top of page

How to Structure a Screenplay

Gary Parker Preparing to Block out a Scene for our 2021 Summer Film Class

There are some unique things that make a screenplay different from other forms of storytelling. A film is not like a novel, which has to describe places and people in words. A film is not like a stage play, which has to grab and hold the attention of the audience with outstanding stage performances, with little help from the backgrounds and sets. And it is not like the ancient form of storytelling around the campfire where the storyteller had to hold the audience spellbound by the sound of their voice and the images they conjured up as flames leaped into the air. All these forms of storytelling have their weaknesses and their strengths. Films cannot explore the deep thoughts and emotions of their characters in the way a novelist can. Films cannot deliver the excitement of a performer on stage, reaching out to a live audience with a commanding voice and powerful stage presence. Yet, films can draw audiences into a world in a way that no other form of storytelling can ever match. Films can showcase a fantasy world of wizards and dragons, a gritty battlefield from ages past, or a futuristic world of science fiction marvels, all because of the magic of visual arts. Moreover, a film can draw an audience in with the intimate details of a character portrayed by a great actor, revealing deep emotions in well framed shots and tight close ups. And a film can grab our emotions and take us on a journey that soars through the world of ideas that we have never imagined. Films can inform, educate, persuade, and offer insights into our world and our own, personal life. They can fill us with hope, wisdom, and most importantly of all, they can leave us feeling all the better for having watched them.

In the end, all stories tell us something about ourselves and the very human world in which we live. Even a simple tale can be full of wisdom and powerful emotions that leave us feeling moved, changed or a little wiser. This is as true for a low budget short film as it is for a multi-million dollar blockbuster. So, focus on the tale if you want to make a great short film. There are some basic rules for writing a good script. Follow these to make sure your screenplay works as it should. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. This may sound simplistic, but there are certain things that need to happen in each of these three stages. Here is how we cover these in our screen writing course. Below is the summary of all three. Sign up for our 2022 Summer Film Class and begin your journey into the world of filmmaking.