Script Questionnaire #1 - Before You WRITE a Script
Screenplay Questions For Before You Write|
Type of Movie
1. Is this a studio movie, independent movie or TV movie?
2. Who is your audience?
The bigger the story and audience, the more likely it is a studio movie. The hero has an outer goal like killing the shark or stopping the asteroid from hitting the planet. Studios love a story that can be sold to many different age ranges such as "Home Alone." This is known as a four-quadrant story. In other words, a product with the broadest demographic appeal. Indies are smaller films and usually character driven. The protagonist has an inner goal, such as getting one's life back together as in "Tender Mercies."
If it's a Studio Movie:
1. Do you have a great leading role in it that actors will kill for?
2. Is it similar to something we've seen before but with a new slant?
3. Can it be made for between $20 mil to $120 mil?
4. Is it high concept? Can it be told in 1-3 sentences?
5. Can the story be sold with a movie poster known as a one sheet?
Hollywood can't deal with something too unique. They must feel that they can sell the concept to a large audience. Makes sense in away since movies cost so much.
1. If it's a true story, do you control the rights of the characters portrayed?
Very important to control the rights of the secondary material if you are basing your script on it. If you don't you probably won't able to sell it. Sure there are exceptions but not many. The writers of ED WOOD wrote that script without controlling the rights but that was very risky. The studio still read it and negotiated the rights but what if the rights weren't available? The writers would have written the script for nothing. Many times new writers write sequels even though they don't own the sequel rights. Best to write an original script until you've sold a few and have made a name for yourself.
1. Does it have a theme and if so, what is it? You might not know this until you're already writing it but it helps to know this before you start.
Not every script will have a theme or themes but it doesn't hurt. It gives a texture to your screenplay. The theme is really what the movie is about, something that is read between the lines. Sure the movie Erin Brockovich is about trying to bring down the big bad power company but it's REALLY about a mother's love of her family. Practically every scene reinforced that notion even though it was not spoken.
1. Is it contemporary or does it take place in the past or the future?
Unless you've been produced, we strongly advise that you write contemporary stories. They are less costly to produce and you'll stand a better chance of making a sale.
1. What is the genre? Do you plan on combining genres?
Treatment or Outline
2. Treatment Or Outline
Do you have your story mapped out? If not, it will be very difficult to fix structural problems once it is written. Know your story before you start to write. This is how the pros work.
Also read the second checklist. It asks other questions you should have answers to.
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