I'd like to try writing a screenplay, but I have only the vaguest of ideas how to start and no real idea about format or other aspects of writing a screenplay. (I've read two books on the topic and a couple of screenplay scripts, but I still feel like a ball lost in tall weeds.) So would anyone want to mentor me through at least the first few scenes (or MORE!)? If so, I sure would appreciate it.
First: what books did you read? We all might be able to recommend others that may be better or help[ round out what you have read.
I recommend two: "STORY" BY ROBERT MCKEE and "WRITING THE SCREENPLAY -TV AND FILM" by Alan A. Armer.
If you are in Lexington, there must be a course at University of Kentucky you can take. Hands on is best.
In screenplay writing, format is very important. It is a must to know and be familiar with. Scripts will be tossed immediately if not in proper format. Knowledge of structure is more adhered to in American screenplays than in plays. And for TV half-hour and television movies you have to learn to write for when the commercial break comes!
You can go to http://www.writersbootcamp.com and see what they have to offer online. I took the course years ago (in person before they had the online course) and learned a lot. But I also knew my real lovefor writing was playwriting. But in the end, it is all just telling a good story. And I have applied all I learned there to playwriting/acting directing. I can attest that the people there are very dedicated and I still have had some rare contact with them. Check their website is the best I can tell you.
I would suggest you read some more on your own before you actually sign up if you want to take the course. As with anything, the more you can take in with you, the more you can take out. It looks as if they have an online course. They are good for deadlines that make you write and produce and you must give 10 hours a week to your writing. But, when I took the course, a lot of people learned they were not writers because they fell behind. Some of my fellow "students" were instructors at well-known universities! Imagine that!Of the 14 people in the sessions, only two of us completed the work to the end. Excuses, excuses!!!
What they do is take the mystery out of screenwriting. Their motto "The Secret to Writing is Writing" is so true.
Hope this helps. I suggest you try Univ. of Kentucky first, however.
i know a lot of people are gonna beat me for this, but write stuff that's similar to what's selling. and master the format of your subgenre. if you're writing a romantic comedy, watch a few, look at main story, where do the beats come, how many main characters are there, are there subplots, how are they resolved. if you're writing an indie-style comedy, watch a few. notice how few locations they use. notice that there's fewer characters. grittier language and far less f/x. you've really gotta know your sub-genre very well.
mull over all this as you think through your storyline. and try not to let it straight-jacket you. have your main character constantly making decisions, every ten pages or so. mid-way, (page 60 or so) the character has to decide he/she is going the distance. then there's obstacles and there has to be a big finale (page 90), a short denouement and we're out.
or you can just follow your writing instincts and write engagin characters, etc. and never get anywhere. you can write a wonderful indie script that costs 20 million to film, thus, unmade.
i'm telling you this cause i've beaten my head against the wall for ten years on scripts before turning to plays. still have the great scripts in the drawer. all are flawed in some way that prohibits them from ever getting made. hope i've pointed you in a direction (maybe not the right direction) but probably one closer to a payday.
I agree with alot of the above but think that you should write scripts that you WANT to write . . . not what you think is going to sell. The market is fickle and changes fast . . . working on a childrens fantasy or a magician movie? by the time you've edited it, submitted it to agents, festivals or contests chances are its a whole new ballgame.
Standard Script Format is pretty straight forward . . . don't worry about camera directions and try not to direct in your script if it isn't necessary. Make the script flow like a story . . . directions and descriptions should not sound like a how to manual. Also treatments are a good excercise in the brainstorming process but in my opinion don't bother submitting them to agents unless your script is already done.
Don't submit to an agent or studio period unless you have at least 3 or 4 solid scripts sitting on your table . . . if they pass on one give them another.
Unlikle playwriting where the production comes first and as a result getting noticed can be easier if you make the effort and have solid writing samples . . . screenwriting is pretty hard to break into . . . contests and development programs are your best bet if you don't have any connections.
In addition to the good advice you've already received, I'll add two websites that I think are absolutely invaluable for you right now.
1. <a href="http://www.scriptsales.com/"> Done Deal</a> Done Deal is the real deal. I've made excellent contacts in their forums and the advice and industry information available on the site cannot be beat. You can track what's being sold but - more importantly - you can get a ton of good advice in the forums. Anyone can post there, but there are a lot of professionals, too (hang around for about a week and you'll probably be able to figure out who's who). And if you post a scene in the script pages forum or a query letter in the that forum you'll usually get a good amount of feedback on it in a short amount of time.
2. <a href="http://www.triggerstreet.com"> Triggerstreet</a> Triggerstreet is a place where screenplays and short films can be posted for peer review. Now peer review means just that: your peers are other simply other people on Triggerstreet who may or may not know any more about screenwriting and storytelling than you do. But, to be frank, that can be said about the industry, too. So even the bad notes you get on Trigger are things you might end up hearing from an industry professional one day. So even with a bad note you've got a heads-up on an issue someone might raise with you down the line.
In addtion to any 'bad notes' you will have the chance to get a ton of good notes, too. Will they all be right for your script? Probably not. But they will, for the most part, be given by thoughtful fellow writers. And if a review ever fails to be contsructive, you can always send it to the ponderously-named Hall of Justice, who can remove it from your ranking and send your script out for a replacement review. You get roughly as many reviews as you give (give or take voluntary reviews and readers who request an assignment but then stall on doing it).
As another bonus, I've found the fastest way to learn what looks ridiculous in a script is to read it in someone else's script. Reading bad scripts can teach you just as much as reading good ones - if not more because you'll begin to understand what professional readers have to put up with everyday. So as free services go, Trigger is invaluable.
Just take your pen and write. Post your writing here, on some writing service with good forum thread like https://alltopreviews.com maybe, get opinions, critique. Choose ideas you like better and apply it. Be yourself:)