Script Tip: Are You Writing For Yourself?

A few years ago I was teaching my “How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks” at NYU and I asked the class ‘how many of you would go see your movie?’ Out of 16 students not one raised their hand. When I asked why they were writing that particular screenplay they thought it would ‘be commercial.’

writing for yourselfTake a moment and ask that question of yourself.  Would I pay $12 to see my movie? If not, why did you write it? If you thought it would be commercial, that’s a valid reason, but without personal passion, any screenplay probably won’t be good.

Here’s the exercise:

Step 1. Set a timer for 5 minutes.

Step 2. As yourself, invite your friend to see your screenplay as if it were already a completed movie. Describe it as if you have heard great things about it and can’t wait to see it.

Step 3. Answer a few basic questions about your movie, what’s it about, and what makes it so good.

Step 4. Go a step further – who’s in the film? What awards did it win?

In my writing system, the first audience we write for is ourselves.  If you are interested in making your product more commercial, find one movie you love and become intimately familiar with it – ask yourself why it became commercial.  Hopefully you’ve written something you want to go see in the movies. If you are having trouble describing the story, go back to the basics – using The 4 Magic Questions and make sure your 3 act structure is strong. If you’re not familiar with your material, (or you don’t like it) how can you expect it to be good?

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