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ScreenCraft Presents

Writing Your
Screenplay in Sixty
Days
The Ultimate Step-by-Step Course to Write a Script in 60
Days

Copyright 2016 by ScreenCraft

All rights reserved. This ebook or any portion thereof


may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of ScreenCraft
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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Day 1: Crea vity
Welcome to ScreenCrafts email course, Writing Your Screenplay in Sixty Days! This
daily program will guide you through the process of brainstorming, conceiving, building,
and polishing a screenplay in sixty days. Youll need to dedicate at least one hour per
day. Well provide you with exactly what you need to create a finished script every step
of the way. All you need to bring is an openness to learn and a passion for storytelling.
You dont even need to have a premise ready. So lets dive in!

"If you have a good idea, get it out there. For every idea Ive realized, I have ten I
sat on for a decade till someone else did it first. Write it. Shoot it. Publish it.
Crochet it, saut it, whatever. MAKE." Joss Whedon

OBJECTIVE: To get the creative juices flowing and build up some some fodder for
concepts.

ADVICE: The starting place of every screenplay is obviously the concept. The concept
will inform every decision you make, from the characters to the plot, from the visuals to
the tone. But you might not already have a perfect concept in mind. Maybe you dont
know what that particular thing is that you love, but you know you want to tell stories. In
either case, weve got you covered. Over the next couple of days, well step you through
the process of building out some concepts that you can analyze and refine until you
have the perfect concept for your new screenplay.

EXERCISE: To get us in the mood and to get us thinking about what were passionate
about, lets generate a quick list of some of our favorite movies or TV shows. These
dont have to be your top movies or TV shows of all time, and the order doesnt matter.
Just jot down the first five that jump into your mind. Well add to the list and analyze it on
a later date. Heres a quick example:

1. Toy Story

2. District 9

3. The Conjuring

4. Penny Dreadful

5. Veronica Mars

ASSIGNMENT: Every day you'll get a new assignment at the end of each email that will
help you to create the next essential piece of your screenplay. If you read through each
email carefully, it'll be clear how to complete each assignment. The daily assignments

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email carefully, it'll be clear how to complete each assignment. The daily assignments
will build off each other, so make sure that you complete each one and don't fall behind.
If you stick with us and do each of these to the best of your ability, you'll have a solid
screenplay in sixty days, so let's get started!

For your first assignment, all you need to do is quickly list out five ideas for a movie.
Only one sentence each. The trick here is not to think about this very much at all. Just
write down the first five ideas that come to mind. They can be epic, ridiculous,
breathtaking, or mundane -- it doesn't matter. You won't be obligated to use any of these
in your actual script. If youre feeling stuck or cant seem to think of anything, use
random aspects of your life to inspire you. For instance, what can you see when you
look out the window? What job did you want to do when you were a child? What was the
subject matter of the last book that you read?

This is all just to practice coming up with story ideas quickly and without any pressure.
Here's a few quick, ridiculous examples to get the creative juices flowing:

A damaged NASA spaceship crash lands on the moon, uncovering a graveyard of


alien life.

Two bounty hunters race to capture the same target, only to find out that it's a
serial killer's long-lost daughter.

A young dinosaur gets separated from its herd, gets frozen, and wakes up in the
present day.

Well delve into formatting later, but if this is your first attempt at writing a screenplay,
youll need to choose a screenwriting software. For intuitive interface, industry-standard
conventions, cutting-edge features, data security, and overall value, there is no better
software than WriterDuet.

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Day 2: Concept
Welcome back to the second day of Writing Your Screenplay in Sixty Days! Today
well dive further into concept generation and analysis. Lets do it.

The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.
Andre Gide

OBJECTIVE: Getting more practice at concept generation and taking any anxiety out
of the process.

ADVICE: While the prospect of choosing a concept that youll be married to for the next
58 days can be daunting, it doesnt need to be. Always keep in mind that this is a fluid
creative process and that ideas can evolve and develop as we learn more about them.
Countless working writers have found themselves in situations where they were hired to
write a script that they absolutely didnt care about (probably not a good idea in the first
place), but after about twenty pages in, they finally realized something about it that they
deeply loved. If you find a core element that you love, the process can become an
absolute joy. By emphasizing the aspect that really speaks to you, the premise can end
up in a much better place than it started in.

But before we worry too much about the evolution of a concept, lets learn a bit more
about what aspects of stories really speak to you...

EXERCISE: First off, lets add five more movies and TV shows to our list of favorites.
For example:

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2. District 9

3. The Conjuring

4. Penny Dreadful

5. Veronica Mars

6. Star Wars: Episode V

7. Firefly

8. The Cabin in the Woods

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9. The Nightmare Before Christmas

10. Alien

Now, lets take that list and see if we can identify some shared traits that we might be
responding to. In the sample list above, there is an inclination toward underdog stories,
such as in District 9, Veronica Mars, Firefly, and The Cabin in the Woods. There is also
clearly a preference for horror and sci-fi. There seems to be a trend toward projects with
social justice angles as in the case of Captain America, District 9, and Penny Dreadful.
Finally, there is a fairly even split on ensemble casts versus single leads. As you do the
same type of analysis with your lists, write down some of the shared aspects, and keep
in mind that there are likely outliers. Keep this list of prefered aspects handy, as youll
use it for the assignments in the upcoming days.

ASSIGNMENT: Let's build off yesterday's assignment and do 8 new quick, one-
sentence premises. Again, these don't need to be even somewhat viable. Just write
down the first thing that comes to your mind. If you're getting stuck, think of a news
article you recently read and write about something related to that. Or remember the last
place you vacationed at and make up a quick idea that would happen there. Try to keep
each sentence in the format of a character doing something and facing some sort of
conflict as a result. Here's another couple of examples to get you going:

A politician running for Congress discovers that his opponent is actually a


superhero's true identity.

A couple on their honeymoon meet with tragedy when one of them is killed in a
terrorist attack... and the survivor is the prime suspect.

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Day 3: Premise
We hope you had a good time coming up with concepts yesterday. Today well be
getting a bit more in depth. Lets dive in.

I steal from every movie ever made. Quentin Tarantino

OBJECTIVE: Well start to apply some of your favorite trends to your ideas and dive
further into a premise.

ADVICE: It can often be challenging to figure out exactly what makes a premise great.
Sometimes its just sort of that intangible something that makes you excited when you
first hear it. Perhaps its very evocative and you can just instantly imagine it in your
minds eye.

While there are definitely layers and complexity to what makes a truly awesome
premise, one element is essentially guaranteed to exist in every one of your favorite
stories: conflict. Conflict is truly the core of drama. Its a character up against an
obstacle that is preventing them from completing their objective. Without conflict,
readers get bored, your audience leaves the theater, and the drama just simply
disappears. So without getting into the nuances of what could make a sci-fi premise
better or a comedys concept really pop, one thing is for certain: You need to make sure
your concept has an absolute ton of conflict. Just from hearing that first sentence of the
premise, the reader/listener/audience member should immediately have a sense of just
how conflict-ridden that story will be. Keep that in mind as youre going through the
premises youve built so far.

EXERCISE: From our exercise yesterday, lets take that list of preferred and shared
aspects of a story and apply them to the 13 one-sentence premises that youve
generated so far. Move through your list of preferred aspects one at a time and see
which premises might feature each aspect. If you find that some of your premises are
particularly well-equipped with your preferred aspects, make a note of that. If you notice
that some of your premises dont have any of these preferred aspects, those might not
be ones youll keep around. Also, make a quick note of which premises have the most
conflict. This will all be useful to keep in mind as you do the following assignment, and in
the days to come.

ASSIGNMENT: Now that we've generated at least 13 one-sentence premises, let's try
making one that's a bit more complex. It can be a combination or an extrapolation of 1
of your 13, or something completely new. For today's assignment, let's generate a full
paragraph (or more) digging into a premise and fleshing it out some. You should include
elements like the character, a sense of their characterization, their goals, the conflict
that they face as they pursue those goals, and how that conflict escalates as the story

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that they face as they pursue those goals, and how that conflict escalates as the story
continues. Use a couple of sentences to discuss the meat of the story as the character
really struggles to make headway and at least one sentence to describe the climax of
the story. Don't worry about spoiling the ending, as you're the only person who'll read
this. Also, this doesnt have to be the premise youll use for your script, so no pressure.

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Day 4: Your Final Premise
Welcome back to the 4th day of Writing Your Screenplay in Sixty Days. Youre well
on your way to crafting the premise youll use for your screenplay.

I dont need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me. Ray Bradbury

OBJECTIVE: Today well be diving deeper into the expansion of premises and start to
narrow down the field to find your final premise.

ADVICE: One of the most powerful aspects of a premise is a sense of surprise and
complication. DIE HARD wouldnt be all that intense if John McClane never had to deal
with terrorists and was really only worried about his relationship. The twist of terrorists
taking over the building substantially complicated Johns objective, but it didnt feel
unrealistic or too out of the blue. It felt appropriate within the story, and made his
mission so much more interesting and high-stakes than it would have been without it.

So while conflict in a general sense is critical for a premise, an element of a deeper,


nastier, more potent conflict lurking beneath the surface can be a huge help. When
youre thinking about the conflict that might exist within your premise, consider if there
could be more dimensions to it. Look deeper, rack your brain, and see if you cant come
up with something thatd really take things to the next level.

EXERCISE: Oftentimes some of the worst ideas are just one small adjustment away
from being completely awesome. Just as an experiment and to stretch your creative
muscles, take five concepts from your list of one-sentence premises and change just
one element. Maybe switch some aspect of the main characters identity or move it to a
different setting. Jot these new versions down and see if something seems stronger or
more appealing. If so, consider adding them to your growing list of ideas.

ASSIGNMENT: You've created quite a few premises by this point, so it's time to dig in
and really hunt down the ideas that appeal to you. Looking at your list of 13+ premises,
pick 2-3 that really excite you (perhaps ones that you highlighted yesterday as really
having a lot of preferred aspects and conflict). Now, dig into these ideas and flesh them
out into the paragraph format from yesterday's assignment. Just as a reminder, that
means you'll be listing out the main character(s), their goals, the conflict they're facing,
and how that conflict will grow and develop throughout the story. Make sure your
paragraphs describe the ending of the story.

Keep in mind that you don't have to write your script about any of these premises. This
is just to give you some practice in generating and then building out premises that have
elements that you find appealing. If you're finding it difficult to expand on these ideas,
but you do have a sense of what elements interest you, try crafting a whole new idea out

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but you do have a sense of what elements interest you, try crafting a whole new idea out
of that aspect. Just as a quick, random example, say the common, preferred thread in
your favorite ideas is the concept of mental illness. You've always had a thing for
characters who are struggling with inner demons and don't know if they can trust
themselves... Well, with that theme in mind, imagine the kind of character who could
reasonably suffer from mental illness... Say an overworked detective who just lost his
partner. Then imagine the kinds of conflicts that such a character might be facing.
Perhaps this detective is hearing his dead partner's voice, but it's telling him to do all
sorts of horrible things. Those dark whispers lead the detective to abuse his authority,
and now he's facing a massive lawsuit after hurting an innocent. Hopefully this example
was illustrative and now you have a line of sight on a few ideas that you can have fun
fleshing out.

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Day 5: Choose Your Concept
Well, todays the day! After youve worked through this email, youll have the premise for
your upcoming screenplay. Lets get started...

You can make a movie about anything, as long as it has a hook to hang the
advertising on. Roger Corman

OBJECTIVE: To choose the concept for your screenplay and to flesh it out.

ADVICE: You may feel like youre already juggling quite a few balls when it comes to
figuring out your concept. Youve got the main character, their objective, and their
obstacles with the conflicts that accompany them. And while that is a lot, theres one
more thing that you should absolutely keep in mind. That this should be fun.

Thats not to say that the subject matter of your project should be joyous and wonderful.
Perhaps youre zeroing in on a gritty, post-apocalyptic manhunt thatll force viewers to
reconsider all sorts of ethical issues. Fun probably isnt the first thing that comes to
mind when you consider that type of movie, but the prospect of writing this project, to
you at least, should be at least exciting, if not fun. A lot of writers treat the creation of a
script a like an exorcism; its a demon that they need to purge from their souls so that
they can finally be free. And sometimes, that creates some amazing projects. Maybe
youre leaning that way, too, and if you are, thats okay. But considering that our primary
objective here is to get a script on the page in just 55 more days, wed really
recommend having some fun with it. Pick something that excites and energizes you. So
that way over the next 55 days, youre opening these emails excited and ready to tackle
whats to come. Having fun isnt required, but its definitely recommended.

Today, the exercise will come after the assignment. See below:

ASSIGNMENT: Your assignment today is to generate at least a paragraph outlining the


actual premise that you'll use for the script you'll be writing for the next 11 weeks. This
should go beyond a basic logline and should discuss the main character, their goal, the
opposition that they'll be facing, and how that opposition builds to become a substantial
threat. While this description of the premise isn't intended for anyone other than you, it
might feel similar to an elevator pitch (a very quick pitch).
Keep in mind that this description isn't set in stone, as stories have a habit of evolving
as we work on them. Keep this close to you over the next 55 days, as it'll help remind
you of the core conflicts and the big picture as you dive into the writing process. If you're
planning to use a premise that you've worked on in the past few days, take the time to
read over that paragraph again and elaborate if necessary. Hopefully you're facing a
premise that you find deeply interesting and really can't wait to explore further. If you're
not too enthused about the premise, feel free to repeat the assignments from the past

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not too enthused about the premise, feel free to repeat the assignments from the past
days over again. It's much better to have a premise that really grabs you and that you'll
enjoy writing rather than something that's only mildly interesting.

EXERCISE: Now that youve written down at least one paragraph about your premise,
try saying it out loud. Imagine that youre telling a close friend the story that youre going
to write.

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Day 6: Characteriza on
Youve taken the first major step on the road to creating a screenplay. Now that the
premise is out of the way, lets move on to whats next.

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not
characters. A character is a caricature. Ernest Hemingway (this applies to
screenplays, too!)

OBJECTIVE: To start building out our characterization for our lead role.

ADVICE: Crafting a character can be an enormously fun process if you have the right
perspective. Thankfully, the last few days have been preparing you perfectly for this, as
the most essential element in the construction of a character is conflict. And this isnt
just conflict with other characters or in their past. This is conflict with themselves, be it
psychological, spiritual, identity issues, etc. By far the most powerful characters in a
story have degrees of multidimensionality to them. While this can easily be achieved by
a character who simply has a hidden side to themselves (pretends theyre all mean and
grumpy but are really lovable and sweet), there are more powerful options, too.
Sometimes characters themselves have no idea what their true characterization is until
the end of a movie. Perhaps a character thinks hes trying to protect his home, save his
friends, and uphold justice, but in truth he does what he does because hes addicted to
violence (as in Marvels DAREDEVIL).

Always try to find an opportunity, or ideally opportunities, for your characters to have
some multidimensionality. This doesnt need to exist in every single aspect of their lives,
but the more you can organically work in, the better. If a character just doesnt like to eat
shellfish, thats fine, theres no need for multidimensionality there. But things like a
characters view on certain ethical situations, their needs versus their wants, or the truth
to their relationships are all great opportunities for multidimensionality.

While its probably obvious, there needs to be a cause for that multidimensionality.
Multidimensionality for the sake of multidimensionality will feel forced to a reader, and
theyll realize that you were cutting corners. Use the characters backstory, job, likes and
dislikes, relationships, and conflicts to help generate multidimensionality. Also, keep in
mind that multidimensionality can develop as a character goes on their journey. They
dont have to start out that way. DISTRICT 9 is a nearly perfect example of a character
starting out as a complete jackass and then developing into a gorgeously deep
character as he interacts with the conflict in the story.

But the real key? Just start with conflict. If you start with loads of conflict, youll find that
each character is very fertile ground for multidimensionality.

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EXERCISE: Take one of the movies or shows from your top 10 list and list out the ways
that the main character or characters have elements of multidimensionality. Not every
main character has really great aspects of multidimensionality, or sometimes theyre
really well hidden, but when they do, it can be awesome.

ASSIGNMENT: Now that we know the premise we'll be working on for the next 55
days, it's time to start digging into the characters. Today, we'll be crafting the backstory
for our lead character or characters. Unless your premise necessitates more than one
lead, we'll only be creating the backstory for the main character today. There's no right
or wrong way to present this backstory, as you'll be the only person who sees it, but
make sure that it really digs into the character and their worldview.

Start with how life was for their parents (or creator, if your character is a robot, monster,
etc.). Jot down any ideas about their parents individually and how they were as a
couple. Then explore the main character's early years, how they grew up, and what
events impacted them physically, psychologically, and spiritually. The vast majority of
this won't actually manifest in your script, but the more you dig into your characters, the
more real they'll feel when you start working on the script.

There's no recommended length for this, so just keep writing until you feel like you've
touched on every formative element in your character's life. Have fun with this, too. No
one is going to judge you for what you write and everything is subject to change as you
work through the script. Make sure that your backstory concludes with the character
reaching the moment where they start to encounter the events of the script. You'll want
to make sure you have a good sense of the character's worldview once the actual
scripted story kicks in.

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Day 7: Building Your Cast
Great work digging into your main character yesterday. Hopefully you had a lot of fun
getting into their world and breathing life into them. Always keep in mind that you can
develop them further in the upcoming days. Today, well explore the cast a bit further.

Screenwriting is the most prized of all the cinematic arts. Actually, it isn't, but it
should be. Hugh Laurie

OBJECTIVE: Building out the rest of the cast to bring the world of your main character
to life.

ADVICE: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, conflict is key. While all the
advice about multidimensionality is totally applicable today as we work on the rest of the
cast, we also need to consider what conflict each supporting role can create for our
main character. Ideally, each non-lead role feels organic to the world of the story, and
applies a different type of pressure on the main character. If you happen to watch
DAREDEVIL on Netflix, youll see a great example of that. Even the characters who are
Matt Murdocks best friends pressure him in different ways, creating new conflicts that
complement the conflicts generated from all the bad guys. Its a bit weird to think of it
this way, but even the characters who are totally supportive of the lead, add conflict to
the leads life. Everything from the love interest to the Obi-Wan mentor type push and
pull our lead characters in ways that can hurt or help them, but almost always add at
least some form of conflict.

