The next time I watch the Oscars, I’m going to pay special attention to the winners of the screenplay categories. After researching how to be the next Quentin Tarantino, I realized that being a starving artist actually had some pretty major requirements…
Did you know there’s an actual reason why all movies scripts are written in 12pt Courier font? It’s because the time it takes to read a page formatted this way is about a minute, so each page equates to a minute of screen time. This also means that screenplays will have between 90-120 pages, because movies tend to run from and hour and a half to two hours. Rather a scientific approach for the arts, no?
Since the script is written for a visual medium, it is crucial that the screenwriter shows rather than tells (does anyone else feel like they’re back in high school english class?). So the inner monologue is a big no-no here.
If all that wasn’t enough, did you know there’s a spec script and a shooting script? To understand a spec script, picture the frustrated drama school graduate furiously penning their most recent breakup down on the back of napkins, and then spending their weekends peddling said napkins to anyone who will pay them to produce it. Spec=Speculation…
Then those napkins get the Hollywood treatment and turn into technical instructions, like where the cameras should focus, notes for the actors, and editing jargon. All the scenes are numbered and revisions are color-coded in the case of reshoots.
Margins and headings have never had a greater role (pun intended) than in screenplays. They are essential for differentiation between dialogue, action, locations, and transitions (see the first image).
I wanted to take on this experiment for a few reasons. First, I wanted to be a screenwriter for many years growing up and this gives me a change to step into the career for a week or two. Secondly, I was inspired by a short film I saw in which a dying man was given the opportunity to relive one day of his life over again, but he had to follow the script exactly as it was. He realized that what he really wanted was not a do-again but a do-over.
I thought this idea was really profound and I was inspired to rewrite the last time I saw my old friend the way I wish it had happened.
If I end up winning an Oscar for this original screenplay one day, I’ll make sure to thank my Minor in Writing family, don’t worry! 😉