Writing a Screenplay starts with an IDEA

Everyone has them. Writing a screenplay starts with an IDEA but you cannot copyright an idea so you would have to write a TREATMENT on your idea and expand that to fit the form of whichever genre you are wanting to achieve.

So there are several different Script Types that I’m talking about: 1 is a Theater Play which can be performed on Broadway or Off-Broadway. Then there is a Teleplay that is a script made for Television or a Mini-Series (more than one episode), then the last type is a script for a Television series that is ongoing year to year hopefully. One other type is a short film or short film for television. I like to tape shorts for short film festival and most of that is sketch comedy with a few actors and a short script under 10 mins.

Each of these types of scripts are FORM driven in that they each have a separate type of Form they adhere to. Script pages for a film are usually 2 hours long or 120 mins which equals to 120 pages as each written page equals one minute. Quentin Tarantino writes long scripts some of them are over 2 hours and that page count is still the same – 1 minute per page.

A TREATMENT is not the actual script. A Treatment is the outline of the script you will write AFTER you write down your idea. I think of it as a map to writing my script. Most writers don’t write the script in one seating so they will have to go back to the script to complete it over several days or weeks or months. In order to organize your script you must have a cohesive TREATMENT to WRITE FROM. In the Treatment you will write down your LOGLINE – a brief elevator pitch of what your original idea is about. 2ndly you will write down a short SYNOPSIS of what your script is about BUT NEVER GIVE THEM THE ENDING. Then write down your CAST OF CHARACTERS. It’s best to keep them under 10 characters unless you are writing a script like WAR AND PEACE or GONE WITH THE WIND with a lot of different characters.

LOGLINES-When writing a logline remember these 3 points: WHEN, THEN, UNTIL…. examples:

“Star Wars: A New Hope.” “When an optimistic farm boy discovers that he has powers, (THEN) he teams up with other rebel fighters (UNTIL) to liberate the galaxy from the sinister forces of the Empire.” 

“Titanic”: WHEN Two star-crossed lovers meet & fall in love on the maiden voyage of the Titanic and THEN struggle to survive as the ship sinks into the Atlantic Ocean UNTIL they hold out hope they will survive the maritime disaster.” 

The Godfather”: “The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.” 

Reservoir Dogs”: “After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.” 

After you write your LOGLINE, SYNOPSIS, CAST OF CHARACTERS you are now at the point of writing down your actual TREATMENT which is a SCENE BY SCENE detail of what will happen in each scene with your characters. When you introduce a character for the first time you usually CAPITALIZE that character’s name. in the Scene by Scene treatment of your script you can write “funny lines for that character” that pop into your head, ACTION that those characters take in that SCENE and so forth.

If you write your treatment in this way you will be able to leave your script for a day, a month or months and go back to it and take up where you left off because you already wrote a treatment that is the map to the script you are writing. Meaning that you won’t waste valuable time when returning to your script. Even during the writing of the script from the treatment ideas for scenes can change and I usually notate them in the treatment first and then make the change or add that idea into the script itself.

After the script is finished have friends gather and have an impromptu reading so you can hear the script. Then hold a real reading of the script with real actors and a person with a theatrical clear voice as the NARRATOR. I urge every single person who is an aspiring writer to join the DRAMATISTS GUILD, which is a Dot Org and they are also on line. Please look them up and join as an ASSOCIATE MEMBER. There are tons of benefits and you will be able to go to free & discounted lectures for writers, playwrights, musicians, composers. They are a mandatory organization for me to join. One last thing – when you finish your script via your TREATMENT – put both TREATMENT & SCRIPT INTO THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS FOR COPYRIGHT. if for some reason you change or add something of important to the copyrighted script you should copyright it again and us the US Copyright # you received from first Copyright to link it to the new copyright of your work.

Next article will be next week when we and our actors meet for the first time for our POT LUCK PARTY & FIRST REHEARSAL on Saturday Jan 14, 2023. For awhile I will be writing about our upcoming reading for our SCRIPTED READ VEGAS coming up in June of this year.

VEGAS LOGLINE – When 2 mentally challenged young adults meet each other and fall in love, they plan to run to VEGAS to marry, until the boy’s father and social morays of the time threaten to separate them forever.

Here’s the question – if you were a LEAD PRODUCER would you be interested in getting investors for this script?


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