EXERCISE: Take the project you analyzed from your list of top films and shows and
write out the major supporting cast members. Then, next to each role, quickly write out
the form of conflict that they generated for the lead character(s).

ASSIGNMENT: Since we now understand our main character, it's time to dig into the
rest of the cast. Today, we'll be making a cast list with some description for every
character. You definitely don't need to know about every single character that's going to
appear in the story, but you should have a sense of the essential roles that are required
by the premise.

For instance, if your story is about an FBI agent pursuing a killer that keeps changing
their appearance via plastic surgery, your cast list might include the main character, their
opponent, a black market plastic surgeon, the FBI boss, the main character's partner, a
criminal profiler, and the FBI agent's spouse. While there would likely be more
characters total in the movie, your goal today is just to list out the ones that you know
about already. Once you have your list, dig into each one a bit, doing a mini-backstory
for each of them and mention how they might add conflict to the main characters life.
This doesn't need to be as extensive as your main character's backstory yesterday, but

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This doesn't need to be as extensive as your main character's backstory yesterday, but
you should briefly touch on their age, appearance, upbringing, socioeconomic status,
race, worldview, job, major skills, and key personality traits. It can also be helpful to
come up with a few lines or phrases that encapsulate that character.

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Day 8: Understanding Characters
Awesome job building out your cast yesterday. Now youve got an idea for your movie
and the characters that will populate it. Before we dive into the story, lets take our
understanding of the characters beyond a quick backstory.

I feel I do my best work when its all there on the page, and I feel that the
character is very vivid as I read the script and Im not having to create stuff and
trying to cobble together something. If I have to do that, then I dont entirely trust
what Im doing. Guy Pearce

OBJECTIVE: To get some practice and some gut-level understanding of our


characters.

ADVICE: It can be tempting just to jump into writing a script as soon as you know the
premise and the characters. But the whole process can be quite a bit more effective if
you spend a brief amount of time learning more about them first. As most veteran
writers will tell you, their sense of a character changes as they write and rewrite a script.
Whats more, youll likely find that the sense of conflict between two characters will
develop in your mind the more you work as well. So while the following Assignment
might come across as not really an essential element in creating your screenplay, itll
likely save you time in the long run. Try to tackle it with an open mind, have fun, and
maybe youll even discover something amazing that you can use in your script.

Today and tomorrow, well be combining our Exercise and the Assignment. See below:

EXERCISE/ASSIGNMENT: Imagine a non-descript location where your protagonist


(the main character, if you arent familiar with the term) and any other character (could
be the villain, could be the main character's best friend) can have a chat. Then,
regardless of screenplay formatting, write out the scene where they talk to each other.
Formatting doesn't matter here, so if you aren't familiar with screenplay style, you can
just do the stageplay style of:

Character 1: Blah blah blah

Character 2: Yadda Yadda Yadda..."

As you write out the scene, just give your characters a chance to discuss what's on their
minds. Maybe they'll get in a fight or maybe they'll plan a grand adventure together. It
really doesn't matter what they do, it only matters that you get a chance to play around
with their perspectives, see how their relationship manifests, and get a feel for their
voices. Hopefully you notice that each character speaks a little differently (influenced by
their character parameters that you wrote down yesterday) and acts differently. There's

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their character parameters that you wrote down yesterday) and acts differently. There's
no right or wrong with this, so feel free to play around with other permutations of
different characters interacting with each other. The more times you repeat this exercise
with different character combinations, the more informed you'll be when you start writing
each of these characters into your actual script.

One important note: If you get stuck and this process becomes too stressful or slow, just
take a deep breath. This scene wont be in your script and this is only practice to benefit
you. If you still find that this is like pulling teeth, stay tuned, because the advice
tomorrow might help.

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Day 9:Character Dierences
Welcome back. Hopefully you felt engaged interacting with your characters in
yesterdays exercise/assignment. While theres a bit more of that today, stay with us,
because were closing in on the commencement of drafting!

Im first and foremost interested in the story, the characters. David Lean

OBJECTIVE: To develop that gut-level understanding of the cast a bit more, but also to
pay attention to differences amongst the cast and their different voices.

ADVICE: If you had any trouble with the exercise yesterday and found yourself freezing
or being at a loss for what to write next, theres a useful tool that might help: Put
yourself in the characters shoes. Imagine that youre really in their situation, facing the
exact circumstances that are staring up at you from your page. If the main villain from
your script is talking with the lead character, imagine that youre sitting across a table
from your nemesis. How do you feel? What is your enemy doing? What kind of clothes
are you wearing? Are you in any danger? Is the situation funny or absurd?

Ask yourself these questions and really imagine how you would act if you had the same
backstory as your lead character. Maybe youd want to run away or maybe youd start
screaming at them. In any case, use whatever youre feeling and then just channel that
into your scene on the page.

If you want to learn more about getting into your characters shoes, you can read about
it in the blog post 5 Ways Screenwriters Can Get Into the Minds of Their Character.

Dont feel like this is essential reading, though. This is just a bonus if youre interested.
The main priority is getting a script written in sixty days and thats what were going to
do!

EXERCISE/ASSIGNMENT: Today we're going to build on what we did yesterday, while


focusing specifically on the voices of the different characters. Much like yesterday,
create a situation where two character can interact in a generic setting, like a cafe, a
park, or an empty room. Then write out a small scene where your main character and
some other character interact with a given prompt.

You're welcome to create your own prompt, or you can use a simple one such as...

MAIN CHARACTER: So, why do I get the feeling that you're keeping something from
me?

It really doesn't matter what the prompt is, other than that it needs to provoke some sort
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It really doesn't matter what the prompt is, other than that it needs to provoke some sort
of conflict. Once you've written out the short scene generated by the prompt, use the
same prompt but switch out the supporting character with a different role. So, to use the
example from two days ago, if the FBI Agent first had a conversation with his boss,
maybe he's now having a conversation with the black market surgeon. Rinse and repeat
this process for a few of the characters so that you can really start to see the differences
in how they interact and how they speak. It's helpful to keep in mind that these scenes
will almost certainly not exist in the script, so the pressure is off of you in terms of
making sure they're good scenes. The intention is simply to give you good practice and
to increase your familiarity with these roles and their relationships.

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Day 10: Outline Your Main Character
Welcome back! Youve done a great job of getting to know your characters and its now
time to transition into the structure of your upcoming screenplay. Lets get to it.

Scripts are what matter. If you get the foundations right and then you get the
right ingredients on top, you stand a shot but if you get those foundations
wrong, then you absolutely dont stand a shot. Its very rarealmost neverthat a
good film gets made from a bad screenplay. Tim Bevan

OBJECTIVE: Generate part of the outline that covers the emotional journey of the
main character.

ADVICE: If you consider every ingredient that goes into a film, the one that likely
impacts the audience the most is going to be the main characters transformative
journey (in the majority of films). This is the aspect of the film that deeply connects with
every member of the audience, as it impacts our sense of right and wrong, our
understanding of more specific moral philosophies, and how we see ourselves as
human beings. This is the aspect of the story that you feel in your soul and that either
has you connect with the main character in a significant, deep way, or has you hating
them with your core long after the credits roll.

The point of all this is that the emotional journey that youre about to develop for your
main character is tremendously important. And while its definitely important, it can also
be incredibly simple. Oftentimes this is best thought of in very straightforward terms.
Greed vs. generosity. Love vs. hate. Telling the truth vs. deceit. Once youve figured out
the issue at hand, its much easier to see how you can have your character transition
from one end of the spectrum to the other. Also, keep in mind that this is really a time to
go big or go home. The dynamic range that you choose here is really important. The
bigger the shift that you allow your main character to experience, the more powerful the
transformation can be. Again, DISTRICT 9 is a solid example where the main guy goes
from being about the most despicable monster on the planet to being an absolute, total
hero. In that case, you could say that the issue at hand was some variation of hate vs.
love or really just a straight up analog of racism.

PROMPT/EXERCISE: Lets revisit one of the movies from your top 10 list. Using just
some quick bullet points, jot down the major, transformative beats in the emotional
journey of the main character. Theres no need to get too in-depth, but provide enough
so you can clearly see how they transition from their starting point to where they end up
at the end of the movie.

ASSIGNMENT: Since we have a good sense of our cast, it's now time to start thinking
about the structure of the story. It's almost a certainty that the plotting will change

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about the structure of the story. It's almost a certainty that the plotting will change
somewhat during drafting, but constructing a clear series of events can be tremendously
helpful at this stage. Rather than just tackling the entire project's structure, let's break it
down by focusing just on the emotional journey of the main character.

Ignoring every fight scene, every cat-and-mouse chase, and every giant action set
piece, let's focus solely on the emotional path the main character will take, often called
the character's "arc". Start by writing down the initial perspective of the character.
Perhaps they start the story as a jaded, bitter cop or maybe as an emotionally
withdrawn kid who prefers the company of imaginary friends. In any case, once you
have a clear sense of this initial point, write down the progressive changes to the
character's perspective on the central issue(s).

For instance, maybe that apathetic cop starts to lighten up, finds love, and begins to
trust more and more. After you've written out some emotionally impactful shifts in the
main characters worldview, youll start to see the emotional path that theyll take during
the film. Continuing with our example, we now see how this unfriendly cop has opened
up emotionally and might now lay his life on the line for his partner (if that was the
ending), whereas previously he'd willingly let his amateur-hour partner die. We can now
see how these emotional stimuli shape our character into becoming who they are at the
end of the script.

If you're staring at this without a real sense of what the character's end-point is, or you
have no clue what would get them from point A to point B, start by refreshing yourself on
their starting point, your backstory for the character, and the premise at hand. Ask
yourself what change in this character would create the greatest sense of drama, and
yield the greatest sense of dynamics. Ideally, you're looking for an emotional journey
that feels significant, absolutely loaded with internal conflict, and appropriate for that
character. For instance, it'd be rather random and weird for that jaded, nasty cop to work
on his fear of animals as his core character development. But if he were to transition
from hating his partner to dying for that partner, that'd be really meaningful.

As always, don't feel like you're locked into this "Emotional Journey Outline". As you
write the script, you'll find that things will naturally adjust. However, this will give you a
good sense of the direction your character is going and keep you focused on making
sure that your character does experience an emotional journey that's really satisfying for
a reader. Its also important to keep in mind that you arent necessarily writing the
events that happen to the character every step of the way. Thatll be covered in the
plotting tomorrow. Today youre simply trying to get a sense of the emotional progress
that the main character will be experiencing. If you complete this and you feel like it
seems awfully sparse or kind of abstract, thats just fine! Wait until the assignments
tomorrow and the next day, and its very likely that youll see how this is incredibly
applicable. Just stick with it!

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: It is entirely possible to craft a story that doesn't really have an
arc for the main character and yet is still wildly successful. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE
WINTER SOLDIER comes to mind as an example of this uncommon situation. While it

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WINTER SOLDIER comes to mind as an example of this uncommon situation. While it
is clearly possible to create a gripping narrative that largely lacks this emotional journey,
Hollywood generally expects it in every script. To give your script its best shot, and
especially as you're honing your story skills, it's recommended to give your character
this emotional arc.

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Day 11: Build Your Plot
INTRO: Were part of the way done with our outline and today well make a lot more
progress. Get ready, because today, we dive head first into structure.

I see screenwriting as a bit like a math equation which I have to solve.


Asghar Farhadi

OBJECTIVE: To understand and build out the plot for our screenplay.

ADVICE: Structure is absurdly important in story. And because structure is so critical,


youll find that almost every story expert has their own system on how you should
tackle it. There are definitely some cases where the rules of structure can be
intentionally broken, but first, we need to know what the rules are.

Hollywood has some differing opinions about the nuances of structure, but one thing is
for certain: Hollywood is certain that three-act structure is the way to go. Rather that get
into all those nuances, or offer an opinion as to which ones are better, lets just cover
the essentials. In three-act structure, youll divide the story into three unequal pieces.
The first act, which is generally about 25% of the film, sets up the story, the characters,
themes, and the conflicts. It gets the ball rolling and is the event that will get our
characters into the conflicts. Story experts will point to all the various little pieces of the
first act, but the most critical element for our purposes is the Inciting Incident. This is the
event that will eventually or immediately get our main character involved in the story of
the movie. As a result of this moment, the main character develops their objective, the
opposition to that objective is, to at least some degree, present, and the character is
now primed to begin their journey. In a lot of films, this manifests as the bad guys taking
some action against the status quo, but thats certainly not a requirement, and not even
applicable for many films. To provide a few examples, this is when Loki invades Earth,
guns blazing in THE AVENGERS and when Darth Vader attacks Leias ship in STAR
WARS: A NEW HOPE. Keep in mind that this moment doesnt need to include the main
character, and often doesnt. While this event will be critical to the main character
beginning their adventure, they may not be aware of it yet and they may not be ready to
set out quite yet.

The next big moment takes place as the first act comes to an end. This Start of the
Adventure is when the main character uses the Inciting Incident to begin their
adventure. This is when Luke joins Obi-Wan and leaves home. After this point, the
adventure is underway and now conflict and stakes are on the rise. Once the adventure
has started, youre into the second act. Keep in mind that in reluctant hero type stories,
the hero may refuse the call a few times before they finally accept and the second act
can begin.

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Now that were in the second act, which comprises about 50% of the script, the
character is on their journey, trying new ways to get at their objective, and never quite
succeeding. A rather famous story expert calls this the fun and games section and
thats not a bad way to think of it. Its the writers opportunity to deliver the core genre
elements of whatever premise they have. The action, tension, stakes, and conflict all are
on the rise until

The Midpoint! The Midpoint is a huge moment that comes right in the middle of the
second act that serves as a turning point for the film. So far, the hero hasnt been able
to complete their objective, what theyre doing isnt working out yet, and its time to make
a big decision. Oftentimes this is called a Point of No Return. The main character is
deciding to go all in and really commit to achieving their goal. The stakes should be very
clear for this moment. Keep in mind that in classical story structure, the hero does
decide to go for it and invests further in the mission, but they are at least offered the
opportunity to back out.

With the Midpoint behind us, we move into the latter portion of the second act.
Complications increase, the stakes rise, and we make our way to the Darkest Hour. The
Darkest Hour exists on the edge between the second and third acts and serves as a
harrowing moment for the main character. This is the point in the film where they come
face to face with the realization that what theyve been doing so far isnt working. Their
current worldview isnt allowing them to complete their objective and the opposition
really looks like its winning. In fact, this moment is often referred to as a Dark Night of
the Soul or an "all is lost" moment. Things really dont seem like they can get any
worse, and the only way the hero is going to come out of this moment alive is if they
move along their character arc and change their worldview. Its hard to provide
examples of this without spoiling a movie, but significant trauma is often involved in this
moment. In any case, the result of this Darkest Hour is that the main character changes
their perspective, regroups, and prepares to head into the final battle -- the Climax.

Now that were in the third act, we quickly escalate into the Climax. This is the moment
of ultimate conflict and jeopardy as the main character finally stands a chance of
achieving their objective. If youve been writing a tragedy, they will fail in some aspect
(likely because they didnt have much character growth in the Darkest Hour). If youre
writing something with a happy ending, the main character will succeed in the Climax
and finally obtain their objective.

After the Climax, all thats left is the Resolution. Storylines get tied up, conflict comes to
an end, and then the credits roll.

There are more nuances to each of these elements, but well save that for when were
writing those specific moments. This is likely plenty for you to digest.

Considering that were building the plot today, youll probably be busy enough without an
Exercise.

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ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll be constructing the actual plot for the project. This will
include everything that wasn't already built into your Emotional Journey Outline. Starting
from the beginning of the story, you'll write out every scene, conflict, obstacle, and
encounter that's a part of your story. It's up to you how in-depth you go with this, and
what format it's written in, but it needs to be complete and tell a whole story.

You should also make sure that there's a clear sense of cause and effect leading from
one element to the next. Each element in this outline should flow into the next, feel
appropriate, believable, and motivated by the characters in the story. If anything sticks
out as random, weird, or not really fitting into the flow, then consider omitting it, or
rethinking its placement.

As is probably obvious, you'll want to build in each of the elements that were discussed
in the Instruction section above. Your outline should include an Inciting Incident, Start of
the Adventure, Midpoint, Darkest Hour/"all is lost" moment, Climax, and Conclusion.

Just for the sake of clarity, here's a quick excerpt (not the entire outline) from the
example we were talking about yesterday:

Jaded Cop is on his beat, bored out of his mind and eating a donut -->

Illegal street chases blazes by him. He turns on his lights and pursues. -->

His wife calls during his pursuit and he's distracted -->

The distraction is enough that he misses a turn and crashes.

So you can see that this isn't incredibly detailed and doesn't cover the emotional journey
of our main character (which is fine, because we built that yesterday). Have fun with
this, don't be afraid to change things up and try out new ideas. The beauty of working in
an outline like this is that it allows us to see the effects of changes quickly and to ensure
coherency in our stories.

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Day 12: Combining Outlines
Youve made it through the big day of structure and youre into the home stretch.
Drafting is just around the corner. Lets go!

Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life,
working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each
other until finally theres an explosionthats Plot. Leigh Brackett

OBJECTIVE: To combine our two outlines (emotional and plotting) into a combined
outline that gives us everything we need before we draft.

ADVICE: A powerful screenplay has a lot it has to accomplish, and when it comes to
structure, its troublesome if you go in unprepared. If your script were only to focus on
character growth, the actual events of the movie would feel weird and disconnected. But
if you ignored the path your character takes, the story could feel a bit heartless and
empty. However, if we combine the two, we can generate a powerful story that fulfills on
so many levels.

The best advice going into this assignment is just to stay open and dont be afraid of
shifting things around. Keep an open mind and dont be afraid if your character shifts a
little bit so that their emotional arcs fit into the plotting and vice versa. For some writers,
you may find it easier to focus on the plotting and then fit the characters growth arc into
it, or vice versa. The project itself could also affect which should come first.

