What is a screenwriter?
Without screenwriters, there would be no big-budget blockbusters in the summer, no independent movies to screen during Oscar season, no straight-to-video sequels–no movies at all. Every movie needs an idea, which can be turned into a treatment, which can be turned into a full, three-act movie. So the world of film needs screenwriters.
They create the script or screenplay for a movie or television show, the foundation for the entire film production. A finished product includes dialogue, action, and the overall structure of the story. Screenwriters play a crucial role in the filmmaking process, as they are responsible for crafting the narrative and characters that will be brought to life on screen.
They often start by developing the initial concept for a film or TV show, which may involve creating a unique idea or adapting an existing story, novel, or real-life event into a screenplay. Scene descriptions, character dialogue and development, structure, and other elements are necessary to convey the story visually and audibly.
Occasionally, they’ll work with directors, producers, and other members of the creative team to refine the script and make necessary changes during the pre-production and production phases. This may include multiple drafts and revisions, so they must be open to feedback and collaboration. They can work as freelancers or be employed by studios, production companies, or television networks.
What does a screenwriter do?
As a screenwriter, you are responsible for writing the script or screenplay that serves as the blueprint for a production. Your role is pivotal in bringing stories to life on the screen as you’ll generate original ideas (your own or from someone else) or adapt existing material into a screenplay.
Following a very strict template, you’ll write everything that will happen in the film, including scene descriptions, character actions, and dialogue. A screenwriter will create and shape the characters in the story, build the world around them, and give them authentic and engaging dialogue. Each character must have a unique voice, emotions, and idiosyncrasies, all while advancing the plot in the classic three-act structure.
You’ll build the film’s narrative, creating conflict, and resolution, and maintaining audience engagement over those three acts. There’s no one way of getting there (see Pulp Fiction and Memento), and you’ll collaborate closely with the production team to refine the script and make necessary adjustments throughout the process.
You are the architect of a film or TV show’s narrative, the storyteller who shapes the characters, plot, and dialogue–bringing captivating stories to the screen for audiences to enjoy. A screenwriter’s work is essential to the filmmaking process–without you, there is no movie, film, TV episode, or video.
How do you become a screenwriter?
Becoming a successful screenwriter is no easy feat. Not only do you need to come up with an original story, or at least find a new way to tell a well-worn story, but you’ll also need to tell it in a way that is new, fresh, and able to capture the imagination of the people that have the power to turn it into a movie.
Read books and scripts, and watch films critically to understand storytelling techniques. Begin writing regularly, even if it’s just for yourself. Experiment with different genres and styles to find your voice. You may consider enrolling in screenwriting courses or programs or look to online resources, books, and workshops that teach the fundamentals of screenwriting. The more you learn about the craft, the better you’ll become.
You’ll also need to learn the structure of movies, both technically and creatively. All scripts must follow exact templates and adhere to font type, font size, proper indents and margins, and everything else that goes into a script. Creatively, you need to learn how to introduce a story, provide the conflict that drives the movie, and a conclusion.
Consider collaborating with other writers, or even asking for feedback, tips, and pointers from an established writer. Receiving different perspectives can help you improve and grow as a writer. Look for screenwriting contests, fellowships, or internships that can provide exposure and experience. The most important advice is to believe in your talent and passion: the journey to becoming a screenwriter can be challenging. Persistence is key–keep writing, learning, and pushing forward, even in the face of multiple rejections.