Slower pacing that spends time drawing out small nuances might be appropriate for a more character-driven piece.

Hard truths

Screenwriting how-to guides often tell writers to pour extra energy into the first five or ten pages of a new script. This advice is predicated on a fairly solid premise: you theoretically have that long before a producer/reader/other industry person decides to keep reading or toss your script into the dusty attic of Hollywood dreams.

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