Given the potential challenge posed in todays Assignment, well skip an Exercise so
you can focus on the task at hand.

ASSIGNMENT: Today's assignment is to synthesize our two outlines (emotional


journey and plot) into our final, master outline. In some cases, this will be quite easy,
where you'll simply match up the emotional elements to their placement in the plotting
and you're done. For others, you may find that the emotional storyline doesn't quite sync
up with the plotting. While having a satisfying, complete emotional arc for the main
character is a very good idea, it's also essential to have a coherent, understandable
sequence of plot events. As a result, if they aren't quite lining up, you may need to
adjust one or the other. It's generally recommended to start by tweaking the plot instead
of the emotional journey, as more often than not the character's emotional arc is rather
clearly built out of who they are and might not function if it were adjusted.

As a general hint, issues at this point can often be fixed by simply allowing yourself to
increase the level of conflict and threat described in your plot.

Once that's done, check back through your synthesized outline to check the following:

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Once that's done, check back through your synthesized outline to check the following:
1) Is the character's emotional journey complete and satisfying? 2) Is the plotting
coherent, believable, and motivated? 3) Is there a sense of constant escalation, building
stakes, and growing jeopardy? 4) Are there any soft, dull, or random moments in the
outline that might be replaced or moved? 5) Do I feel like this outline gives me a clear
enough sense of the story that I'm equipped to start writing?

Again, don't be afraid to tweak this as you work, too. As you write a scene, you may find
yourself taking the story in a whole new direction, which can be a totally powerful and
rewarding experience. This outline is only to give you a guide and to help you move
through the drafting process in a smart, sane, and efficient manner.

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Day 13: Screenwri ng Format
Congratulations, youve built your outline! Youre just about ready to start drafting. The
only thing left is to make sure we have an understanding of screenplay formatting. Once
thats in the bag, were off to the races.

I dont think screenplay writing is the same as writing I mean, I think its
blueprinting. Robert Altman

OBJECTIVE: To introduce and practice screenplay formatting.

ADVICE: The most essential piece of advice here is to make sure you have a good
software package for screenplay writing. While its theoretically possible to use Microsoft
Word or Google Docs, its a nightmare and seriously ill-advised. There are a lot of
software packages out there, but if you consider cost, capability, and ease of use,
WriterDuet is our recommendation.

Okay, lets get into the nitty gritty of screenplay formatting. The elements of a screenplay
go in very different places than a stage play, and if your formatting is incorrect, industry
readers will very likely throw your script out. Lets start by going over the various
elements, but first a quick note about margins:

The margins and line-break rules of screenplays are rather crazy. Thankfully, screenplay
software is already set up to apply these correctly automatically. This is one reason its
nightmarish to use something like Microsoft Word. Okay, now the elements...

Scene Heading: This starts out every scene in your script with very few exceptions.
This should always be in all caps and left justified. It typically indicates three things.
First, whether the scene takes place indoors, outside, or both. Second, where the actual
scene takes place. Third, when the scene takes place and sort of the temporal
relationship this scene has to the prior scene. That can be a bit tough to parse, so lets
use some examples.

INT. JOES BEDROOM - DAY


This tells us that the scene happens in the interior of a building (INT.) Then we learn
that the scene takes place in Joes bedroom, and finally, we know that its daytime, so
light should be shining in any windows. Lets check out another example:

EXT. GRASSY KNOLL - NIGHT


This tells us the scene takes place outside (EXT. standing for exterior). That it happens
on a grassy knoll and that it occurs at night. Heres a weirder example to show some
other options.

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INT/EXT. SAMS CAR - MOMENTS LATER
This example says that the shot occurs both inside and outside of Sams car and that it
happens moments later from the scene that occurred previously. Some style guides will
say that you need to add DAY or NIGHT to every single scene heading and that you
cant just use MOMENTS LATER or LATER, but you can probably get away with it if
youd like. Another important option is the use of CONTINUOUS in the place of NIGHT
or DAY. This indicates that the scene follows immediately after the previous scene,
giving them a sense of flowing together.

Next we have action/description text. This is normally capitalized, left justified text that
describes all of the action that a viewer would see on screen. Content like Joe puts the
keys in the ignition or Sam knocks on the door would be in action/description text.
Action/description text should avoid including any content that a viewer couldnt see on
screen or couldnt hear out of the speakers. So, for instance, writing something like
Sam whistles a tune is completely fine, but something like Sam thinks hes really
hungry isnt okay. Ideas that would manifest in a characters mind or information that
just isnt visual or auditory shouldnt be included in action/description text. Therefore
The tree is important because Joe hit his head on it ten years prior isnt acceptable
because theres no way that a viewer could know that Joe hit his head on the tree
(unless, of course, they saw this in a flashback or heard it in dialogue.)

A few special notes: The first time a character is introduced in the script, their name
should appear in all-caps in the action/description text. After that first time, that
character can be introduced like you would normally, with only the first letters
capitalized.

Its also not recommended to include specific songs in your action/description text.
Given the expense of licensing music, it can come across as presumptuous that you
know for certain that youd have a particular song licensed in this film. Its often better to
suggest that youd have an a particular genre of song instead.

Character Headings: These are all-caps text that are nearly centered on the page (4.2
inches from the left, to be precise). They precede dialogue from a character every time
that character speaks. The only thing that should ever follow a character heading is
dialogue or a parenthetical (well get to that soon).

Dialogue: Dialogue is capitalized normally, start at 2.9 inches from the left side of the
page, with margins that end much sooner than the margins in action/description text.
Every paragraph of dialogue should have its own character heading. Uninterrupted
dialogue from the same character should all be in one paragraph. Do not add paragraph
breaks to dialogue. If you want to break up the giant blocks of dialogue text from a long
speech, use a line of action/description text, add a new character heading for the same
character, and then add more dialogue. For instance, this is okay (ignore the margins):

SAM
Blah blah blah blah.

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Sam takes a step.

SAM
Blah blah blah blah.

Whereas this is not acceptable:


SAM
Blah blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah blah.

The only other element that can follow a character heading is a parenthetical. These are
brief additions that suggest how a line is delivered. Theyre slightly offset in terms of
margins from the character heading, and have smaller margins than dialogue. Make
sure to use these only when theyre absolutely essential, as they are often disliked by
actors. These shouldnt be complete sentences and you dont need to capitalize the first
word. They can also be used to break up a line of dialogue without the need to use
another character heading in the same speech. That said, you cant just write a
character heading and a parenthetical without dialogue. If you dont want to use
dialogue, just use action/description text. Parentheticals might include things like:
(speaking quickly), (yelling at Charles), or (with quiet hatred). Itll look something like
this (although your software package will align things perfectly):

JOE
(with seething rage)
Blah blah blah!

While screenplay software will often include options for indicating shots and transitions,
wed recommend against using those in your scripts. Recent screenwriting trends have
been phasing out the use of these, and for the most part, it isnt the screenwriters job to
indicate how the shots are put together. Content like CLOSE ON:, SMASH CUT TO:
ECU ON:, are really just distracting and unnecessary for you to tell your story. If you
need to describe something that the viewer would see in a close up, you can suggest
that simply by what you include in the action/description text.

Flashbacks and Dream Sequences: For dream sequences, you can typically indicate
that (if you choose to) in parentheses after the end of a scene heading. Something like
INT. TOMS HOME - NIGHT (DREAM) will likely do the trick. If you want to use a
flashback, you can indicate it in all-caps, action/description text reading: BEGIN
FLASHBACK: on its own line. You can then end the flashback by writing END
FLASHBACK. on its own line of action/description text.

Point of View: (POV) shots can be indicated with slug lines. Slug lines are formatted
the same way as scene headings (left-justified, all caps), but dont need the INT., EXT.,
or time of day indicators. For instance, SAMS POV - THE SCHOOL BUS should

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or time of day indicators. For instance, SAMS POV - THE SCHOOL BUS should
suffice.

Well, there you have it. Those are the elements of the screenplay format. While that
may sound like a lot to take in, after playing around with a screenwriting software
package itll likely become very clear.

EXERCISE: If you havent before, check out a produced screenplay so that you can
see the formatting in action. Read some Oscar nominated scripts here.

Be careful when youre looking through those, though, as some higher level writers will
choose to break formatting rules. While seasoned professionals can get away with
formatting violations, newer writers dont have that luxury. Stick to the formatting rules
and you wont have a problem.

ASSIGNMENT: Our goal today is to familiarize you with screenplay formatting and to
help you feel comfortable as you begin to write your script. If you don't already have a
favorite screenwriting software package, we'd recommend checking out writerduet.com
and creating a free account with them. Once you have your screenwriting software
loaded up, just start practicing with it! Write up a quick scene that includes all of the
elements you learned about above. Make sure that multiple characters appear, have
dialogue with each other, and occasionally throw in some parentheticals. Make sure you
include a scene heading and action/description text. Once you're feeling comfortable, try
writing up one of these scenes you wrote out for day 8 or 9, now in proper screenplay
format.

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Day 14: Writer's Voice
Welcome back! Theres only one day that separates you from drafting on your new
screenplay. Youve built your premise, assembled your characters, constructed your
outline, and learned screenplay formatting. All the remains is a quick discussion on
writers voice.

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. Allen
Ginsberg

OBJECTIVE: To introduce the concept and the major variants of writers voice.

ADVICE: Writers voice roughly refers to the style in which a writer writes everything
that isnt dialogue in a script. This mostly focuses on action/description text, but it can
impact parentheticals and even scene headings if you really get wild. Hollywood is a bit
strange about the concept of writers voice, though. They often champion it, heralding it
as the biggest element that separates a newbie writer and a pro. They often say that its
the one thing that can put your script above the competition or can entice the biggest
stars to play your characters. And while these claims might have some truth to them, it
seems more likely that great voice is really a symptom of confidence in all aspects of
screenwriting.

If you read a lot of scripts, and here at ScreenCraft weve read tens of thousands, it
becomes almost instantly clear when a writer has a good sense of their voice or not.
Every single word in the script impacts the readers experience, either adding necessary
audio/visual information or building the right tone or vibe. The voice matches the scene,
helping to set the pacing and the sense of conflict. But it seems incredibly unlikely that
many writers just start out with a great sense of their own voice. Its very likely that
writers voice is an element that develops more and more with each new script. That as
the formatting of a screenplay becomes second nature, your voice will become honed
and complimentary to the stories you write.

Its so incredibly obvious when a writers voice is getting in the way. With a lot of newer
writers, youll find situations where theyve just gone ballistic with their voice and the
script is varying levels of unreadable. Theres so much of their voice in the story, that the
actual core information that a reader needs is tough to find and the tone becomes
obnoxious and chaotic. As a result, the most useful advice we can give is to experiment
with your voice, but not to go too crazy. A completely robotic, soulless description of
everything in the film would make the read rather boring, but if every sentence is stuffed
to the gills with extreme writers voice, no reader will make it past page 5. As a result, its
recommended to find where your style lands, to thread that needle, and to experiment,
but not go crazy.

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EXERCISE: Using the Oscar-nominated script from yesterday, read the first 10 pages
again and see if you cant isolate some examples of writers voice. Once youve copy-
pasted those instances out, analyze each one and see if that stylistic decision helped
the story to be told, or hurt it.

ASSIGNMENT: While mastery of a writer's voice will take decades, it doesn't hurt to get
a sense of it now. Today we'll work on writer's voice by taking the scene that you put into
screenplay format yesterday (the one from day 8 or 9) and changing up the
action/description text to try out different voices. Copy-paste three versions of the
scene, one on top of the other, so that you can quickly scroll between each version.

For the first one, go paragraph by paragraph through the action/description text and
change the style to a really staccato, snappy style that mostly doesn't use complete
sentences. While this style is widely used, it tends to be more applicable for horror or
action movies, given the quick, anxious tone that results.

Here's a quick example: The line "Joe climbs up the ladder and rushes out onto the
platform." might become "Joe grabs the ladder. Climbs. Rushes to the platform--" You
can see how the style feels rushed, which can be useful in tense action scenes, but
perhaps not so fitting for a long dramatic, artistic scene.

For the second version of the scene, try out a really poetic, verbose style. To illustrate
the idea, lets be a bit over-the-top with the same example: "Joe scales the ladder with
such speed you'd think hell itself was behind him. He reaches the top, throws himself
over the edge, and desperately races onto the platform." You can see how roughly the
same information is conveyed, but it's definitely a different reading experience and it
evokes a different emotion. It's also much longer, which would affect the pacing of the
scene.

Finally, for the third version, try out a style that feels like you! Maybe you'll throw in some
Shane Black-esque bits like "Joe scales the ladder like a goddamned monkey on
speed" or slow it down further with something like "Joe puts hand over hand, foot over
foot, as he climbs the ladder carefully and precisely." In any case, play around with this,
find some stylistic aspects that appeal to you, and get ready for tomorrow... Because
tomorrow, we start writing.

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Day 15: Beginning Your Screenplay
Youve made it. Its finally time to start writing. Youve got all the essential tools you
need to get going with your story. If youve followed along so far, youve got a great head
start compared to most writers, so trust in the work youve done and lets dive in.

"The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress." Philip Roth

OBJECTIVE: To begin your screenplay!

ADVICE: Before we dive in, just a few words on our battle plan when it comes to writing
this screenplay. Were going to be moving forward incrementally, a few pages each day,
with clear targets for each session. While its okay if you write more than the daily target,
its important that you stick with the minimum requirement each day. If you knock out
that minimum number each day, youll definitely have a completed script when you get
to day 60.

Youll also find that we wont take days off as we go. The reason behind this is so you
start to develop a habit of writing at least a little bit each day. Well start slow and ramp
up, with variations in the rate depending on the type of content were tackling.

Were going to be aiming for a target of 100 pages. Clearly not every screenplay is 100
pages, but it serves as a nice average across most genres. Comedy and horror projects
really need to be much closer to 90 pages, while hard dramas and action movies can
get away with being closer to 110. Given that you might be writing any genre, or a blend
of genres, well set the target at 100. If you happen to be writing a comedy or horror, for
example, dont worry if your script ends up at 100 or more. Well have plenty of time to
trim it down after we finish drafting.

Finally, and this is really important, try your best not to worry about editing as you go. If
you stick with the plan, youll finish your script on day 44. That gives us 16 days to edit
and polish. And while editing is incredibly powerful, right now our only objective is to get
the script written. So please, do your best to avoid the urge to edit as you write, and just
focus on hitting those page targets every day. If you happen across a moment in your
drafting where something really isnt working, or theres a glaring issue, write yourself a
note and just move on. Maybe you can write your note directly into the draft or on a
separate document, but just keep moving. Once you reach 100 pages, youll be well
equipped to tackle whatever issues you may have discovered as you were drafting.

So always keep moving, have fun, and keep conflict in the front of your mind.

EXERCISE: Now that its time to start drafting, were going to suspend the Daily

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EXERCISE: Now that its time to start drafting, were going to suspend the Daily
Exercises. Youve got enough to focus on with the scripting.

ASSIGNMENT: It's finally time. We've built the premise, constructed the characters and
fleshed them out, synthesized a comprehensive outline that works both character and
plot, and practiced with formatting and style. We're ready to dive in. While you're likely
itching just to start writing, our goal isn't just to get you started, but to make sure that
you reach the finish line. To that end, today we're going to start with a requirement of
only 2 pages. You've probably already written more than that in the last couple of days,
and that's awesome, because then you know that today's goal is clearly attainable. And
we promise that even with an assignment of just two pages today, you'll still have a
completed script by the end of day 60.

So, let's start out by knocking out those 2 pages. If you end up going further than that,
or if your second page doesn't end on a completed scene, you're welcome to keep
writing. If the muses are smiling and you're having a great time playing with these
characters and your outline, then by all means, keep writing, but make sure that you
knock out at least 2 pages. The only word of caution against just writing the entire movie
today is that various insights about the upcoming sections will accompany later emails.
If you follow your outline and use the character work you've already done, you'll likely
still have a solid product, the insights in the upcoming emails might be helpful in terms
of enriching the process further. In any case, happy writing!

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Day 16: The First 10 Pages
Congrats! Youve started your script. Today well keep at it.

There is only one plot things are not what they seem. Jim Thompson

OBJECTIVE: To write two more pages and discuss the first 10 pages more.

ADVICE: The first 10 pages are a particularly important section of the script. Its a sad
truth about the industry, but a lot of industry readers wont read past the first 10 pages if
they arent hooked. It may be helpful to keep in mind that these all-important industry
readers are typically assistants, sometimes even interns, who are overworked,
underpaid, and have to be very efficient in terms of reviewing screenplays and selecting
only the best for their bosses. Industry readers are very often paid by the script, so
theres no incentive for them to carefully analyze every page of every script that crosses
their desk. While this sounds rather miserable, it can actually work to your advantage.
You, unlike a lot of newer writers out there, know the reality, and you can develop your
first 10 pages to combat this specifically.

With that in mind, well share a few techniques over the next few days that can help to
elevate your first 10 pages, giving you a leg up. While its essential that you keep
moving forward and try to minimize or eliminate editing at this phase, you can either use
this advice now, or just keep it on hand for when you go back and edit after the script is
drafted.

For today, lets discuss the idea of a reversal. This is a fairly common tactic, but in my
experience as a reader, its one of the most powerful techniques that you can employ in
the first 10 pages (and the rest of the script). The idea is pretty straightforward: set up
the expectation that something is going to happen one way, then surprise the
reader/audience by having it happen in another way. Theres a key to keep in mind here.

A reversal wont work if there isnt any hint of it in the first place. If youre having a tense
argument and you really think on character is going to shoot the other, but then all of a
sudden aliens attack, thats certainly unexpected, but its also completely out of the blue
and not set up in the slightest. Therefore, its recommended to set up the reversal just
enough that its fair to the reader, but isnt obvious youre going in that direction.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll knock out just 2 more pages, bringing us up to a total of 4
pages. While 2 pages might not sound like much, if you finish those up today you'll be
on track to have a completed, polished script by day 60. Keep in mind all the aspects of
the first 10 pages that we've been discussing, but don't bog yourself down by re-writing
and editing what you've already written. The most important aspect, by far, is that you
make sure you get to 4 pages today. We'll have plenty of time in the rest of the sixty

36
make sure you get to 4 pages today. We'll have plenty of time in the rest of the sixty
days to do some editing and polish. Right now, just focus on getting those pages written!

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Day 17: Character Introduc ons
Awesome job on the first two days of drafting. Well keep pressing forward today and
talk a bit more about the first 10 pages.

Big budget movies can have big budget perks, and small budget movies have no
perks, but what the driving force is, of course, is the script. Morgan Freeman

OBJECTIVE: To write another 2 pages and discuss character introductions in the first
10 pages.

ADVICE: One of the banes of a successful first 10 pages is reader confusion. Its
paramount that your script make sense for a reader. This doesnt mean that it cant
challenge them and make them think, but it shouldnt be so obtuse and unclear that
readers get frustrated. Theres no faster way to get your script thrown out than if its
unclear.

While there are many ways that a script can be unclear, one of the easiest is with
character introductions. Its surprisingly difficult sometimes for a reader to pay attention
to and remember every character they meet. Think back to the last Shakespeare play
that you read. Maybe you didnt need it, but most readers tend to make use of that
character list or dramatis personae at the beginning of the play. In a screenplay though,
you cant use a character list at the beginning (the vast majority of readers will skip right
over it if you include one and may even penalize you for adding it). In a screenplay
you have to rely on clear, solid, memorable character introductions for the cast. Heres a
list of some quick guidelines that can address the most common issues:

Make sure each character gets an all-caps introduction the first time that a reader
meets them.

Space out character introductions as much as possible. Give the reader time to
meet and get to know each character before you add another. In only the rarest
circumstances is it okay to introduce two characters in the same action/description
paragraph.

Always describe the character when theyre first introduced. The most useful
things to provide are age, basic physical description, key identifying traits (likely
more physical than anything else), and the first action they are performing. A
memorable first action can help solidify them in the readers brain.

Work their relationship to previously introduced characters as quickly as possible.


Try not to do this in a non-visual/auditory way. If two characters are brothers and
weve already met the older brother, one easy option is for the older brother shout

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weve already met the older brother, one easy option is for the older brother shout
out Hey little bro! (or something like that) when we meet the younger brother.

ASSIGNMENT: Another day, another 2 pages. Today, you'll be bringing your total up to
6 pages. Again, always keep your focus on just getting the pages written. Don't stress
about how good the pages are, if it makes any sense, if the prose is beautifully crafted,
or if the dialogue is masterful. If you end the day with 6 pages (or more) in your
document, you're doing wonderfully! Keep up the good work you're writing a script.

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Day 18: Presen ng Your Premise
Great job. Youre over halfway done with the first ten pages. Lets keep up the
momentum.

Audiences are harder to please if youre just giving them effects, but theyre
easy to please if its a good story. Steven Spielberg

OBJECTIVE: To knock out another two pages and discuss the clarity of your premise
in the first ten pages.

ADVICE: The first ten pages are about more than just introducing your characters and
a strong, attention-grabbing hook. Its also about presenting your premise or at least
laying the foundation for it. When industry readers tear through those first 10 pages, one
of the big questions theyre going to be thinking about is what is the premise of that
movie? Obviously, they have another 90ish pages to read before they truly know the
answer, but itll really help your scripts odds if they at least have a sense of the premise.
Oftentimes, this is accomplished in the Inciting Incident. The Inciting Incident sparks the
conflict for the entire film, and in doing so, it gives us a sense of what the overall conflict
is going to be about. If you dont think that you can present your premise safely in the
first 10 pages, consider at least hinting at it, or working a conflict thatll build into the
major conflict of the premise.

ASSIGNMENT: Today, we're writing just 2 more pages, bringing us up to a total of 8


pages. By now you've likely felt the temptation to go back and edit the pages you've
written. While it's okay to reread and adjust obvious errors, don't let yourself get bogged
down by issues that you're seeing with what you've already written. We'll have plenty of
time to fix those issues when we're done drafting, and we've found that if you just get
the script drafted and then focus on editing, the editing ends up being much more
effective. Just get those 8 pages written and call it a win!

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Day 19: Concise Wri ng
Good work! Today well finish up the first 10 pages. Lets dive in.

Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk away from any open flames to
remind yourself that if you dont write daily, you will get rusty. George
Singleton

OBJECTIVE: To write two more pages and discuss how big blocks of text can hurt the
read.

ADVICE: Weve been discussing those industry readers recently who really serve as
the gatekeepers for your project once its submitted. While solid clarity, a easily
understood premise, and a reversal can massively boost your odds, one issue can very
efficiently obliterate a good read: big blocks of text. You may have heard about the idea
of white space in a script. If you havent, what thats referring to is simply the amount of
white space on a page. For instance, if you were to have a 30 line long paragraph of
action/description text on a page, that page would almost be solely black text. Thered
be essentially no white space to be found. Itd also be an incredibly dense read. Itd take
a reader many minutes to read through that page and theyd likely find it very draining,
regardless of what was being described in those words.

However, if you were to limit the length of your action/description paragraphs and have
short lines of dialogue, thered be a lot of white space and the page would be a very
quick read. While certain readers are bothered by low white space more than others, its
universally a good idea to maximize white space throughout your script. Short
action/description paragraphs that are even just a few words are a great way to create
more white space. Generally speaking, the following guidelines will keep you safe in
terms of white space:

Scene headings and parentheticals should never be more than 1 line long

Action/description paragraphs shouldnt be more than 3 lines long.

Dialogue should try to stay less than 4 lines long, and if youre doing a monologue
or longer line, try to break it up with short action/description paragraphs. Always
remember that if you break up a line of dialogue with an action/description
paragraph, then you need another character heading before that character
continues their line!

ASSIGNMENT: It's time to finish up the first 10 pages. We'll knock out just 2 more
pages, bringing our total up to 10. By now you've written the most essential part of the
script and you've proven your solid work ethic to yourself. 2 pages a day was totally

41
script and you've proven your solid work ethic to yourself. 2 pages a day was totally
doable and now you've got a solid start to your story. By this point, you're likely done
with or in the middle of your Inciting Incident, and if you're not, that's okay! Like we've
said, the point isn't to write a flawless movie on the very first pass, but to get the pages
written. Once we are done with drafting we'll work back through the script and address
any issues. The most critical thing is that you have 10 pages by the end of today. If you
do that, you're totally on track to having a script finished by day 60.

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Day 20: Discussing Exposi on
Awesome work. Youve constructed the first 10 pages of your script! Now its time to
dive into the bulk of the first act and make our way toward the beginning of the
adventure.

If you put someone in a room with no script to direct, theyre just going to sit
there. Writing scripts is the execution for a show. Then the director takes that and
hires people. Its like trying to build a house without any bricks. You need a great
script. John Patrick Shanley

OBJECTIVE: To write 5 more pages and to discuss exposition.

ADVICE: As youre moving into the center of the first act, the focus is changing from
that Inciting Incident to whatever would push the main character into the adventure. As
that burst of conflict from the Inciting Incident wears off, it can be tempting to have other
characters (and even the lead) talk about the circumstances of the world around them.
Any time that a character is providing another character (and usually the reader) with
information, its called exposition, or expositional dialogue. Exposition can also be
provided through visuals (like a diploma hanging on the wall, for instance). Exposition is,
very commonly, used to provide backstory. While exposition is almost always essential
in certain amounts, too much of it, or unskillful execution of it, can cause problems for
the script.

One of the biggest problems with exposition is when it isnt motivated. Always ask
yourself, whenever a character is providing exposition, Is it motivated for this character
to be sharing this information? If the answer isnt a firm yes, consider holding off or
having that character only hint at what they were previously going to share outright.
Exposition is important, but unmotivated exposition is quite harmful.

Beyond that, even too much good exposition all in one place can be overwhelming for a
reader. Too much exposition in one place can be really damning. Try to sprinkle the
exposition throughout the project when it really feels motivated and really feels
necessary.

ASSIGNMENT: It's time to up the pace a bit. You're an old pro at 2 pages a day, so
let's speed things up. At this point, you have a strong sense of at least your main
character, your Inciting Incident is either already done or about to happen, and your
story is well under way. Since we have that strong foundation already built, it's safe to
increase the pace up to 5 pages a day. We won't always stay at 5 pages a day, but right
now, as you're diving into the meat of your first act, we're certain you can do it. Keep
your synthesized outline close at hand and just dive into that next exciting scene!

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As always, don't let yourself get distracted by editing, just leave a note to yourself and
move on. Once you've hit that 15-page mark, you're done for the day! You can always
write more if you'd like, but definitely make sure that you're writing at least some each
day. Building that habit of writing each day is incredibly helpful.

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Day 21: Show Don't Tell
Great work building up to five pages in one day! Lets keep the momentum going.

If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with
snakes blood in his veins, the readers reaction may be, Oh, yeah! But if you
show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-
encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have
him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader
believes! Fred East

OBJECTIVE: To write another five pages and discuss the idea of Show Dont Tell.

ADVICE: Perhaps one of the most famous story guidelines for screenplay writing is the
idea of Show Dont Tell. The basic gist of this is that its better to show something
happening rather than to just tell a character (and the reader) that something happened.
Generally speaking, thats pretty solid advice. Screenplay is a visual medium, and if you
can show something dramatic happening, its not a bad idea to do so. However, its a
slightly more complicated animal than that.

Not every movie has the freedom of budget to show whatever it wants. Perhaps you
know that youre planning to write a lower budget film to give it better odds of actually
being produced. That can be a wise move, but it can prevent you from seeing that epic
scene where the two superheroes fly around the city smashing every building in sight. In
that case though, perhaps you could use a powerful character moment to share what
happened, where you work the emotion of what occurred, but you dont actually see it.
This can be a powerful compromise, and in some cases, actually better than seeing the
event.
So the take away of all this? Show dont tell is great if you can afford it. But dont forget
about the emotional power of a character telling something if you cant show it. Even
then, a blend of the two can achieve the best of both worlds.

ASSIGNMENT: Time to knock out 5 more pages. You're knee-deep in your first act and
the conflict and energy of your script is growing. Characters are getting in trouble, the
stakes are getting clarified, and the tension is building. You're aiming at the end of Act I
and you're closing in! After today, you'll be at 20 pages! Keep at it!

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Day 15:

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Day 22: Start of the Adventure
Great work. In only a week of writing, youve knocked out 20 pages. Thats awesome
momentum and a great start on building a useful habit.

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most
of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers. Ray
Bradbury

OBJECTIVE: To write 2 more pages as we move into the Start of the Adventure. Well
also discuss the Start of the Adventure a bit more.

ADVICE: As you move into the Start of the Adventure/end of the first act, there are a
few things to keep in mind. First, is your premise clear at this point? If its not, you may
want to add a little bit of content that helps set up the need for the adventure, and the
characters goal, before the character actually sets off. Secondly, have the stakes been
established? If the stakes are still murky, you may want to work those today as you
complete two more pages. Keep in mind that the scene order that you write right now
doesnt need to be the final scene order. Perhaps youre realizing that the stakes are a
bit unclear, so you add in a scene that doesnt really fit where youre writing it. Thats
fine! Right now, its about building the raw materials that youll use to perfect the script
when you get into editing. Finally, and this is related to the stakes, but is the conflict
significant enough? If the conflict is pretty minimal and the hero has a reason to go on
the adventure, but its not really that significant of a reason, you may opt to amp up the
conflict some. Again, dont worry about rewriting previous content, just build out some
new stuff in todays 2 pages and just keep moving forward!

ASSIGNMENT: It's time to slow it down a bit as we begin to reach the Start of the
Adventure. Our character is about to embark on their quest and these moments can be
pretty important. You've established who the character is, the character's goals, and
their obstacles, so now it's time to launch them head-first into their mission. So that you
can really pay close attention to these moments we'll go back to a goal of only 2 pages
today. So relax, have fun with the scene(s), and dive into this critical moment in the
story. Our total after today will be 22 pages.

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Day 23: Diving Into the Adventure
Welcome back to day 23. Youve made a lot of progress in the last few weeks and were
going to keep adding to that today. Stick with it, youre doing great.

To make a great film you need three things the script, the script and the
script. Alfred Hitchcock

OBJECTIVE: To write two more pages and dig deeper into the Start of the Adventure.

ADVICE: As you move further into the Start of the Adventure dont be afraid to change
things up a bit from what you put in your outline. Always keep in mind that this is a wildly
creative process and that the story will evolve as you keep working on it. You may find
that the call to action for the hero is so much greater than you anticipated and that their
path into that adventure has shifted somewhat. Thats fine! Its always better to trust you
characters, to follow their motivations, and to have the conflict manifest organically
around those elements. That said, the big things to keep an eye on are your characters
emotional journey and the completion of the premise in general. Tangents can be really
fun, and rewarding, to explore, but dont lose sight of the story youre writing.

ASSIGNMENT: We're still probably knee-deep in the Start of the Adventure, so we'll
keep the pace at 2 pages for today. That brings our total up to 24 pages. Really
immerse yourself in the writing today as you put yourself in the character's shoes as
they stand on the precipice of this adventure. Danger, fear, anxiety, and huge stakes
loom in the distance as the character takes that big step forward into the unknown.
Knock this out, and we're only one page away from a quarter done with drafting!

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Day 24: Finishing the Start of the
Adventure
Great work moving through the Start of the Adventure! Were back today to finish up the
Start of the Adventure, so get ready, because Act II is about to begin!

"It ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it." Jack Kerouac

OBJECTIVE: To finish up the Start of the Adventure with another 2 pages.

ADVICE: Now that youre only inches away from the beginning of the second act, its
important to discuss the topic of staying motivated. Because the project is shifting into
this large, potentially imposing second act, it can be easy to lose hope and let the
project slip away. If youre starting to get that feeling just remind yourself of a few things:

Check out the awesome habit youve built! After today, youll have been writing for
10 days straight. You are a writer. Thats a real achievement and that habit will
help you to get to the end of this process.

Your story deserves to be told. Youve created all these interesting characters, an
exciting, high-conflict premise, and a carefully engineered structure. Youve done
the heavy lifting, now its about letting it come to life.

Allow yourself to indulge in the idea of this movie getting produced. Not all
screenplays will, in fact most wont, but not many writers are going through the
process that you are. A script can never be produced if it isnt written, so make
sure you give your project that chance.

Remember to have fun! Youre bringing a story to life. Youre bringing a whole new
world into reality. Thats an amazing experience so try to enjoy it!

ASSIGNMENT: To finish up the Start of the Adventure, we'll add on another 2 pages
today. This marks the 10th day that you've been writing and the foundation of a rock-
solid creative process. Keep up the good work and drive for home as your character
completes that Start of the Adventure scene/sequence. Our total today will be at 26
pages.

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Day 25: Genre Elements
Awesome job getting through the Start of the Adventure. Youre into Act II! Time to have
some fun!

Give me a good script, and Ill be a hundred times better as a director.


George Cukor

OBJECTIVE: To start off Act II by adding four more pages and to discuss genre
elements.

ADVICE: Genre elements will certainly exist in the first act, but the second act is where
projects can really embrace their genre. The main character has embraced their
adventure and is actively trying to achieve their objective. Perhaps theyll make some
substantial progress toward their goal or maybe theyll be constantly rebuked, but in
either case, theyre trying everything they can thats supported by their characterization
and the genre.

Here are a few genre-specific examples to help get the ball rolling. If you're doing a
horror movie, bring on the scares! Every hallway, graveyard, and alley is another chance
for something horrifying. If you're writing a comedy, it's time for non-stop jokes and
ridiculousness. Perhaps the main character is trying to woo their soulmate with all sorts
of weird and crazy tactics. If you're crafting an adventure movie, you can go wild on
those massive action set pieces. Its time for car chases and shootouts! Sometimes this
part of the script is called the 'fun and games' section as your characters really commit
to the adventure and just get lost in it.

ASSIGNMENT: Well, the Start of the Adventure is likely complete (or about to be
completed) and we're starting into Act Two! This is where things get really fun. It's time
to embrace your premise and just go crazy with your genre and characters. Have fun,
surprise yourself, and enjoy your building relationship with your characters. Today, we'll
knock out 4 more pages, bringing our total up to 30 pages.

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Day 26: Discussing Dialogue
Welcome back. Were making great progress within the second act. Lets jump right to
it.

Everybody has a perspective. Everybody in your scene, including the thug


flanking your bad guy, has a reason. They have their own voice, their own
identity, their own history. If anyone speaks in such a way that theyre just setting
up the next persons lines, then you dont get dialogue: you get soundbites.
Joss Whedon

OBJECTIVE: To complete five more pages and discuss dialogue.

ADVICE: At this point in the story, youve probably got a pretty solid grasp on the
various characters. Their relationships have mostly formed and now its about putting
them under different types of mounting pressure and seeing what happens. And, unless
youre doing a very artistic script, you probably have a fair amount of dialogue. When it
comes to writing dialogue, here are a few quick pointers:

If something isnt feeling quite right, try saying it outloud. Dont let this slow you
down too much though! Weve still got to knock out five pages today.

Take a second before you write the line of dialogue to put yourself in the
characters shoes. Pretend youre actually them for a second, imagine what youre
wearing, whats around you, and what youre feeling. Then, with all that fresh in
your mind, try writing the line.

If your characters are different ages, different origins, different socioeconomic


backgrounds, or different intellects, they may speak rather differently. Remember
that it can be a lot of fun and help the reader to track the characters if they sound
pretty different from one another.

Well get into this more when were editing, but be careful of a character saying
exactly whats on their mind, to the point that it violates their motivations. If a
character is motivated to say something with more subtlety, but you force them to
just say it straightforwardly and plainly, that may constitute what is called on-the-
nose dialogue. This is generally something to avoid, but well get into it more
when were editing dialogue.

ASSIGNMENT: We're safely in the second act, and the party's only just started. It's
time to go wild and knock out another 5 pages today, bringing the total up to 35 pages.
The adventure is underway, the stakes are rising, the characters are feeling the
pressure, and your outline will guide you every step of the way. Just trust in your

51
pressure, and your outline will guide you every step of the way. Just trust in your
characters and let them take you through these next 5 pages. As always, try not to let
yourself get stuck by something that isn't quite working. We're still focusing on the
drafting process and editing will come later. Knock these 5 pages out and celebrate!

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Day 27: Refocusing on Conict
Welcome back. If youve kept up, youre closing in on halfway done!

"One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that
Im going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear
them up the following morning if I want. Ill have lost nothingwriting and
tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off."
Lawrence Block (but please wait until you get into editing if you tear them up!)

OBJECTIVE: Write out another five pages and refocus on conflict.

ADVICE: Its been long enough, its probably wise to take a second to refocus on
conflict in our script. Youve been juggling dialogue, action/description, your growing
writers voice, plotting, and so many other variables, but conflict is the one real guiding
light. No matter what youre writing, if you have conflict present, therell necessarily be
drama, and thats the core of story. Also remember that external conflict isnt the only
kind of conflict you can play with. Its highly advisable to make sure youre working
internal conflicts at least occasionally. Also, remember that it isnt just the protagonist
against the big bad, there can be interpersonal conflicts with the other good guys,
ethical and philosophical conflicts about a characters worldview, and more typical
psychological conflicts as a character struggles with their inner ghosts.

If you ever freeze up as youre writing, and you just need a burst of energy, ask yourself
what conflict can help drive this scene home. Thatll almost always give you what you
need to keep moving forward.

ASSIGNMENT: Let's keep the momentum going today and finish up another 5 pages.
Just stay focused on putting fingers to the keyboard, don't worry about editing or
problems you run into, and today will be a breeze. If you ever get stuck, just write
yourself a little note and jump forward. The most essential thing is that you get those 5
pages done and increase your total to 40 pages today. Go wild in this first half of the
second act!

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Day 28: Descrip ve and Ac on Text!
Spectacular work! Youve made it to the end of the first half of the second act. Youre so
close to being halfway done with drafting! Lets jump right in.

"Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater." Roman Polanski

OBJECTIVE: To write another five pages and talk some about action/description text.

ADVICE: Were about to get into the Midpoint, but before we get into that, lets briefly
discuss the idea of over direction. Unless you know for certain that youll be directing the
script youre writing, a writer shouldnt aim to do the directors job for them in the script.
Not only can this bother some directors and make them less likely to work on the
project, but industry readers are keeping an eye out for this and will likely dock a script
that does it. Over-directing usually manifests when a writer is being overly forceful and
specific with the visuals or the soundtrack, especially when they discuss the shot
explicitly. Heres a quick example of something thats almost comically over directed:

ECU on Jason as he cranes his neck to hear the song. We dolly back as Jason lets the
upbeat, 110 beats per minute glitch hop electronica track wash over him, then HARD
slam to black.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll finish up the first half of the second act by adding on
another 5 pages. This brings our total up to 45 pages and leads us into the Midpoint of
the script. Enjoy those terrifying jump-scares, the next wild stop on the comedic road
trip, the giant shoot out on the roof, or the training montage, because tomorrow things
are going to get serious.

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Day 29: Need a Day to Catch Up?
Welcome back and welcome to the Midpoint of your script! We hope you had fun with
the fun and games section, but now its time to get a bit more serious.

Its possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I cant make a
good movie from a bad script. George Clooney

OBJECTIVE: To write three more pages and start on the Midpoint.

ADVICE: By this point, youre probably in or about to hit the Midpoint. We discussed
the Midpoint in some depth in the 11th email, but lets refresh on a few things before we
get to drafting. The Midpoint is a major decision that the main character is facing. At this
point, they need to decide whether or not theyll move forward and continue to seek their
objective. They could back out and give up, taking the easy road instead. While its ideal
if your character is tempted by this opportunity, ultimately (assuming youre sticking with
standard story structure) theyll decide to press on and embrace the difficulties to come.

The Midpoint really does function as a point of no return as the main character has to
commit in a greater fashion than ever before. Oftentimes, this decision is bolstered if
theres a sense that the main character is violating some rule of the world if they
continue on this path. Perhaps theyre breaking the law, lying to someone, or doing
something morally corrupt. In any case, theyre making a decision that, to them, is the
only possible way to move forward to obtain their objective. The more you can make you
character feel like theyre on the horns of that dilemma, the better. You know your
character better than anyone, so figure out exactly what would pressure them the most,
and put them up against that.

Finally, keep the stakes in mind. Whatever decision they make here in the Midpoint, itll
have profound effects on the stakes. Ideally, things will get much more tense, the sense
of jeopardy is higher, and they realize just how much they could lose if they fail. If youre
struggling, take another look at your synthesized outline. Keep in mind what emotional
journey you were envisioning for the character and use that to help you build up this
Midpoint decision.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we start work on the Midpoint and surrounding scenes. We'll
add on only 3 pages today, bringing our total to 48 pages, as we start to set ourselves
up for (or dive into) the Midpoint scene or sequence. Your main character will be coming
to grips with a huge decision of whether or not they go through with their objective,
despite all its costs. Things are going to get rougher and your character will have to face
some tough times ahead. This Midpoint is often called a point of no return, so set up
the stakes and let your character really embrace this tough decision!

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Day 30: More on the Midpoint
Youve made it to the 30th day of the program. Congrats, youve made a ton of
progress. Lets keep going and make more progress on the Midpoint.

What has always been at the heart of filmmaking was the value of a script. It was
really the writer who could make or break a film. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

OBJECTIVE: To write another two pages on the Midpoint.

ADVICE: Another perspective on the Midpoint that might be helpful is thinking of what
might change for the main character depending on what decision they make. You
probably already have a good sense of this in your outline, but just as a quick exercise,
it could be helpful to list out the ramifications of each side of this Point of No Return. For
instance, if the protagonist was thinking about breaking a particular law, they might have
the police after them, their family could be in danger, their bank account might be
frozen, and many characters might view them differently. Thinking about all these things
could help with the actual drafting of the Midpoint, as itll present you with a clear menu
of exactly what types of conflicts could help drive the Midpoint forward.

ASSIGNMENT: We're still probably in the Midpoint, so let's only add on 2 more pages
today. These scenes can be very dramatic and very nerve wracking, so just relax, let
your character's motivations do the work, and trust your outline. After adding these 2
pages, our total will be up to 50. Halfway done.

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Day 31: Don't Forget the Rest of Your
Cast
Great work yesterday and over the last 30 days. Youve made it over the hump! Youre
on the downhill slope so lets dive right in.

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." Ernest
Hemingway

OBJECTIVE: To draft another two pages and keep up our analysis of the Midpoint.

ADVICE: When were in the middle of something like the Midpoint, it can be easy to
focus solely on what our main character is going through. And while its essential to
keep the main characters psyche and conflicts at the forefront, sometimes taking a step
back and putting yourself in a supporting characters shoes can help. In the case of the
Midpoint, consider the inverse of yesterdays exercise and imagine what you would do,
as the supporting character, if the main character made this particular decision. Perhaps
you (as the supporting character) have been goading them on, and this would be a
triumphant moment where youve pulled them onto your side. Or maybe the supporting
character is dreading what the main character might do and is begging them not to go
through with it. In either case, dont forget about the rest of your cast and use the
conflict theyre going through as a means to push and pull your main character through
this decision. As always, the greater and more multidimensional the conflict that your
lead is facing, the stronger your script will be.

ASSIGNMENT: It's still quite possible that we're dealing with the Midpoint scene, so
let's only knock out 2 more pages today. This brings our total up to 52. Especially when
working on big scenes like the Midpoint, don't let yourself get sidetracked by issues and
technical elements. Focus on getting the script drafted and know that we'll have plenty
of time to edit and polish this scene or sequence. In fact, spoiler alert, we'll have a day
later where the only thing we work on is polishing and editing the Midpoint, so for today,
let's just knock out those 2 pages!

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Day 32: Rela onship with the Reader
Welcome to day 32. Youre probably either about to finish the Midpoint or have already.
In either case, the second half of the second act is upon you. Lets get to it.

All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic
goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction. Steve
Almond

OBJECTIVE: To add another three pages to our total and discuss the relationship with
the reader in more depth.

ADVICE: It can be a tempting notion to consider the reader, especially jaded industry
readers, as your enemy. They definitely act like gatekeepers to their bosses, and its
easy for the image of a stingy troll to come to mind. However, the opposite perspective
might be more productive. If you think of the dynamic between you and the reader as a
partnership it might even help you to write your script.

Much like when youre imagining a characters situation, put yourself in the readers
shoes for a moment. Statistically speaking, youre a twenty-something white male, you
likely hate your job, your boss is overworking you, you know youll be getting into the
office early and leaving super late, and that 90% of the scripts you read are largely
garbage. The one thing that will really catch your eye is a script that has you in mind. Or
more applicable to our situation as writers, a script that is giving you the information you
need to understand the story, exactly when you need it, with no extra, wasted content.
And really, to achieve that as writers, the biggest thing we need to consider is that idea
of giving the reader exactly what they need when they need it.

This means introducing only the essential characters when they truly start to impact the
main storyline and only including the content that advances that storyline with those
characters. While you may be thinking that it would have been nice to have known this
20 days ago, remember that the most important consideration is getting all 100 pages
written. Thats paramount. Now that youve already knocked out more than half a script
and youre moving into the second half of the second act, you can start to work this idea
into your process so that youre just providing the most essential content in an
understandable flow.

ASSIGNMENT: So the Midpoint is probably reaching its conclusion and we're


launching into the second half of the second act. Things are more tense and higher
stakes than they were in the first half of the second act, but the party is still going on!
The Midpoint is behind you, so just have fun and ramp back up into those awesome
genre moments. Always keep the character's motivations in mind and keep the conflict
high. Today we're adding just 3 pages as we depart from the Midpoint, bringing our total

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high. Today we're adding just 3 pages as we depart from the Midpoint, bringing our total
to 55 pages.

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Day 33: Discussing Mysteries
Welcome and great job finishing up the Midpoint yesterday. Well keep up the
momentum today as we push further into the 2nd act.

"We're past the age of heroes and hero kings. Most of our lives are basically
mundane and dull, and it's up to the writer to find ways to make them
interesting." John Updike

OBJECTIVE: To construct 5 more pages and to discuss mysteries.

ADVICE: While it doesnt have the short-term, immediate impact that a quick reversal
can have, mysteries can be enormously powerful when executed well in a screenplay.
This probably goes without saying as likely some of your favorite films and TV shows
work long-term mysteries that have great payoffs. One of the real keys to employing
mysteries in screenplays is the idea of constantly moving the mystery forward. If a
mystery is going to exist across the large part of a film, it can be easy to ignore it for
long periods of time, but the best mysteries are constantly being revisited and
uncovered bit-by-bit as the characters dig deeper.

Also, keep in mind that mysteries dont have to be external questions like who killed so-
and-so? They can also be questions about the true nature of a character or someones
ultimate motivations. In cases like that, the idea of constantly advancing a mystery is
particularly applicable. If you treat a mystery like a longer running reversal, with plenty of
hints but nothing too obvious, you can create a really compelling experience for a
reader/audience member, even if the only mystery is about some aspect of a character.

ASSIGNMENT: We're well past halfway done and the Midpoint is a thing of the past.
It's time to rock and roll! 5 more pages today brings us to a total of 60 pages as we go
wild with the remainder of our second act. Stakes are high, conflict is soaring, and the
characters are really in the thick of it. This can be an enormously fun part of the script
as you start leading the reader toward the giant conflicts to come. Go wild, don't worry
about editing, and trust your characters.

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Day 34: Core of the Story!
Welcome back to day 34 of Writing Your Screenplay in Sixty Days! Youre almost
done with your script! Well keep things going with another day of 5 pages.

Everything starts with writing. And then to support your vision, your ideas, your
philosophy, your jokes, whatever, youve gotta perform them and/or direct them,
or sometimes just produce them. Mel Brooks

OBJECTIVE: To add 5 more pages onto our total and revisit the idea of staying
focused on the core of the story.

ADVICE: While you shouldnt worry about it during the drafting phase, unnecessary
scenes or weak subplots are very common problems for scripts. Too often, writers will
find some minor detail interesting, blow it out of proportion, and slow down the core
story by fixating too much on that detail (or less important character). As a result, its
recommended, especially when youre drafting to try to stay focused on the core story at
all times, get that built, and then consider if a subplot could use some embellishment.

If during this process of drafting youve found yourself exploring less critical elements,
dont worry, but do try to stay focused on the main story from here on out. Industry
readers love to tear into projects that juggle too many balls at once or hurt their own
pacing by not focusing on the core story.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll keep up the pace with another 5 pages, putting us to a total
of 65 pages. Keep amping up the conflict and playing with those character dynamics as
you start to approach the Darkest Hour. While the character is still pursuing their
objective, things aren't working out and the stakes are building. This marks your 20th
day of writing solidly, so keep it up and finish strong.

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Day 35: More on Ac on and Descrip on
Text
Well done. Youve got 20 consecutive days of writing under your belt! Were getting
close to done, so lets keep things moving forward.

If the scripts good, everything you need is in there. I just try and feel it, and do it
honestly. Olivia Coleman

OBJECTIVE: To write 5 more pages and a deeper discussion of action/description text.

ADVICE: It can be difficult when writing action/description text to stay completely in the
realm of audio/visual information. Sometimes itd just be incredibly quick and easy to tell
the reader what a certain character is thinking or the unspoken relationship between two
characters. But consider for a moment how problematic non audio/visual information in
action/description text might be if the film gets produced. If you rely solely on
action/description text to inform the reader of some critical piece of information, if the
film were to be shot exactly as scripted, that information couldnt get into the film and
would leave viewers confused.

As a result, it can be helpful to consider what types of audio/visual hints could suggest
whatever information youre trying to convey, as use that as a delivery mechanism for
the information. For instance, if one character was jealous of their friend, rather than
saying that explicitly, perhaps you could give one character a faux smile, suggesting
jealousy.

ASSIGNMENT: We're in final approach of the Darkest Hour as we finish up the 2nd act
with another 5 pages. Our total after today should be at 70 pages. The character's worst
fears are coming true, the situation seems impossible, and the stakes have never been
higher. Build that conflict up and put all that pressure on the main characters because
the Darkest Hour is just around the corner.

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Day 36: The Darkest Hour
Youve made it a long way, but today we finally get into the Darkest Hour. Well slow
down the pacing a bit, but make sure you stick with us!

Feydeaus one rule of playwriting: Character A: My life is perfect as long as I


dont see Character B. Knock Knock. Enter Character B. John Guare (the
same goes for screenwriting!)

OBJECTIVE: To add another 3 pages and to revisit the mechanics of the Darkest
Hour.

ADVICE: The Darkest Hour should be one of the toughest moments for our main
character. It's their 'dark night of the soul' or their 'moment of apparent defeat'. In any
case, the Darkest Hour is the ultimate moment for them to examine themselves, realize
that their previous worldview wasn't allowing them to achieve their goal, and then to
correct that worldview so that they can overcome their Darkest Hour (assuming you're
writing a non-tragedy, happy ending). If you're creating a tragedy, then they likely don't
realize their mistake and they proceed into the climax not having realized how their
worldview was preventing them from succeeding at their mission. Assuming a non-
tragedy story (an Aristotelian comedy), the main character realizes their flaw, either
through their own willpower or with the help of another character, and then proceeds
triumphantly into the climax.

ASSIGNMENT: We'll ease ourselves into the Darkest Hour today with only 3 pages,
bringing our total to 73 pages. This is a big moment, and should take a bit more thought
than most other parts of the script. We'll take a little extra time over the next few days so
that we can feel good about this section. That said, don't worry about editing! Much like
the Midpoint, we'll have a day coming up where the only thing we're working on is
editing the Darkest Hour. Good luck and try to have fun with it. This is your chance to
make your characters really squirm.

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Day 37: Close Your Eyes
Great job starting the Darkest Hour yesterday. Today well keep pressing forward.

You can dress it up, but it comes down to the fact that a movie is only as good
as its script. Curtis Hanson

OBJECTIVE: To add another 2 pages to the script and to discuss a technique to help
you through the Darkest Hour.

ADVICE: Youll probably remember this from the Midpoint, but its always good to have
a reminder, especially in tense moments like this. Take a step back from your keyboard
and try to put yourself in the shoes of your main character. Close your eyes and really
imagine the circumstances that youre facing right now. Youve been struggling to
complete this objective and havent yet be able to succeed. Things are becoming very
dark, it looks like hope is lost, and no matter how you rack your brain, you arent seeing
a way through this. It really does feel like this is an impossible situation

Until either you, or another character, makes the realization about how your worldview
was preventing you from seeing the solution. However, facing that new worldview,
abandoning your old worldview is just about the hardest thing in the world to do. Your
first instinct is to fight back at this realization and stick to your old worldview. You feel
like your whole sense of identity would be torn apart. This is truly a moment of emotional
turmoil. Finally, either you see or someone helps you see that its really the only way
out, and only then can you emerge from your Darkest Hour.

If your Darkest Hour includes a big aspect of loss (an ally dies, a friend turns on you,
etc.) really allow yourself to experience that loss. Think of how that loss would make you
speak, feel, and most importantly, reconsider your worldview and the challenge ahead of
you.

ASSIGNMENT: Day 2 of the Darkest Hour. We're going slow with only 2 pages today,
bringing our total to 75 pages. Take your time, really let the emotion of the Darkest Hour
wash over you, and guide your character through this traumatic time. Our rom-com lead
is breaking up with their soulmate, our horror protagonist is watching their last friend get
killed, our action hero thinks the villain is going to get away with it, or our spaceship
captain will never save the planet in time. In any case, it's a rough moment for the
heroes, but it doesn't have to be that way for you! You've been building up to this for the
last seventy plus pages and you've already built this moment into your synthesized
outline. Trust your gut, your character's motivations, and really let them face their dark
night of the soul. You'll get through this. Knock out those 2 pages and you're three
quarters of the way done.

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Day 38: Consider the Other Side
Youve been making awesome progress on the Darkest Hour! Keep it up, were almost
through!

The script, I always believe, is the foundation of everything. Ewan McGregor

OBJECTIVE: To write another two pages and consider another angle of the Darkest
Hour.

ADVICE: All throughout your script, your character has been making the best decisions
that fit within the parameters of their characterization and their worldview. And hopefully
your characters have always opted for the option that would feel the most realistic and
cause them to struggle the least. Unless you have a very particular character, humans
generally are quite good at figuring out what action would require the least suffering for
them, at least as far as their worldview allows.

However, in the Darkest Hour, youre facing a situation where your character is at a
loss. Their worldview isnt allowing a way forward that doesnt involve considerable
suffering and loss. Thats why this is called the Darkest Hour. The character really does
need to suffer if they want to gain the perspective to see the error of their ways and find
a new route to achieving their objective.

While this all sounds so very dramatic and grim, consider that this likely does still
manifest in significant ways for just about every genre of film. Even a happy, relaxed
romantic comedy typically has this in the structure, and it usually manifests when the
other romantic lead finds out some aspect of the main characters deceit and breaks up
with them. Even adorable animated movies for kids have these Darkest Hours. Heres
an example:

Consider MULAN, where all throughout the bulk of the movie (the second act pretty
much) Mulan is proceeding under the worldview that women arent as capable as men
and cant protect China from the Hun invasion. Despite gaining skills while pretending to
be a man in the army, she eventually is outed as a woman. She has a huge moment of
despair (after the avalanche, if you remember the movie well), is almost executed by her
commanding officer, and even her two companions reveal themselves as having been
deceitful. She resides in this Darkest Hour for a while until she notices that the Huns
survived the avalanche and are still trying to go after the emperor. This, and her
companions, provide a shock to her system, and eventually she realizes that the only
way to save China is to completely abandon her old worldview that women arent good
enough, and to embrace her womanhood completely. In fact, if you remember the film,
even the other male characters need to embrace their feminine sides as they pretend to
be concubines to save the emperor. The despair-filled sequence that Mulan goes

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be concubines to save the emperor. The despair-filled sequence that Mulan goes
through is pretty intense for an animated movie, but the film does a great job of
illustrating how the main character needs to give up their incorrect worldview and
embrace a better one. Mulan even goes a step further and has the rest of the cast
embrace the same worldview by dressing up as women. Hopefully this example was
helpful in clarifying the issue of how the worldview changes and how characters cant
really make the best decisions until they give up the old worldview.

ASSIGNMENT: It's time to drive for home with the Darkest Hour. You've already got
the ball rolling, things are tough for your heroes, but they're starting to see the error of
their ways (happy ending) or stubbornly refusing to (not so happy ending). The third act
is in sight, you just need to push through! Ignore those awkward phrasings and funky
lines, you'll get those when you come back through and edit. For now, just get the thing
written Only 2 pages today, which brings us up to 77 pages total.

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Day 39: What's the "Third Act?"
Youre almost out of the second act. The Darkest Hour is coming to a close finally.
Youre so close. Keep going.

Theres no question that a great script is absolutely essential, maybe the


essential thing for a movie to succeed. Sydney Pollack

OBJECTIVE: To write three more pages today and discuss the third act.

ADVICE: Weve discussed the Darkest Hour to death, so lets change gears and
analyze the upcoming third act a bit more. The third act and the Climax that it contains
is really your opportunity to give it everything youve got. If youve set something up, its
getting to be time for you to pay it off. Dont hold anything back as you start into the third
act. If you think that the conflict could possibly escalate further, if you think that the
stakes could even theoretically get bigger, go for it. Its typically much better to go for
broke while youre crafting the third act and then tone it down later when youre editing.

It may also be helpful to review the third acts in the movies that share a genre with the
project youre writing and that you wrote on your top 10 list. For instance, on the sample
list, consider the third act of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. If youve seen the film, you
know that things really become explosively different, conflict goes berserk, and the
stakes absolutely go haywire. Keep that in mind as you start ramping up from the
Darkest Hour into the third act.

Finally, its important to keep in mind that you should avoid adding new characters or
concepts into the story in the third act. As discussed above, the third act is about paying
off what youve already built. If you find that your story hinges upon the introduction of a
new element, thats fine for now, but keep in mind that you may want to address that
when you edit.

ASSIGNMENT: It's finally time to make our way out of the Darkest Hour and into the
third act. With 3 more pages today, we'll bring our total to 80 pages and comfortably
enter the final act of the movie. Our character has overcome their previous worldview
(assuming happy ending) and is ready to fight the final battle. Now all you need to do is
set the stage for the climax and just let it happen. Your character knows what needs to
be done. Just make sure the conflict is absolutely explosive and head off to the races.

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Day 40: The Climax
Awesome job. Youve made it into the third act. Youre about to begin the climax, so lets
dive in.

There are three things that are important for a film. Number one is story, number
two is story, number three is story. Good actors can save a bad script and make it
bearable, but good actors cant make a bad script good they can just make it
bearable. Mark Strickson

OBJECTIVE: To write 4 more pages today and discuss the climax.

ADVICE: You probably already have a good idea of what the Climax will entail, so let's
discuss everything we need to regarding the Climax today and move onto other topics
tomorrow. Youre probably already feeling how the stakes, conflict, and energy are
reaching a crescendo with the climax, but it may be useful to remember the fallout of the
Darkest Hour. Recall that, because of the Darkest Hour (and assuming a non-tragedy
ending) the main character has a new worldview. Even though the climax is about
paying off and finishing up the conflicts youve started, its also an opportunity for you to
have fun with the protagonists new worldview. Take THE AVENGERS for example
(very mild spoilers ahead).

All throughout the film, the various members of the Avengers have been at each others
throats. Theyve fought, argued, and sometimes even tried to kill each other. But in the
third act, everyone is united. Theyve finally put aside the worldview that they cant work
as a team, and now are a cohesive unit. The third act in THE AVENGERS is really
about just how much fun you can have when these characters all have that shared,
positive worldview. Its a fun tour de force of the different ways in which these heroes
can pummel bad guys together.

So when youre building your climax, keep in mind all the fun ways that you can explore
your hero with their new world view. That doesnt mean that you can back off the conflict
or stakes, but it does mean you can bring out a new side of your hero and watch them
succeed in new, fun ways.

ASSIGNMENT: We're either about to start or are starting the climax today. The
inevitable final battle is moments away. With a comfortable infusion of 4 pages today
we'll bring our total to 84 pages. Everything is already set in motion, just let your mind
relax and allow your fingers on the keyboard to do the work.

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Day 41: Tap Into Your Theme
Welcome back to the 41st day. Youre making great progress! Keep it up and enjoy the
climax.

There is no reason why challenging themes and engaging stories have to be


mutually exclusive in fact, each can fuel the other. As a filmmaker, I want to
entertain people first and foremost. If out of that comes a greater awareness and
understanding of a time or a circumstance, then the hope is that change can
happen. Edward Zwick

OBJECTIVE: To add on 4 more pages and discuss theme.

ADVICE: Since weve covered the climax rather completely, lets talk some about the
theme of your film. Whether youve built one consciously or didnt really think about it,
the sense of theme in your film is something thatll end up being very important and will
be strongly impacted by the third act. Oftentimes, the theme is built out of the emotional
journey that the main character experiences. Recall our MULAN example from a few
days ago. In that film, Mulans development into accepting her identity as a woman is a
huge thematic point in the film. Beyond that, the film definitely works issues of family,
honor, and service, but the most essential thematic work is related to gender
acceptance, identity, and pride. The film also has some racial aspects that we wont get
into, but its a clear example of a movie that builds up a theme, ties that theme into the
core storyline for the main character, and then pays that theme off powerfully in the third
act.

If youre reading this now and starting to worry about the apparent lack of theme in your
project, dont panic! Remember that your primary objective is just getting 100 pages
written. Once you have that, you can go back through, see what themes may already
exist, and build those up in cool ways. While a theme isnt required for a story to be
complete, it can definitely empower the material and leave the reader/audience thinking
about the movie long after it ended. Even though youre still writing, well break our own
rule briefly to give you a real quick, optional exercise:

(OPTIONAL EXERCISE: Glance back through your top 10 list of movies and shows
and see if you can quickly identify the themes present. If you find that a theme is shared
across multiple projects, jot that down, as it may have extra significance for you.)

ASSIGNMENT: You'll almost certainly be in the climax with 4 more pages today. Our
total will reach 88 pages afterwards. At this point, your FBI agent has their showdown
with the serial killer, your romantic lead is pouring their heart out to their soulmate, your
boxer is in the final round with their nemesis, or your action hero is about the save the
world. There's nothing left beyond this. Give it everything you've got!

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Day 42: Watch Your Tone
Youre in the final stretch! After today youll have less than 10 pages to go. Congrats on
making it this far.

Once you crack the script, everything else follows. Ridley Scott

OBJECTIVE: To add on four more pages and discuss the movies tone.

ADVICE: As you wrap up your script, it might be useful to start thinking about the
screenplays tone. While tone can certainly apply to the target audience (what kind of
audience are you hoping will watch this movie and how do you want them to feel about
it) it can also apply to the material itself. As the writer, you can set the tone in terms of
the opinions youre voicing about various elements of the subject matter. Elements like
word choice, formality, intensity, and simply the plotting and character decisions you
make will all affect the overall tone. Perhaps an example will help to wrap our heads
around this issue. Not to get hung up on superhero movies and shows, but BATMAN V.
SUPERMAN provides an interesting tonal contrast to Marvels films. Marvel typically
stays generally pretty lighthearted. One film literally uses a talking raccoon and a tree as
part of the main cast, and the film ends with them winning due to the power of
friendship. Its pretty light, happy stuff. Whereas the recent DC comics film BATMAN V.
SUPERMAN is often referred to online as the DC Murderverse. Hundreds, if not
thousands of people die in DCs films, the brutality is more explicit and grotesque, and
yet both sets of films are targeted at the same audience. Some audience members
appreciate the gritty, brutal tone set by DC and some folks prefer the lighthearted,
comical tone set by Marvel. As you finish up this screenplay and start to edit, think about
what kind of tone youre targeting.

Also theres generally a need for consistency in the tone across the entire film. There
are certain cases where the tone is purposefully changed mid-project (THE CABIN IN
THE WOODS comes to mind), but for the most part, consistency of tone will be
expected.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll add on 4 more pages to bring us up to a total of 92 pages.


At this point, the climax should be in its final stages, or perhaps you're already winding
down into the resolution of the film. If your project has a lot of loose ends to tie up at the
end, you may wish to give yourself more time for the resolution. If not, just address what
you have to and start ending the film. As you move into the resolution, focus on what
moments need to be scripted so that there's a sense of finality to the film. If your hero
has wronged someone in their journey, make sure they have a chance to make up. If
there should be some fallout due to the events of the climax, make sure you tag that
base so the script feels grounded and realistic.

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Day 43: Pacing
Welcome back to the penultimate day of drafting. Youre so close to having a script
written!

"You may laugh at this, but its true. I have so many friends who have written two-
thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a
screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if its
not perfect, even if you know youre gonna have to go back into it, type to the
end. You have to have a little closure." Joss Whedon

OBJECTIVE: To write 4 more pages and discuss pacing.

ADVICE: While weve talked a little bit about pacing already, lets explore it a bit deeper
today. Just to make sure that were all on the same page, pacing refers to the tempo at
which the script reads and the story unfolds. Oftentimes in screenplay, pacing also
envelops the idea of how interesting is the content and whether or not it can hold a
reader or viewers interest. Lots of elements go into pacing, so heres a few to keep in
mind as you wrap up your script:

How long each scene lasts (or feels like it lasts). If a scene drags on or feels like
theres unnecessary content within it, it may slow down the pacing. It can often be
quite useful to examine the very beginning of a scene or the end of a scene.
Sometimes scenes start earlier than they need to, and launching into the action
sooner could improve the pacing.

How quickly the events of the plot unfold. If it takes a really long time to get from
each plot point to the next, the pacing can feel weak. Over the next few days as
you transition to editing, consider how fast the plot seems to develop and whether
or not it feels appropriate to the genre and premise. Its rather common that a
horror movie will try for a slow burn approach, where the horror is slow and
creeps in. This can be effective, but that slow burn needs to be reconciled against
any pacing issues.

How dense each page is. Weve already discussed the issue of white space, which
can have a tremendous effect on pacing. Even if you have two stories where the
exact same things happen, but one has half the white space of the other, the
pacing can feel dramatically different. Its strange to think of this, but a writer
should consider both the pacing of the read, and the pacing of the film if it were to
go into production. Speaking pragmatically, for your purposes, its more important
for the pacing of the read to be strong. Right now, youre facing industry readers
as the first gatekeeper, so its best to consider them first.

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Ignoring the first 92 pages of the script, think about the pacing of these last 8 pages as
you write todays group of 4. Sometimes its in a movies best interest to finish up quickly
once the climax concludes.

ASSIGNMENT: Not much is left in the film as we add 4 more pages to bring us up to a
total of 96 pages. The resolution is almost certainly in progress during these pages as
you wrap up loose ends and explore the effects of the Darkest Hour and climax on the
major characters. Don't worry about a sequel hook or the setup of a series, just focus on
getting this story told in its entirety. Also, don't be afraid to wrap things up quickly. You
don't want the pacing to drag on after the climax for too long, so don't be afraid to just
end things if it feels appropriate. Just 4 more pages left!

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Day 44: Final Pages
Youve made it to the final day of drafting. Congratulations! Remember that theres still a
lot to come as you dive into the editing process.

Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book;
give it, give it all, give it now. Annie Dillard (this advice applies to screenplays,
too!)

OBJECTIVE: To write the final 4 pages discuss the resolution of screenplays.

ADVICE: Now that youre about the write the last 4 pages, lets consider a few things.
First, make sure that you arent forgetting any major, unanswered elements of your
script. If a character broke off from the main quest to go check on something, perhaps
we should find out what happened to them. Its also a great time to build out your final
comments on the theme, set the final beat for your tone, and allow your main character
a moment to examine who theyve become. Ideally there was a real sense of
transformation in the main character as they started on the adventure, made their
Midpoint decision, survived their Darkest Hour, and won the final battle in the climax.
This type of significant journey often merits some introspection, or perhaps an analysis
from a supporting character.

ASSIGNMENT: It's the final day of drafting! You're almost there! Just 4 more pages to
bring us up to a grand total of 100 pages. Use these pages to finish up your resolution,
work any last character moments or reactions from the climax and end your movie. It's
easy for the pacing to dip after the climax is over, so just hit the required beats and
move on. Once you're done, congratulate yourself. You just wrote a full, feature-length
screenplay! It's a serious achievement and you should be proud of yourself. There's lots
more to come, though. Writing is rewriting, as they say, and the next 16 days will help
you to elevate your script from a rough draft to a polished screenplay.

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Day 45: Page 100, a New Beginning
Youve done it! You have a screenplay on your hands that is at least 100 pages. Youve
come a lot further than most people who decide to write a screenplay, and youve done
it in a thoughtful, efficient manner. Lets discuss whatll come next.

I could be just a writer very easily. I am not a writer. I am a screenwriter, which is


half a filmmaker. But it is not an art form, because screenplays are not works of
art. They are invitations to others to collaborate on a work of art. Paul
Schrader

OBJECTIVE: To discuss whats to come over the remainder of the program.

ADVICE: Again, well done on reaching this point! Before you start work on editing, lets
talk a little bit about how the process will go from here.

First, and as youll see below, the assignment is to take a day off from the script. Youve
been drafting non-stop for 30 days and it can be hard to look at the script with fresh
eyes when youve been so immersed in that world without any breaks.

After tomorrow well begin the editing process. The first step is to go through the script
and fix up those issues that you marked for yourself as you drafted. Hopefully you didnt
edit too much as you were drafting and whenever you ran into an issue you wrote
yourself a little note. So the first step of editing is to go back and smooth out those
notes.

Once thats taken care of, well begin the System of Passes. This is a process that well
outline soon, but the gist is going through the script, looking for just certain, specific
things to fix without trying to edit the whole script all in one go. This typically ends up
being quite a bit more efficient as it allows you to focus on just one type of issue.

Finally, well move into polish. This is where well do the final adjustments before youre
ready to get feedback on the script.

EXERCISE: Given that today is a day of detachment from your script, do something
fun! Go watch a movie, Netflix one of your favorite shows, or just go for a walk. Do
something that allows you to clear your mind and prepare for the editing process to
come. Also, take some time to congratulate yourself on a job well done.

ASSIGNMENT: The past 44 days have been busy. From tossing out premise ideas to
writing those last four pages, you've worked hard to create something that has all the
necessary building blocks to become a film. The next step is editing and then polishing,
but for now, it's advised that you take a rest. Take one day off and don't read even a

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but for now, it's advised that you take a rest. Take one day off and don't read even a
word of your script. Forget it exists as best you can.

The purpose of this is to help you look at your work tomorrow with fresh eyes. If you
haven't been sidetracked with editing, it's been twenty nine days since you've looked at
those first two pages. So, tomorrow, when we start the editing process, you'll be able to
bring a detached, fresh perspective to your work. Congratulations again, you've earned
it. The assignments will start back tomorrow!

If you want to keep up your habit of writing, which is a good idea, write out a new scene
for a completely different project that has nothing to do with your screenplay.

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Day 46: Known Problems
Hopefully you feel relaxed and rejuvenated as you dive into the editing process today.
Lets get right to it!

Do not be told something is impossible. There is always a way. Robert


Rodriguez

OBJECTIVE: To address the known issues that you already marked when you were
drafting.

ADVICE: The most useful piece of advice when it comes to editing is really pretty
simple, but it may take a while before you might actually believe that its true. That idea
is the understanding that every single story problem, every note, every opportunity, and
every issue can be addressed. Theres not a single note that someone can throw at you
that you cant come up with an answer for. Now, there may certainly be a number of
notes that you simply choose not to address, and well get to that later, but even those
not-so-great notes do have solutions. And thats really because this is a fully creative
medium with an endless number of possibilities.

This dynamic changes when you get into production, there are financial constraints,
logistical issues, and such, but for now, just in the creative process of editing a script,
theres not a single issue you cant tackle. If you can take a second to digest that and
take heart in that idea, it can make the process youre about to undergo a whole lot less
scary.

Down the road when you find yourself working for a big production company or studio
and there are those less flexible constraints, this mentality will still serve you. You will
have conditioned yourself to think of out-of-the-box solutions and to search for solutions
in comprehensive ways thatll give you an edge. So take a deep breath and relax,
because theres nothing in the editing process thats coming up that you cant handle.

EXERCISE: Its been so long since youve worked on those early pages, that they may
not be all that familiar to you anymore. So today, the exercise is just to reread the script.
Dont any edit anything. In fact, if you can read the script in a PDF format that might be
ideal so you dont distract yourself with edits. You can keep track of where you left
yourself notes, but for now, just give it a quick read. If youre up for an extra challenge,
try reading it like an industry reader would. Go quickly, dont read something a second
time if it didnt make sense, and pretend like an angry boss is going to ask for an
assessment in an hour. Go as fast as you can and just see what kind of experience you
have.

ASSIGNMENT: The first step on the road to an edited screenplay is simply going back

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ASSIGNMENT: The first step on the road to an edited screenplay is simply going back
through the script and working on all the big, glaring issues you're already aware of.
Perhaps there was a time where you couldn't think of a line so you just put down 'blah
blah blah' and moved on. Or maybe a dead character accidentally came back to life and
you didn't realize it. In any case, today, all you're going to do is go back through the
script and tackle all of the issues you already indicated for yourself. There's no need to
get into minute details like wordsmithing of action/description text or tweaking the
dialogue. Don't worry about the application of advanced editing techniques either, only
worry about the content where you know it's goofed up and you know how to fix it. If
there's an issue that's a bit more troublesome, leave a note for yourself and move on.
We'll be going into editing techniques over the coming days, and it's quite possible that
one of those techniques will help you to solve the issue.

If you find yourself with a large number of issues, or an issue thats really significant and
is clearly going to take more than a day to address, you may wish to pause the daily
emails until you feel like you have things figured out. Alternatively, if you feel like you
can potentially edit around the issue (it isnt a massive game-changing, plot-level issue)
then skip over it and come back to it.

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Day 47: System of Passes + Character
Pass
Welcome back to day 47. Were getting to the heart of the editing process today, so lets
jump right in.

...the most interesting characters are characters with shades of gray. Mike
Birbiglia

OBJECTIVE: To apply the Character Pass to the first half of your script and discuss
the System of Passes.

ADVICE: As we discussed on day 45, today well begin the System of Passes. The
System of Passes is a process of editing that allows you to focus on just one type of
revision at time, so that you can be effective, efficient, and not get overwhelmed. This
whole system spawned out of the issue that many writers face where the editing
process is either just too overwhelming, or it becomes easy to miss obvious adjustments
because youre trying to juggle too many balls at once. The System of Passes outlines 9
different elements to focus on during the editing process. As you move through the
system, youll complete them one at a time, doing your best to ignore all other elements
that arent included in your current pass. The passes are in this particular order so that
the bigger, higher-level adjustments are done first and the less significant adjustments
are done later. Lets explain the various passes and hopefully that will become clearer.

1. Character Pass In this pass, youre focusing just on the characterization of


your characters, the decisions they make, their emotional bonds to the reader,
their motivations, and their internal conflicts. So, starting today, youll work your
way through the script, ignoring everything else and just focusing on improving and
editing those aspects. So, as an example, pretend your first scene is a gun fight by
two unknown forces. Maybe there arent really any adjustments in that scene, so
you move on. But in the next scene, the reader meets the main character and gets
to know them. That second scene is likely rife with opportunities you could address
in a character pass, such as strengthening the main characters description, their
first actions, and introducing their internal conflict.

2. Scene Pass In this pass youre looking at each scene on a somewhat macro
level. You arent worried about the action/description text or the micro beats of the
scene, but you are considering if the scene is necessary, if its got enough conflict,
if the pacing is ever critically low (although youll also deal with this when you trim),
and the placement of the scene. This is likely the pass thatll have the biggest
impact on your structure. Also, dont worry about the first 10 pages, the Midpoint,
or the Darkest Hour, as those each get their own passes.
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3. First 10 Pages Pass This is a pass that, rather obviously, is focused only on
the first 10 pages. Its like a focused version of the scene pass, except youre also
considering the elements that uniquely make up the first 10 pages. Issues like the
scripts hook (attention-grabbing first scene or sequence), character introductions,
clarity of the premise, and possibly a reversal.

4. Midpoint Pass Much like the last pass, this is a focused version of the scene
pass thats aimed at the Midpoint. Youll consider everything that you would for the
scene pass as well as Midpoint-specific content like stakes, the dilemma the main
character is facing, and the fallout from that decision.

5. Darkest Hour Pass By now you get the drill. This one is a Scene Pass thats
focused on the Darkest Hour and involves elements like the shifting of the main
characters worldview and the "all is lost" aspect.

6. Genre Pass This pass relates to all the genre elements that your script does
contain and might contain. If youre writing a horror movie, this is the pass where
you work on your scares and foreboding moments. If youre writing a comedy, its
the jokes, the cute moments, and the silliness. If youre writing an action movie, its
the big set-pieces, gunfights, and moments of suspense. If youre writing a straight
drama, this is a chance to review those really intense, dramatic moments.

7. Dialogue Pass This pass is focused on all of the dialogue in the whole script.
Youll consider aspects of the dialogue like subtext, on-the-nose dialogue, the
differentiation of character voice, and if the line matches up with the characters
motivation.

8. Action/Description Pass This pass is focused only on the action/description


text. This is your chance to wordsmith, to play with your writers voice, and to work
for maximum clarity in your language. You can also pay attention to how youre
describing a character (and how that affects a readers perception of that
character) and the pacing. The conflict can also be impacted in this pass.

9. Trimming Pass This is more of a polish-level item, but its also an important
pass. This is where youll trim everything in the script to improve the pacing of the
read, remove extraneous content, and maximize white space on the page.

EXERCISE: Todays exercise will help to prep you for the upcoming Character Pass.
On a separate document jot down each characters name and a few key attributes to
get you in the right mindset for each role. Then write down the types of conflicts that
each character adds to the equation. Finally, write a brief description of the internal
conflict faced by every character. Its likely that your minor characters wont have much
in the way of an internal conflict, but if youre finding that many supporting characters
have no internal conflict at all, this pass might be a great time to add one!

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ASSIGNMENT: Today we begin the System of Passes. As described above, the
intention isn't for you to work through the entire script, fixing every issue you see all at
once, but rather for you to work systematically on one type of issue at a time, fix just
those problems, and then move onto the next pass.

For today you'll be doing the 'Character Pass' for the first half of the script. So, just
looking at pages one through fifty, work through the script with an eye for how you can
deepen the character, improve the characterization, work their conflict more completely
(especially internal conflict along the lines of your Emotional Journey Outline), and
improve their sense of motivation. While this will clearly affect dialogue, you don't need
to pay attention to perfecting the dialogue quite yet, as we'll do that on a later day. Right
now, you're focusing more on the decisions that the characters make, how they come
across, how their relationships manifest, and what missed opportunities might exist to
improve their characterization.

While some writers would prefer to start at page one and do this for every character,
some writers will find it easier to go character-by-character instead. Choose whichever
system you think will work better for you! Have fun with this and really feel free to
explore how you might amp up the internal conflict for a character or add some
multidimensionality to them. Try to adopt an experimental mindset as you work, because
if something doesn't quite work how you think it might, you can always undo it, but at
least give it a shot!

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Day 48: Character, Character, Character
Welcome back! Great work on your Character Pass yesterday. Today well keep the
energy up by finishing off the Character Pass.

If I find out I have to write today and nothing else, thats a perfect day. Joss
Whedon

OBJECTIVE: To complete the Character Pass and discuss some advice on improving
characterization.

ADVICE: One of the biggest issues facing a script (and its main character(s)) is the
issue of likeability. So often, readers will toss a script away with the deadly phrase, I just
didnt like any of the characters. However, that phrase is a bit misleading, and
Hollywood has had a weird relationship with the issue of a characters likeability. When
an industry reader is discussing the idea of likeability, theyre really discussing the issue
of their association with that character. The issue of how invested are they in that
character and what that character is going through. Even though Walter White (from
BREAKING BAD if youre unfamiliar with him) is a pretty despicable person in a
number of ways, the average viewer found him terribly engaging. Hes not particularly
likeable, but its very easy to get invested in him.

When youre trying to improve the sense of investment in a character, consider that
theres more to it than making them a nice person. Consider the elements of your
favorite characters that made you interested in them. For me personally, its the issue of
mystery. If Im perplexed by a character and I want to understand who they are or a
particular mystery about them, Im likely to stick around until I can solve that mystery.
For other viewers/readers, it could be the issue of how virtuous they are. Perhaps
theres something really admirable about that character that inspires you and makes you
invest in them (like when they save a cat, for instance). Alternatively, perhaps its the
suffering experienced by a character that draws you to them. Sympathy can be a
powerful force in building the association between reader and character. The skill of a
character can also be an attractive element, although by itself it typically doesnt cinch
the reader-character bond. And finally, humor can achieve a powerful association with
the character. A character who is truly funny can become so endearing from the humor
alone that many readers will become happily invested in them.

As a quick side note, one theory on why Walter White is such an engaging character in
the pilot of BREAKING BAD is due to the mystery thats created with the flash forward
in the opening scenes. While its true that his constant emasculation in the pilot would
likely garner sympathy, its likely that this is a secondary element to his overall sense of
mystery. If youve seen the pilot, what are your thoughts?

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EXERCISE: Write down the aspects of your main character(s) that create an
association between them and the reader. Of the five that weve listed (mystery, virtue,
suffering, skill, and comedy), which ones are used by your character? If youre reading
this and worrying about the association your character might have with a reader, dont
panic! Consider taking the time now to bolster this reader-character bond today, and if
you need to, delay todays assignment so that you can get this done. If you have that
strong reader-character bond, then the rest of your characterization will have an
advantage.

ASSIGNMENT: Much like yesterday, today we'll complete the Character Pass for the
second half of the script. Don't worry about action/description text, ignore little dialogue
tweaks, and don't worry about pacing, scene composition, or visuals. Your only
consideration for today should be the characterization for the latter half of the script. You
may prefer to work character-by-character or just start on page fifty one and address
every opportunity as you come to it.

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Day 49: The Scene Pass
Welcome back to day 49! Today were knee-deep in editing, but character work is now
behind us. Its time to dive into the scenes!

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my
life. Hunter S. Thompson

OBJECTIVE: To complete the Scene Pass and discuss the three questions youll be
asking yourself as you work through that pass.

ADVICE: As hinted at above, there are three questions to ask yourself for every scene
in your script. To make the Scene Pass as efficient as possible, jump scene-by-scene,
ask yourself these questions, make adjustments if necessary, and then move on. Try
not to get bogged down by tweaking action/description text, as well have plenty of time
for that in the upcoming days. Here are the questions:

1. Is the scene necessary? Ask yourself what would happen if this scene were to be
eliminated. If it wouldnt affect the main storyline, it might be a good idea to cut it.

2. If the scene is necessary, does the pacing have an unfortunate dip at any point? If
so, can dip in pacing be cut out or remedied? Keep in mind that this issue should
be caused by the plotting. Well deal with pacing issues due to a lack of
whitespace in the near future.

3. Could there be more conflict in this scene? Even if the level of conflict is solid, ask
yourself if it could be bolstered in any motivated way. If it can, at least try it out!

Given the time youll likely spend on the Scene Pass, well skip today and tomorrows
Exercises.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll look at the Scene Pass for the project. Much like the
Character Pass, we're only focusing on the scenes, ignoring little details with
action/description text, character work, dialogue, etc. Your objective today is to go
scene-by-scene as consider the three different questions described above. Once you
answer those questions and make the appropriate adjustments, move onto the next
scene! Again, this is all experimentation at this point. If you try a tweak and it doesn't
quite pan out, you can simply undo it. It's generally better to try something and see how
it works on the page rather than never giving it a shot. One special note though, you
may wish to skip over the first ten pages, the Midpoint, and the Darkest Hour, as we'll
be giving them each their own day in the near future.

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Day 50: Day 50!!!
Congrats, youve made it to day 50! Youre so close to having a completed, edited
script! Lets dive right in.

Heres one trick that I learned early on. If something isnt working, if you have a
story that youve built and its blocked and you cant figure it out, take your
favourite scene, or your very best idea or set-piece, and cut it. Its brutal, but
sometimes inevitable. That thing may find its way back in, but cutting it is usually
an enormously freeing exercise. Joss Whedon

OBJECTIVE: To complete the Scene Pass on the second half of the screenplay.

ADVICE: Here are two new bits of advice to consider while youre working on the
Scene Pass for today:

1. If theres an issue with a scene that youre working on, consider what would
happen if you move the scene to another position in the script. This is especially
helpful when youre working with a subplot or in a scene that focuses more on the
supporting cast. Sometimes these types of scenes can interrupt the momentum of
a more central storyline, causing the scene itself to feel a bit weird, while making
the return to the central storyline a bit awkward as well.

2. Much like Joss suggested, if youre having trouble with a scene, but the idea
above isnt helping, ask yourself why youre keeping that scene. If its a situation
where theres just one element that you desperately love, but ultimately it doesnt
perfectly fit, you may be in a situation where you need to kill your darling. This is a
rather famous situation, described in the quote above, where a really spectacular
moment just doesnt quite fit in a film. If this does turn out to be your situation,
write down the darling in a special file, and maybe youll find a way to work it into
another script, even if it isnt this screenplay.

Considering the work required by the Scene Pass, well skip the Exercise today.

ASSIGNMENT: Today well be completing the Scene Pass for the second half of the
script. Like yesterday, ask yourself those three questions for each scene, make any
necessary adjustments, and then move on. Here is the list of questions again:

1. Is the scene necessary?

2. Does the pacing dip due to a plotting issue?

3. Could the conflict be improved?

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Keep in mind that you can skip over the Midpoint and Darkest Hour, as well have days
devoted to those specifically.

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Day 51: The All-important First Pages
Youre in the final stretch. Only 10 days left until youve completed the program.

Screenwriting is like ironing. You move forward a little bit and go back and
smooth things out. Paul Thomas Anderson

OBJECTIVE: To edit the first 10 pages.

ADVICE: As weve said many times before, the first 10 pages are absolutely essential.
In many unfortunate circumstances, your script may only have the first 10 pages to
impress an industry reader. Here is a checklist for you to use as you tweak your first 10
pages today:

Is the opening image and opening scene immediately interesting? If thats all a
reader was going to read, would they be hooked? If not, consider adding new,
different types of conflict, powerful visuals, more pathos, a powerful mystery, some
genre elements (humor, scares, action, etc.), and interesting bits of
characterization.

Is the main character introduced in a way that clearly signals their importance to
the reader, as well as the the conflicts that will surround them and the internal
conflicts theyre dealing with? Keep in mind that the introduction for your main
character can be a bit longer than your average introduction. Make sure youre
describing their age, basic appearance, and key audio/visual traits. You can touch
on their personality too, but try to do it in a way that has a visual or auditory
component.

Is the premise either introduced or at least set up? If the premise is completely
unclear by the end of page 10, consider cutting some content to move it earlier in
the script. You dont need to introduce every aspect about the premise fully, but the
outer layer of the premise should be suggested.

Is the Inciting Incident included or at least set up?

Are there enough genre elements to suggest the films genre? If its a horror movie
and you dont want to get into complete scares yet (not a bad idea), its advisable
to at least create a sense of foreboding and inevitable dread.

Is there enough white space? Youll have the Trimming Pass to work on this too,
but its especially important that the very first page have a good deal of white
space. You dont want an industry reader to open your script and immediately
groan because of how dense it is.

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EXERCISE: Before you start on the assignment today, try really putting yourself in the
mindset of an industry reader and reading through the first 10 pages as quickly as
possible. It may be helpful to give yourself only 5 minutes to read the entire thing. If you
dont get done in that time, stop, as it might be helpful to consider exactly what a harried
industry reader would be left with.

ASSIGNMENT: As promised, it's time to turn our attention to the first ten pages
specifically. As described above, you can see just how essential the first ten pages are
to your project. So today, that's all we're focusing on. Use the guidance above to help
you bring out the premise quickly and clearly, to create a powerful, gripping hook, and
solid, immediate characterization. It's recommended that you go over the first ten pages
a few times today, as this really is the most important part of the script. Like usual, feel
free to experiment. Try new and wild things that you think might grab a reader's
attention and help you to set your project apart from the competition.

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Day 52: Deep Dive into the Middle
Good work yesterday on the first 10 pages. Today were moving onto the Midpoint of the
film. Lets get to it.

I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the
questions get. And I think thats the job of art. Andre Dubus III

OBJECTIVE: To edit the Midpoint of the film.

ADVICE: Similar to yesterday, heres a checklist of items for your Midpoint.

The stakes are clear going into the Midpoint, and the effect the Midpoint decision
will have on the stakes is also clear.

The Midpoint decision is significant for the main character and they feel like they
are on the horns of that dilemma. If one choice is vastly better for the main
character and it becomes an easy decision to make, try to make the decision more
difficult for the main character.

The main character is breaking some sort of rule of the world in this decision. This
could be a law, an ethical issue, another characters trust, or their own moral code.

Theres a clear feeling of this being a point of no return. If the main character
decides to push on toward their goal, theyll have no choice but to keep going
forward.

EXERCISE: See if you cant isolate the Midpoint in some of the films from your top 10
list. It can be useful to see what effects are present in other Midpoints as you improve
the Midpoint in your project.

ASSIGNMENT: Today we'll turn our attention solely to the Midpoint. This key moment
or 'point of no return' for our main character should feel like one of the most impactful
scenes in the movie and, at least emotionally, like a mini-climax in the middle of the
second act. Take the time today to reread what you have scripted for the Midpoint and
focus on improving using the guidance described above. Always remember that conflict
is your friend and the more the main character feels like they're on the horns of a
dilemma, the better. Pay special attention to the stakes as you work on this scene. If the
stakes aren't clear, the point of no return might feel like any other scene. This is
definitely an opportunity to go big!

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Day 53: Darker Hour
Welcome back. Today is the last day of our scene-specific editing as we finish up the
Darkest Hour. Lets dive in and knock it out.

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." Elmore Leonard

OBJECTIVE: To edit the Darkest Hour in your script.

ADVICE: You know the drill. Heres the checklist for your Darkest Hour:

The conflict in the Darkest Hour is significant and overwhelming enough to


achieve a feeling of "all is lost" from the main character.

The Darkest Hour achieves a sense that the main characters previous worldview
wasnt sufficient for achieving their primary objective and that their worldview must
change if they want to succeed.

The transition from the main characters old worldview to their new worldview is a
difficult one. This transition fundamentally conflicts with their sense of self and
requires them to challenge the deepest part of their characterization.

Other characters are providing a catalytic/transformative role in the Darkest Hour


or are acting as a cause for the Darkest Hour. If a character is present in the
Darkest Hour and isnt helping or hurting, you may want to rethink their presence
in this sequence.

EXERCISE: Like yesterday, see if you cant isolate the Darkest Hours from some of the
films on your top 10 list. Not every successful movie has a really clear Darkest Hour, but
hopefully you can find at least one to help guide you.

ASSIGNMENT: Much like the last couple of days, today we're focusing just on the
Darkest Hour. This sequence for your main character is likely one of the trickiest
sections in the script and should function like a major payoff for all of the emotional work
you've done so far. Refer back to your Emotional Journey Outline to help you fine-tune
this section. Once again, conflict is your friend in this scene. The greater the risk and
sense of loss that your character is facing, the better. Also keep in mind that while the
Darkest Hour is something that's centered on your main character, other characters
may play a significant role in that moment. Oftentimes other characters can be a
powerful catalyst for a Darkest Hour (either causing it or helping the main character out
of it) and that this should be a transformative moment in the main character's worldview
(assuming a happy ending). Really throw yourself into the shoes of the main character
and amp up the drama that they're facing until it's barely survivable. The bigger this

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and amp up the drama that they're facing until it's barely survivable. The bigger this
moment is, the more powerful your climax and your overall sense of characterization will
be.

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Day 54: Dene Your Genre
Youve made it through the scene-specific editing process! The toughest stuff is behind
you, and todays assignment should be really fun!

"Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts."


Larry L. King

OBJECTIVE: To complete the Genre Pass for your script.

ADVICE: Its tough to give specific advice on a genre pass without knowing exactly
what kind of script youre writing. So with that in mind, todays advice is really to let
loose. If you think a joke, a scare, an action beat, or a thrill is too extreme, at least try it
out! Youre in the editing process, so its always safe to attempt something and then
delete it if it doesnt work.

Keep in mind the tone of the script so far. If you find that your genre elements are
getting too far off tone, that could be a key place to work today.

EXERCISE: Lets go through your top 10 movie/show list and find one project thats a
rather close genre match to what youre writing right now. Then, jot down a quick list of
the most successful genre elements from that project. Dont spend too much time on
this. A quick bullet point list is probably all you need. Once you have that, see what
trends emerge and what kind of genre elements really appeal to you (and what ones
might find their way into your script!)

ASSIGNMENT: Now that we've worked through the script a few times, let's spend
some time bolstering the genre elements in the movie. So, much like the previous
passes, you'll work through the entire script, but just focusing on the genre moments
and how you can improve them. If you're working on a comedy, this means
strengthening the jokes and adding more humor. If it's a horror movie, build out the
scares and create more moments of suspense and anxiety. If it's an action movie, can
you add some more thrills or make the set pieces more unique? Don't worry about the
non-genre moments dialogue, characters, action/description, or scene composition, and
focus solely on those genre moments. This is really an opportunity to let loose, have
fun, and really give the reader and audience what they're looking for!

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Day 55: Talk to Me
We hope you had a lot of fun with the genre pass yesterday. Today were getting into the
Dialogue Pass. So without further ado...

Dialogue is a necessary evil. Fred Zinnemann

OBJECTIVE: To apply the first half of the Dialogue Pass to your script.

ADVICE: While some writers love dialogue, many others find it only to be a well,
necessary evil. And theres a good reason for that. Sometimes writing dialogue can be
really difficult. There are a lot of things to consider, from on-the-nose dialogue, to overly
expositional dialogue, and even unmotivated dialogue. Then on top of that you have the
characters voice, word choice, subtext, and line length (white space) to keep track of.
All things considered, it can be rather daunting to find those perfect lines.

However, there are a few things that can guide you through the process and make the
whole endeavour a bit less scary. The biggest of which is just to put yourself in the
characters shoes and write the line like you think they would say it. This can sound
pretty simple, but divorcing yourself from your circumstances and really imagining what
its like to be someone else can take some practice.

Beyond that, just be on the lookout for lines that seem to be making obvious missteps.
For instance, any time a character is saying exactly what they want, very
straightforwardly, you could be guilty of on-the-nose dialogue. Any time a character is
saying something that the other character knows already, you very well could be
breaking character motivation to have a character say something for the benefit of the
audience. In this case, the key phrases to look out for are something like Im sure you
know this but or I thought I already told you

Another helpful tool is saying the lines aloud, or even having a friend read the script
aloud with/to you. Sometimes hearing the words can help you to see if something feels
natural or not.

EXERCISE: Even if you arent motivated to read the whole script aloud, pick at least
one scene and read the dialogue from it. You may be surprised what you discover about
the lines or the character.

ASSIGNMENT: Today brings us to our first day of a Dialogue Pass. You know the drill
by now. Ignore all the other elements and focus solely on how you can improve the
dialogue. Use the advice above to guide you as you make the lines more impactful and
appropriate to the various characters. This is also a great opportunity to make your roles
more appealing for higher level actors. Avoid content that feels too much like overly

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more appealing for higher level actors. Avoid content that feels too much like overly
obvious exposition and punch up the lines to create more drama. Considering how
much work will go into this, we're splitting the Dialogue Pass into two days. So for today,
you only need to work from page one to the halfway point.

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Day 56: Dialogue Pass (one more me)
Great work on the Dialogue Pass yesterday. If you think youre going crazy as you say
all these lines aloud, dont worry! Thats just part of being a screenwriter. Lets keep
going!

A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue. David


Mamet (an interesting perspective, but please, please dont try that with this script!)

OBJECTIVE: To finish up the Dialogue Pass.

ADVICE: If youre feeling stuck or particularly troubled by a certain characters


dialogue, there are two additional techniques we can throw at you.

The first is to generate a character/dialogue report using your screenplay software to


study just a single characters lines. In WriterDuet youll find this under the Tools tab,
then Reports. Once you have a report of all the lines for a single character, you can
review the style, voice, word choice tendencies, and really start to get a sense of how
that character talks. When youve reviewed that material, you might find it easier to get
into the right mindset and say whatever that character needs to say in that characters
voice and with their motivations.

The other technique is to jump way back in time and remember the Exercise from days
8 or 9. If you recall, we created a fake scene with a particular character and had them
interact outside of the plotting so that we could get to know them better. In this case,
you can create another fake scene (some generic location or a location from your script)
where you can have them either soliloquize or speak to another character about
whatever youre stuck on. This may sound rather crazy, but if you have them talk about
the issues theyre dealing with, you might find that theyll discuss the issue in a new way
that could help you out of your rut. Speed is your friend here, too. The faster you type
these fakes scenes, without overthinking it, the better. Just let your fingers fly across the
keyboard and see whats there once youre done.

EXERCISE: Even if you arent stuck in a rut, try writing out a quick fake scene with one
or two characters as fast as you can. See if you cant learn anything new about them or
their perspectives on the script youve written. Dont take too much time with this
though, weve still got the other half of the Dialogue Pass to complete.

ASSIGNMENT: Building off yesterday's work, today we'll finish the second half of the
Dialogue Pass. Starting at the halfway point in your script, move toward the end looking
only at dialogue. Keep in mind that you're looking for omissible dialogue, exposition that
you can either remove or hide, more motivated versions of lines, and opportunities to
work more of the character's voice into the lines. See if you can find at least one new

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work more of the character's voice into the lines. See if you can find at least one new
line that really gives you chills when you hear it!

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Day 57: Ac on/Descrip on Pass
Well done. Youve finished up the Dialogue Pass. Today well move into the
Action/Description Pass. Youre so close to the finish line!

The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That
is the brilliance with which your images must shine. Robert Bresson

OBJECTIVE: To complete the first half of the Action/Description Pass.

ADVICE: The Action/Description Pass is a great chance to explore each scene freely,
play around with new micro beats, and see if I cant really improve the script in a
thousand little ways. While youve already done a dedicated day on the first 10 pages,
focus the efforts of an Action/Description Pass on those same first 10 pages. Readers
really do make judgments early on in a read thatll impact the project well after the
reader is done with page 100. Play around with your word choice, pay attention to
inconsistent characterization, and address descriptions that drag down the pacing.

One quick word of warning, though. Be careful about using too many words that are
unnecessarily uncommon or unknown by most readers. While it can be fun to bury a
reader in 10 dollar words readers tend to react rather negatively to you forcing them to
use a dictionary. In fact, they often wont even look up the word (remember thatll slow
them down and their boss is already yelling at them), and will just skip over it. If this
happens too many times, things will stop making sense and theyll think that youre
being too pretentious. Its certainly fun, but it just isnt worth it. Remember, clarity is key.

Theres quite a bit of work involved in a successful Action/Description Pass, so well skip
the Exercises for today and tomorrow.

ASSIGNMENT: Much like the Dialogue Pass, today we're focusing on


action/description text for the first half of the script. This is your opportunity to tweak and
play around with the action/description lines to improve pacing, work a better sense of
writer's voice, create more drama, and to develop a character more powerfully. Always
keep in mind that paragraphs of action/description text shouldn't get too long. Anything
over three lines long will slow down the read and should be avoided if at all possible.
Remember that shorter, more staccato sentences can help speed up tense action
scenes, while longer, more poetic phrasings can help with imagery and characterization
in less tense moments. Considering all the work involved in this pass, don't worry about
anything past the halfway point in your script today. We'll tackle the rest tomorrow.

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Day 58: Lights, Camera, ACTION!
Welcome back to the second day of the Action/Description Pass. Youre inches from the
finish line.

Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; its work. Belief and reader
absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an
abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything. Stephen King

OBJECTIVE: To finish up the Action/Description Pass.

ADVICE: Were only three days from the end, so Ill try not to throw too many new
concepts your way. The one extra thing well add for today is another warning about
action/description text.

Be careful with overused words and the proximity of uncommon words. I once read a
script where three or four of the first six characters were described using the word
swarthy. Its fine to use uncommon words if it wont send a reader to a dictionary, but
any time you use a word that rare 3 or 4 times in the first fifteen pages, its pretty clear
that you could be more creative with your word choice. Most readers wont be overly
punishing if you repeat pretty common words, but definitely take notice if every single
one of your horror-movie scares is described as spine-tingling.

ASSIGNMENT: Let's finish off the Action/Description Pass today by working through
the remainder of the script. Keep an eye out for pacing issues, good places for your
writer's voice, and more opportunities for conflict. The way that you describe something,
especially the first time a reader encounters it, can matter significantly. Play around with
the phrasings and find something that really creates an impact and feels different from
everything else.

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Day 59: Trim the Fat!
Just two more days left. The System of Passes is almost over. The only thing left is the
final Trimming Pass.

When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of
excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is
always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. Stephen King

OBJECTIVE: To apply the Trimming Pass to the first half of your script.

ADVICE: Trimming is reasonably straightforward, but here are quick bits of advice to
get you started:

Dont be afraid to trim entire paragraphs or lines. Maybe youve already polished a
line and youre certain its as good as it can be. But, now that youre in the
Trimming Pass, if you notice that it just doesnt belong, it might be time to cut it.

Even if you cant eliminate a line (making a three-line long line of dialogue into a
two-line long line, for instance), its still good to trim extraneous words. Take
Stephen Kings words to heart on the issue of trimming. While it wont save more
than a few fractions of a second for the reader, the overall effect will make the
page seem like a faster read and will end up saving the reader some time. Always
remember that providing an industry reader with a quick, painless read will get you
a better response, virtually every time.

Consider going in cycles. Ill often mark certain lines that I could cut if I
desperately had to, but really would prefer to save. Then, if I still think the script is
a bit longer than ideal, Ill look at those on my second trimming cycle through the
script.

Remember your ideal page count. If youre writing a horror or comedy, youre
aiming right at 90 pages. Considering we wrote a 100 page script, you might have
a fair amount of trimming to do. Also remember that it isnt required to be at any
certain page count. There are plenty of horror scripts that are 105 pages, and
while thats not a deal breaker, it definitely isnt ideal, either. If youre writing a
drama, action film, thriller, or sci-fi epic, its probably more acceptable to be closer
to 100-110 pages. Family friendly or animated films tend to be closer to 90 pages
as well.

EXERCISE: Since youre now completely focused on density and white space, check
out two examples from the 2015 Oscar nominated screenplays. Click Here for the link.

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First, check out the script for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. That first page is an
absolute bear. The density is really, really high, and even though the film clearly had a
successful screenplay, its a slow, tough read for a busy industry reader. The reason this
didnt trouble the success of this film is likely because the director was also the writer
and he had already been nominated for an Oscar three times. If you happen to have
three Oscar nominations, please feel free to disregard any and all guidelines about
white space!

Next, check out the script for NIGHTCRAWLER. Again, this was a writer who was
planning to direct the film, but check out how much better the density is. Theres quite a
bit of white space on that first page (still not perfectly ideal, but loads better!) Also, you
can see how the pacing and energy of the action/description text is so much faster.

ASSIGNMENT: You're in the absolute final stretch! Over the next two days, we'll focus
on one of the most important aspects of the polishing process: trimming. Today, you'll
work through the first half of the script, looking for any opportunity you can find to trim
the script, either in action/description text or in dialogue (or, theoretically, in
parentheticals).

If you encounter anything, even a single word, that isn't helping the project, it should
very likely be eliminated. Not only can extraneous words, sentences, lines, and
paragraphs slow down the pacing, but it can make the script a denser, tougher read for
the industry readers that you'll need to impress. The more white space you can fit onto
each page, especially the first ten pages, the better. Industry readers, especially
overworked assistants and interns, have been known to throw away scripts solely on the
density of the first few pages, so now is your chance to ensure that won't happen to you.

If you happen across any other element that can be improved, feel free, as there's only
one day left! Have fun with this, too. It can be a fun challenge to try to eliminate just one
more word to get a line down to a certain length.

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Day 60: Dialogue Pass (one more me)
You made it! The last day! Before you get started today, wed like to thank you for being
a part of this project. We hope youve had a lot of fun and are proud of your creation.
Youve worked really hard and we look forward to hearing about how the process
worked for you. Please follow up with us if you have any suggestions for this system.
We look forward to reading your script!

Somebody once asked me if I have anything like faith, and I said I have faith in
the narrative. I have a belief in a narrative that is bigger than me, that is alive and I
trust will work itself out. Joss Whedon

OBJECTIVE: To finish up the Trimming Pass.

ADVICE: You have the advice youll need to complete the Trimming Pass. As you
practice trimming youll get more comfortable with it and find the process is easier and
more efficient. For todays advice, well spend just a bit of time going over the process of
getting notes on your screenplay, as the next step for you after today is to get feedback
on your project!

Getting notes on your script is an absolutely essential part of the process, but it can be
very tough hearing negative things about your script can cut to the bone, especially if
the notes werent given in a supportive fashion. As a result, its rather important that you
get notes from a reputable source. It can be great to ask your spouse, friend, roommate,
or parent for some feedback, but that feedback could get you into trouble if you dont
have the right mindset. So, a few things to keep in mind:

Professional feedback from trained story creatives is ideal. These are industry
professionals who have given loads of feedback before, really know their stuff, and
can deliver notes in a way that is truly supportive of the writer. This kind of
feedback typically isnt free, but its usually worth it if its from a solid
company/source.

Writing groups can be incredibly useful. Not only do they help you stay motivated
and expand your network, but they can be a source of great feedback. Having
participated in a number of writing groups though, Im also very aware that egos
can creep into the equation. Fellow writers can often be the most critical of your
story (sometimes in not so helpful ways) especially if youre finding some success
in the industry. So, take this type of feedback with a grain of salt and a healthy
dose of understanding.

Just because you receive a note doesnt mean you have to do it! However, the
inverse is also important. Just because you got a note doesnt mean you can

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inverse is also important. Just because you got a note doesnt mean you can
completely ignore it and assume there isnt a problem. Even the worst note,
delivered in the cruelest fashion, from the least helpful person can still be
indicative of a problem. Take the time to examine the note, think of what they
might possibly be getting at had they delivered the note more effectively, and then
decide if you want to use it or throw it out.

Ask questions! If a note doesnt make any sense, dont necessarily throw it away
instantly. If you can, ask the person giving feedback for some clarification. Often
improve their notes when theyre asked to be more precise in their delivery.

Finally, and heres the shameless plug, please consider ScreenCraft for your
screenplay development needs. If youve enjoyed this program, and you want to
take your script to the next level, wed love to help you. Helping writers hone their
craft and advance their careers is our core mission so keep us in mind if youre
seeking professional feedback on your project.

EXERCISE: This really isnt so much of an exercise as it is another trimming tip. If you
find yourself only a letter or two away from reducing the length of a line, try using
synonyms of some of your longer verbs and adjectives.

ASSIGNMENT: It's the final day! You're so close. As you can probably guess, today
you'll be finishing up the final trimming pass on the second half of the script. And once
you're done with that... well... you'll have a completed, edited, and polished screenplay
on your hands! Congratulations! At this point, you're ready for feedback. There are a lot
of great ways to obtain feedback including notes from your friends and peers, table
reads, online script consultancies, and more. But above all else, great work on sticking
with the program and creating a completed project. Hopefully you've learned quite a bit
and will use these techniques on the projects you write in the future. Best of luck and
thank you for joining us in this creative endeavor.

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